The Science of Scrapbooking: Is Plastic Bad?

Scrapbookers can be obsessed about the acid and lignin content in everything that touches their albums and photographs, but there’s something else to be concerned about. Plastic. Plastic is used in photo albums, some papers, embellishments and other items commonly used in our scrapbook layouts. So how do you know what is safe for your scrapbook album or photo storage? Let’s explore the world of science and how plastic can be good or bad.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) – Polyvinyl chloride is a widely-used plastic. As a building material, PVC is cheap and easy to assemble and in recent years, PVC has been replacing traditional building materials such as wood, concrete and clay in many areas. There are many uses for PVC including vinyl siding, magnetic stripe cards, window profiles, gramophone records, pipe, plumbing and conduit fixtures, bean bags; and, in its soft form, for clothing, upholstery and flooring. (Source: wikipedia)

Ok, so I bet you’re thinking, what does all that have to do with scrapbooking?

Many older photo albums and even some on the market today use PVC in the plastic page protectors which cover your photographs. Polyvinyl Chloride releases chlorine gas that attacks photographic images, causing them to fade and discolor prematurely. Have you looked at one of those old “magnetic” photo albums to check on the safety of your photos? You’ll probably find that photos stored in such photo albums are discolored, brittle and in some instances, the plastic has adhered itself to the front of your photograph. This plastic is not chemically stable and will cause deterioration of photographs over a short period of time.

DO NOT USE plastics with PVC in your scrapbooks or photo storage devices.

Polyester – A category of polymers, or, more specifically condensation polymers and generally refers to the large family of synthetic polyesters (plastics). Polyester fibers are often spun together with fibers of cotton, producing a cloth with some of the better properties of each. (Yes, the same polyester that is used in the manufacturing of clothing.) Other products produced using Polyester include: soda bottles, plastic films, photographic film, fiberglass and holograms. Part of the Polyester family is polypropylene, polyethylene and polystyrene. (Source: wikipedia)

And this is where the scrapbooking aspect of Polyester comes into play.

Plastic films or page protectors made from Polyester are considered “safe” for scrapbooks and can be used for long-term storage. These plastics are chemically stable and will not emit chemicals or acids that can harm photographs or materials stored near them. Look for products made of Polyethylene or polyester, which often goes by the trade name MylarÃ?®. Most safe scrapbooking plastics are labeled “PVC-free” for easy identification.

PVC-FREE plastics are SAFE for your scrapbooks or photo storage devices.

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