The chances are that you’ve heard this classic culinary conversation starter before: ‘Is margarine plastic?’ We have too; so many times. So we’ve done our research and are now ready with all the facts about margarine and plastic to bust this marge myth once and for all!
Let’s start with molecules, because some people believe that margarine is similar to plastic on a molecular level. And as far as the margarine rumor mill goes, this statement is just plain ridiculous. The major ingredients in margarine are water and fat, similar to butter. Plastics on the other hand have a completely different molecular structure all together.
But to get to the bottom of this, we need to leave the kitchen for a moment and step into the chemistry classroom. (Please pay attention at the back). The building blocks of life are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, and if you combine these atoms you get molecules. Margarine’s base molecules are water and fat – just like olive, vegetable and coconut oils. Plastic does not contain ANY of these molecules at all, so margarine is nothing like plastic.
Even if margarine had some chemical similarities to plastic – which it doesn’t – just one molecule could change its composition completely. That’s because the slightest changes in molecular structures can lead to very significant variations. Take hydrogen peroxide, H2O2 for instance. It is just one atom away from water, H2O, but the extra oxygen atom changes the properties of the substance dramatically.
So we can see that many substances share similar chemical properties but even the tiniest variation can set them a world apart in terms of what they are. Let’s not forget that, biologically speaking, we share roughly 96 percent of our DNA with chimpanzees – but that 4 percent clearly makes a big difference!
The bottom line is: saying something is “one molecule away” from plastic is like saying a cat is one letter away from a can. Or that water is “one molecule away” from being an explosive hydrogen gas!
So to put a lid on the question ‘Is margarine plastic?’ for good, we can safely say that the only thing that plastic has in common with margarine is the tub it sits in.