Green Plastics: The Green New Plastic Deal
Table of Contents
- Role of Plastics in Our Society
- How Plastics Impacts Our Daily Lives
- What Effects Do Plastics have on the Environment
- LIST: Impacts of Plastics on our Ecological World
- Social & Economic Implications of Using Plastic
- Transition to Renewable Plastics
- What is Green Plastic?
- Types of Green or Eco-Friendly Plastic
- Benefits of Eco-Friendly Plastic Products
- Are All Bio-Plastics Bio-Degradable?
- Green Plastics: The Emerging New Industry
- Need for Responsible Design for Green Plastics
- Green Plastic: An Integral Part of the Processes Industry
- What is Web Handling?
Optimation has a long history of interest in green plastics and in working with clients to develop manufacturing processes for green plastics. For the past decade Optimation has partnered with firms developing green plastics made primarily from both CO2 and CO. These technologies continue to be developed in an effort to reduce the use of petroleum in manufacturing, to create more biodegradable products and provide a lower carbon footprint for the planet.
The conversation around plastic and its increasingly severe litter problem has become overripe now. Plastic waste is dumped in landfills and oceans. Plastic pollution has a significant impact on wildlife: Near about 700 marine species, including seabirds, turtles, and whales, consume or become entangled in plastic. Plastic will very soon outnumber all the fish in the ocean. Moreover, it might be the most used material in our homes. In addition to contributing to the rising concern of plastic waste, these plastic manufacturing plants pollute the water and air in nearby areas.
Plastics remain in the ecosystem for an extended period; some can easily take up to 500 years to degrade, causing damage, harming biodiversity, and depleting the ecological integrity required to maintain life.
Another material that is used quite rampantly is cardboard. It is an organic product made from wood pulp. One ton of cardboard recycled may save 17 trees. However, there are certain drawbacks to recycling cardboard. Surfactant, which is hazardous to aquatic species, is one of the chemicals utilized throughout its recycling process.
Moreover, cardboard is quite susceptible to contamination, and it cannot be recycled once infected. If the cardboard has food remnants, grease, many tapes, or plastic wrappers commonly used for delivery labels, it will most likely wind up in a landfill.
Adopting green manners is becoming increasingly vital in various industries, and it is a topic that many businesses are attempting to explore in depth these days. It is also logical since it brings several advantages to the table, not only for the ecosystem but also for your organization. When done correctly, including some greener ideas into your workflow may save you a lot of money in the long term. However, you must be prepared to be patient because this will not give instant results.
However, it is important to adopt greener technologies as from 1964 to 2022, plastics manufacturing surged by more than twenty times, which can be vastly detrimental to the whole ecosystem. Let us first understand why it can be quite challenging to throw out plastic from our lives just yet.
Role of Plastic in Our Society
Plastic has seeped into our lives completely, infiltrating into our personal and commercial aspects. It has transformed medical equipment, decreased food waste, and even aided in sustainability by reducing the demand for cardboard, eventually reducing deforestation.
Let’s understand how plastic has overtaken our lives.
How Plastic Impacts Our Daily Life
The widespread usage of plastic began in the 1950s and has significantly increased since then. Over 300 million tons of plastic are brought into the production cycle every year.
Plastic’s appeal stems not only from its inexpensive production costs but also from its various valuable properties, such as its lightweight, chemical resistance, and versatility. Furthermore, the flexible features of plastic inspire technical innovation, which opens up new solutions, innovations, and ease, notably in the domains of medical, construction technology, aviation, and vehicle manufacture.
However, of late, it has become a significant cause of fossil fuel consumption, waste, ecological damage, climate change, and adverse human health consequences. Present infrastructure is not enough to deal with it, and this plastic waste load has become enormous; hence, existing recycling systems must be enhanced so that all the waste can be collected at the end of its useful life.
Plastic, in comparison to other materials, is still cheap to make, investment in the kind of recycling facilities required has been minimal till now. The material has become synonymous with unsustainable products, leading to a reluctance to regard plastic as anything other than rubbish. Regardless of the good intentions of individuals who advocate against plastic, policies that simply forbid it do not consider other materials’ more significant environmental effects.
What Effects Do Plastics Have on the Environment?
Plastics are undoubtedly one of the world’s most radical innovations; however, the sheer enormity of their production and poor treatment along with inadequate disposal facilities are having a growing negative impact on the natural environment. This includes climate change, marine habitat degradation, and toxic pollutants used in its production process.
All of these necessitate immediate action. Plastics are utilized in various industries, including construction, packaging, automobile manufacturing, toys, home appliances, electronic gadgets, and agriculture. Because of this high demand, worldwide plastics manufacturing has skyrocketed, surpassing all other man-made commodities.
These are the impacts of plastics on our ecological world.
- Traditional plastic manufacture is heavily reliant on primarily natural gas, oil, and other resources, particularly water — a kilogram of plastic requires around 185 litres of water.
