OK folks - here's one for you petrochemical types:

World is set 200 years post an apocalypse that wipes the global population back to about 280 million (the population of the world circa 1000AD).

The question is what could have survived over those 200 years? Now I am typing this sitting at an oak table that was made in 1700 on a chair that was made around the same time, in a house that was built in around 1500 so we know that some things, especially protected wood and maintained stone, brick or wood will survive happily. Metal things will also survive, if cared for, - I have a 1707 dated sabre and a 1792 pattern British Light Cavalry sabre issued around 1815. I also have an 1840s Enfield Rifle. All these things work, although the grips of the swords would need to be replaced as the ivory on one and the leather and wood on the other, has deteriorated. But once the leather washers and grips are replaced, the blades and tangs are perfectly as serviceable now as they were when they were made. The muzzle loading rifle does fire minie balls with black powder and percussion caps and is still capable of blowing a man's head off at 200 yards as it was when it left the Enfield works 170 odd years ago.

The question I have is what about the survival of plastics and polymers. Now we all know that man made fabrics and, indeed other fabrics and plastics can deteriorate in a matter of a few summers worth of UV light.

Are there any forms of plastic that do not suffer from this?

Do polymers also suffer from oxidisation as well as UV damage?

How likely is it that plastics of different types would have survived 200 years?


closed as too broad by Ash, 011358 smell, elemtilas, Mathaddict, Renan Jun 19 at 18:12

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you be more precise with what you mean with survival? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jun 19 at 12:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are hundreds of plastic / polymer / polycarbonate materials in common use. Some will survive 200 years just fine, others are designed to crumble to dust in a few months. Please indicate what specific plastic / polymer / polycarbonate material you are interested in; or at least what object made of such material you are interested in. For example, the polymer frame or grip of a pistol will most likely be in a good state after two centuries unless severely abused. (And I am surprised that the ivory grip of your sword has deteriorated; ivory ought to endure for much more than two centuries.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 19 at 12:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Two things: 1. there should be exactly one question per question, you're asking three. 2. it appears that the answer to these questions will have to take the form of a large, and heavily annotated, list of materials, list questions are generally out of scope. $\endgroup$ – Ash Jun 19 at 13:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is perhaps one of the most pressing real world questions that I've seen recently, whilst perhaps off-topic here as too broad (as you've not specified a finite list), you might try asking on the Sustainable Living stack. I advise you to read their terms of question-posting first though. $\endgroup$ – 011358 smell Jun 19 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ Hello Richard. Please remember that SE's Q&A model is one-specific-question/one-best-answer. We're lenient with new users, but multiple questions (unless very tightly related) are usually closed as too-broad. Also, your third question is too-broad by definition as it would require a lengthy and exhaustive compilation (i.e., it fails the "book test" a book could be written on the subject). Fair warning for the future. Cheers. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 19 at 16:17