Going Green With Plastics
The most desirable properties of plastics—their durability and resistance to environmental degradation—are also their biggest drawbacks. Environmentalists have long worried that plastic waste is taking over the planet, clogging landfills and polluting the ocean. Now, worldwide attention to environmental health and sustainability has given rise to a new group of plastics and improved efforts for plastic recycling.
The Rise of Bioplastics & Biodegradable Plastics
Polylactides (PLA) are a group of biodegradable plastic compounds. Because these polymers are based on lactic acid from the fermentation of sugar cane, beets, cornstarch and other plant-based materials, they are considered renewable, but their “green” credentials go beyond renewability. Unlike most petroleum-based thermoplastics, PLAs break down when exposed to oxygen and UV rays from the sun. In addition, the decomposition of these plastics results in the formation of carbon dioxide and water only, causing no environmental harm. Like other thermoplastic resins, PLAs can be formed into products through highly efficient manufacturing processes like extrusion, injection molding and spinning.
Plastic manufacturers use polylactide resins to produce biodegradable forms of these products:
- Plastic bags
- Beverage bottles
- Food containers
- Plastic utensils & dishware
- Auto interiors
- Window & door components
- Trash containers
To reduce plastic waste in landfills, researchers have also developed plastics that decompose more readily. These biodegradable thermoplastics begin with petroleum-based polymers, but they also incorporate chemical additives to trigger and facilitate decomposition. Though these plastics do break down more easily and take less space in landfills, they continue to be a source of potential environmental risk from toxins and residues released as they decompose.
Improved Plastic Recycling & Eco-Friendly Design
Consumer product manufacturers and waste management companies have joined the plastics industry in the effort to recycle and reuse post-consumer plastic waste. For many years, manufacturers like Preferred Plastics have routinely utilized scrap plastic from production waste, prototypes and first-runs. Now, manufacturers are developing formulations and new uses for post-consumer recycled plastics. Improvements in collection, sorting and purification of plastic waste are leading the way to more applications for recycled plastics and improved sustainability for the industry.
As a leading plastics extruder, Preferred Plastics stays at the forefront of industry improvements in products and processes. If you are a manufacturer seeking greater sustainability and a “greener” manufacturing profile, ask Preferred Plastics about the suitability of bioplastics for your application. We are leading the way wherever opportunities exist to improve manufacturing economy and sustainability without sacrificing quality for our customers. Call to learn more: 269.680.3620.