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Environmentally friendly plastics

By Robyn Henderson, copywriter at Mediaworks on behalf of Omega Plastics

As government initiatives aim to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill, year on year, it becomes increasingly difficult to make sure businesses stick to the targets – and plastic becomes an ever increasing burden. Alongside gas-guzzling motors, plastic has been a target for many years now — but is it really as bad as it’s perceived?

Within this report, compiled by Omega Plastics, specialists in plastic injection moulding, it is explained how plastic can also help to have a positive impact on the environment.

Plastic over the years

Before the 21st century, recycling was not a necessity, nor was it a consideration within the public domain. However, thanks to a continued push to go green, we’re now more aware of the waste we produce.

Only 12.5% of household waste was recycled in 2001. This figure climbed to 44.9% in 2014, which, although it showed an incredible growth over the 13 years, is still short of the EU’s 50% by 2020 target.

Environmentally friendly living, as well as public attitudes towards the environment, are slowly changing our attitudes towards plastic production. Nowadays, companies actively look for recyclable plastics for their products and packaging, building an impressive corporate social responsibility to set them apart from their competitors. According to the British Plastics Federation, 29% of the plastic used in the UK is from recovered or recycled material.

Only certain types of plastic were recycled in the past. Now, as technology develops, recyclable plastics can be created, which serve the same purpose but are more environmentally friendly.

Technical advancements, as well as altered perceptions, have improved the plastics we create and how we deal with our individual end-of-life waste. In short, the impact has been reduced — plastic isn’t the same enemy as it has been in the past.

Improvements in plastic production

Based on what we already mentioned, there have been improved methods in the production of plastic, which have altered the impact of the creation of plastic on the environment. However, this isn’t just in terms of minimising waste.

Injection moulding is a popular manufacturing method, as multiple plastic products can be made with precision and efficiency. The process involves specialist machinery, which, because the plastic needs to be melted, can consume a lot of energy. However, over the past 10 years, machines have become more refined and now use between 20% and 50% less energy than they once did.

To help minimise the effects on the environment, this is an example of how plastic production has changed to minimise the effects to the environment.

Alternative uses

Plastics are usually used in packaging throughout the UK. However, over time, plastic is being used in a number of different ways. While many may argue that this increased plastic consumption has a negative effect on the environment, it can actually prove beneficial in the long term.

As a good example, the motoring industry is beginning to use plastics more and more. Instead of using metal for the production of some parts, many car manufacturers are turning to polymers instead. Not only are these more affordable, they are lighter too, reducing the overall weight of the vehicle. This can have a positive impact on fuel efficiency and energy savings, minimising the use of fuels in the future.

During construction processes, plastics can also be used within building materials. Through using plastics to create insulation and double glazing, we are able to conserve heat and prevent the non-essential warming of homes and businesses.

Let’s not forget the plastic £5 note that became available on the 13th September 2016. The note, which features Sir Winston Churchill, is made from plastic rather than cotton paper. Plastic has been chosen to keep notes cleaner and more durable and make them harder to counterfeit. Notes will last for up to five years, and will be 15% smaller than existing notes, making the production process more energy-efficient.

Although some may question the eco-friendly qualities of plastics, it is now becoming increasingly apparent that plastics can offer numerous benefits, which help to minimise waste and further damage that impacts the environment. With increased technological advancements, plastics are set to become even more eco-friendly.

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