Plastic artifacts archived in museums deteriorate with time and require proper care by conservators to prevent their degradation and to maintain the objects in good condition. Degradation processes depend on the type of plastic and conditions of storage. Knowledge of the chemical composition of plastic artifacts is thus very important and facilitates conservation work. The capabilities of energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometry with monochromatic excitation were investigated for possible characterization of the plastic materials used in artifacts from museum collections. For this purpose, a simple and suitable nondestructive analytical protocol was developed on the basis of the intensity of the coherent and the incoherent scattered excitation radiation from artifacts, compared with scattering from typical plastic materials such as polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, and polypropylene. Fifteen plastic artifacts, such as souvenirs, household wares, and toys, were characterized in this way according to their chemical composition. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.