- Toxic chemical agents are used in its production, and some of these compounds are pollutants. These substances have been related to various health problems, including cancer and psychological, reproductive, and neurological disorders.
- Certain plastics are hard to recycle without propagating the dangerous compounds they carry. Furthermore, certain plastics are pretty thin, such as plastic films and polyethylene bags, making recycling expensive and complicated. The absence of internationally accepted standards and basic information about the composition and characteristics of particular plastics further discourages recycling.
- At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. Suppose nothing is done by 2050; this is predicted to rise to 12,000,000 metric tons. It is believed that the ocean already contains more than 150,000,000 metric tons of plastic.
- Plastics remain in the ecosystem for a long time; some can take up to 500 years to degrade. Plastic, after climate change, is the greatest danger to the survival of coral reefs. Plastics are segmented into microscopic fragments in the world’s oceans, threatening marine biodiversity.
- New research indicates that microplastics are a new cause of soil pollution. Microplastics in sediments and waters may have a long-run negative influence on terrestrial ecosystems. Microplastics are a new freshwater pollutant that may impact water quality, affecting water supply and harming freshwater species.
- Due to insufficient waste management systems, plastic garbage is typically burnt in open landfills or home backyards in several developing economies. It emits CO2 and black carbon, which are powerful climate change agents, and burning plastic poses severe hazards to wildlife and us because poisonous particles may readily rest on crops or in streams, deteriorating the quality of water and invading the food chain.
- In 2014, UN Environment projected that the natural capital cost of plastics due to environmental impact, climate change, and health issues was around $75 billion per year, with two-thirds of these ecological costs occurring during the production stage itself.
Social and Economic Implications of Using Plastic
We are in an economy where the consumer and the maker are in a close relationship that involves the customers purchasing what manufacturers produce. At the same time, manufacturers strive to meet the needs and demands of customers. The actions of both consumers and manufacturers contribute to an economy that pursues a higher standard of living.
By accepting the interdependency mentioned above, we can see how the quest for economic progress is inextricably linked to the manufacture of single-use plastic that, when abandoned, would not be consumed by the environment. As a result, every component of the economy – from the customer to the producer to the government –should take up the onus of mitigating the environmental effect of plastics.
The customer must actively avoid using throwaway plastics to lower demand; the producer must intentionally discover alternatives in packaging and raw material selection. Governments could legislate in an attempt to force market demand and supply for plastics, but at least in the United States there is an existential conflict between environmental regulation and personal freedoms. This is clearly a complicated reality that will feed debate and slow sweeping governmental decisions in either direction.
In the last couple of years, disruption of global trade and lockdowns highlighted renewables as a superior option to fossil fuels, hastening the shift to a circular economy. Global technology patterns are anticipated to shift dramatically in the next few years. Plastic pollution prevention measures should be paired with more appropriate management of the petrochemical industry. Let’s understand this in greater detail.
Transition to Renewable Plastic
There is an impending need for a greener and stronger future in which enterprises and technology rely more on environmental, social, and governance policies and corporate social responsibility.
Green technologies are poised to play a more significant role in our economy. Renewables, be more robust. Their greater adoption has grown increasingly important due to humanity’s harmful environmental consequences and rising climate change.
The shift to a green economy will impact the worldwide petrochemicals business. The market will continue to expand, and the number of petrochemical companies in emerging economies will increase. However, simultaneously, there is growing awareness about the use of plastic and its environmental consequences. As a result, a rising number of companies and entrepreneurs are focused on ecologically friendly options. Green Plastic is one such option that has emerged.
What Is Green Plastic?
The majority of plastics we see around us are hydrocarbon plastics that are historically derived from non-renewable petrochemical components. On the contrary, Green plastics are biodegradable products typically made of plant-based polymers.
Simply described, green plastics, eco-friendly plastic, or bioplastics are polymers that are either:
Biological materials are used in part
These polymers are gaining popularity because they can minimize the emission of greenhouse gases, reliance on fossil fuels, and the need for landfills. These polymers are still in their initial stages of research and development, yet they offer enormous potential for sustainable development. Green plastics are eco-friendly and have a wide range of uses, including manufacturing disposable and long-lasting items.
Types of Green or Eco-Friendly Plastic
Biodegradable polymers are classified into two types:
As far as breakdown is concerned, both will go through chemical degradation processes first, hydro-biodegradable through hydrolysis, and the oxo-biodegradable via oxidation, culminating in the physical breakdown of the polymers and a severe fall in molecular weights. Degradation will occur in both circumstances. And eventually, both are transformed into biomass, carbon dioxide, and water.
When the two forms of biodegradable plastics are compared, hydro-biodegradable polymers disintegrate significantly quicker than oxo-biodegradable plastics. On the other hand, Oxo-biodegradable polymers are less costly, have superior mechanical qualities, and are easier to produce with the same production equipment as used for traditional plastic.
