PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT
Plastics are vital in the modern age, providing essential products and services to people all around the world. Rather than eliminating plastic, the future requires innovation and management of plastic use, to transition from a linear to a circular economy of plastics. The aim is to re-use plastic and diminish single use that end up damaging rather than aiding the sustainable future. The importance of this has been highlighted in recent times with circumstances causing strain and shortages for industries. The characteristics of plastics allow the material to take place in the new, sustainable world that we are all striving for and it is very much part of the UN sustainability goals for the future.
How can plastic be sustainable?
Plastic offers energy saving potential in production, using only 4% of the world’s oil production presenting a reduction in fossil fuel depletion. For example, in applications, plastics offer advantages, with their light weight allowing for more products to be transported per crate reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gases in comparison to alternatives, as a result. This has also helped achieve environmental innovation via breakthroughs such as electric cars that carry heavy batteries, providing a larger environmental benefit.
Another emphasis would be on global food waste; correct formulation of articles made from plastics provide environmental benefit in food preservation and transportation. These developments in plastic packaging help to keep to preserve food for longer, which enables the transportation range of food to increase also meaning larger quantities can be transported at once, often over greater distances reducing food shortages, a very real problem many still face. Shelf life of packaged foods is increased with these formulation improvements too.
PCR (post-consumer recycled) material is one way the industry is trying to re-use resources. PCR material commonly refers to PET, PP and HDPE and is one response to the plastic packaging tax.
What is the future of plastic sustainability?
The focus remains on the end use of plastic, single-use is the most damaging to the planet causing harm to marine life, climate change and does not align with UN sustainability goals or the Paris climate agreement. Some polymers are unable to be re-used and recycled with today’s technology, finding its way into landfills and oceans. Other plastics are simply not being recycled correctly, supporting the linear economy.
Investment into recycling infrastructure is one of the ways the industry as a whole plans to move forward. Another is the introduction of eco-friendly polymers such as bioplastics, that don’t use fossil fuels in production but from crops. However, in its current state, bioplastic still requires development to reach expectations in terms of both sustainability and application performance. The carbon emissions in crop production needs to be accounted for and along with a lack of recycling options, are halting the industry transition. Bioplastics such as Post Consumer Resin (PCR), Post-industrial Recycled material (PIR) and Polyactide Acid (PLA) are coming into greater use within the industry as an alternative to conventional plastics.
Plastic sustainability goals for the future
- Reduce Plastic Waste
- Shift from a linear economy to a circular economy
- Support Climate Change Policy
- Grow Sustainable Solutions
Here at Prisma, we recognise our responsibilities and know sustainability is as equally vital as the work that we do. Therefore, we have taken steps to make sure we are doing what we can to support the efforts within the industry.
We have adopted the use of PLA into some of our products as PLA can save up to two thirds of the energy needed to make traditional plastics and produces 70% less greenhouse gases when breaking down in landfill sites. This is also with a thought to end-of-life, as PLA offers multiple disposal options such as composting, hydrolysis and reuse through filament; all better alternatives to incineration or risk of ocean waste.
We are working closely with key customers to utilise more ecological and compostable polymer types too and our technical team are redesigning recipes where possible in order to incorporate a greater percentage of recycled polymer in our products. This is in conjunction with customer specifications as some applications require different attributes from their plastics.
We have also looked at reducing waste by selling on purge, to reduce levels of single use plastic and support the circular economy. As research advances, we are committed to maintaining our desire for a sustainable plastic industry and investigate eco-friendly avenues to fulfil our responsibilities.
Operation Clean Sweep
Prisma have been officially recognised by Operation Clean Sweep as committed to working towards achieving the targets to prevent pellet, flake and powder loss set out in the Operation Clean Sweep guidance.