Benefits of Eco-Friendly Plastic Products
Let’s enlist a few of the benefits of green plastic products:
Lower Environmental Impact
Green plastics, as the term indicates, are environmentally friendly. This is primarily because they minimize fossil fuel consumption and limit greenhouse gas emissions. Green polymers have a far lower environmental effect than their oil and gas-based competitors. For example, preliminary research by Coca-Cola indicates that bottles containing 30% bio-PET (Bio-Polyethylene Terephthalate) cut 20% of the carbon emissions.
Also, green biodegradable plastics aid in the reduction of trash in landfills. There are methods in place to catch and decompose bioplastic while also producing valuable items. Composting can also help towns and businesses avoid spending money on landfill expenditures.
Improved Brand Value
Many conscious customers are always trying to find ways to contribute to preserving our environment. As a consequence, manufacturers who use bioplastic will cater to these customers. Furthermore, using ecologically friendly methods has been demonstrated to improve the company’s brand value.
The usage of biodegradable polymers can save time in some sectors. Many crops, for example, are mulched using thin polypropylene sheets. Every season, this must be gathered and reprocessed. Instead, if bioplastic mulch is utilized, it will simply dissolve and may even boost the carbon composition of the soil. Similarly, biodegradable utensils may save restaurants time for garbage sorting.
Are All Bioplastics Bio-Degradable?
As previously stated, many bio-based polymers are also biodegradable. However, not all biodegradable polymers are made from plants. A minimal subset of petroleum-based, biodegradable polymers – and partially biofuel-based versions of these polymers are anticipated to be manufactured soon.
However, a word of warning is that any promise about the biodegradability of that product is useless until it specifies the conditions and timeline within which it would break down. Hence, we have to have robust standards in the biodegradable plastic industry. Wherever feasible, the authorities must make businesses accountable for the claims of biodegradation.
Green Plastic: The Emerging New Industry
Green plastics is the new emerging industry to make comfortable living compatible with ecological sustainability. Easy accessibility of raw materials is one motivation to switch to the usage of green plastics. Polymers derived from plants and marine biomasses can be used to make green plastics.
These are plentiful organic resources that are continually renewed. This, in turn, can reinvigorate the rural economy, both marine and agricultural, by increasing demand for presently underused land or relatively less valued organic by-products. Another advantage of eco-friendly plastic products is their biodegradability, making them an apt choice for biodegradable bags, such as those used for food packaging.
However, bioplastics must have acceptable physical characteristics. Their attributes must be handled and controlled technologically by creating appropriate formulations and plastics processing. Commercial efforts currently underway in many countries demonstrate great hope for technology breakthroughs.
There are significant indications that people want to live in harmony with the environment and preserve a healthy world for future generations. If this is the case, bioplastics will have a role in the present age of plastics.
With new, sustainable plastic technologies available like this green eco-friendly plastic, manufacturing with plastics is a great new option for the design & processes industry also.
Need for the Responsible Design for Green Plastic
To incorporate the characteristics of bioplastic, new designs may be required. Meanwhile, consumers may need to be better informed and encouraged to identify and adopt product changes due to adapting green plastic. In this context, new paths for the green design of plastic items must be re-devised for preparing it for the actual marketplace.
Also, green products and materials are a significant leap forward in the processes industry.
Green Plastic: An Integral Part of the Processes Industry
In today’s modern industrial world, a single automated process enables the mass manufacture of a diverse variety of end-use goods that start as a continuous, adaptable, thin strip or sheet of material. That roll of material is known as a web, and this processing process is critical in industrial production. That thin film or sheet is often plastic, and now businesses are gradually moving towards green alternatives. However, other than polymer, this process can also use paper, metal, cellulose, etc. The thin film is fed through machinery where it can be chemically and/or physically altered – either coated, printed, heated, chilled, grooved, exposed to light, etc. So many things we use in our world (even glass) are produced with web manufacturing technology.
What Is Web Handling?
Think of web handling as converting material into a mass-production-ready product. Its benefit originates from the fact that it is an automated production technology that lets goods be processed in a single long continuous roll rather than one strip at a time. Adequate web tension management is required for proper web handling when the material is carried through machines for processing. In effect, web handling aims to maximize efficiency while minimizing waste all through the production process.
This video might help you understand this process in greater detail.
Web handling provides plastic or other material for various industries, including textile, automobile, aerospace, publication, clothes, durable goods, medicines, and electronics, among others. In addition, every imaginable type of tape, floor coverings, wallpapers, and other building materials are all manufactured using web processing.
The bottom line is that the world is rapidly moving towards more sustainable and eco-friendly solutions to its conventional choices of raw materials, designs, processes, and so on. Green plastic is one such innovation that will shape the future demand and supply more responsibly. Plastic has become omnipresent, and businesses that adopt greener technologies will gain more brand value for the end-users. Web handling is one such industry that can play a pivotal role in contributing to the more conscious and green production process.
If you are looking for the world leader in responsible and sustainable web handling technology, your quest ends at Optimation. You can contact us here for any production-related query.