For more than 100 years society has used man-made plastic in a multitude of different ways. When it was first discovered, plastic – or to give it the scientific name petroleum-based polymer – was hailed as a miracle material. But as the decades have passed and environmental concerns have increased, it is now branded as a major enemy.
The main reason for this is that it does not break down and cannot be re-absorbed into the environment in any way. So for the past decade scientists around the wo
rld have been researching plant-based plastics. Also know as bio-based, these materials include those made from starch, for example potatoes, corn and even seaweed.
Another serious concern is that many plastic containers produce toxic gases during the manufacturing process. Plant-based plastics do not release such gases.
Our modern world is reliant on plastic tube packaging in countless different ways. Every industry known to man uses plastics in some form or another. So the race to discover a “safe” plastic is enormously complex and competitive. In recent years, consumers have become much more educated and aware of the need for eco-friendly packaging and have put pressure on plastic tube manufacturers to source new materials for the packaging of the billions of different products we use today. The key words for this competitive race are “bio-based”, “biodegradable”, “sustainable” and “recycled”.
It is absolutely vital that society makes rapid progress in the development of such materials, because current figures show that the world has produced over 8,3 billion tons of plastic.
Because it does not break down, that stuff is still on our planet and therefore has to be disposed of somehow! We cannot afford to make much more or we risk disastrous environmental consequences.
Eco-friendly plastics are engineered polymers that have been designed either to break down in some way or to recycled. There are three different types of such products: bioplastics, biodegradable plastics and recycled plastics.
A bioplastic known as PLA is made from corn and is proving popular across the globe. Compared to normal plastic, this product uses only one-third of the energy to manufacture and emits 70% less greenhouse gasses as it degrades. Producers are also working on a group pf plastics made from non-renewable petroleum. Various chemicals are added to the compounds which cause them to decompose more quickly – especially when exposed to light, oxygen, moisture and heat. This is why plastic tube manufacturers are increasingly looking to this material as an alternative to regular plastic.
Another category of plastic tubes that manufacturers are working with today is recycled plastic. This material is made from what is called “post-consumer petroleum-based” plastics. This group of packaging products can be either circular— as in bottles – or what is known as “downcycled” – like HDPE (high-density polyethylene) grocery bags which can be transformed into planks or park benches.
Given that an estimated 27 millions tons of plastic products are dumped into US landfills every year, it is understandable that plastic packaging manufacturers are eager to increase the percentage of their recycled pcr tubes. This can significantly reduce their eco-footprints, which is always good for business.
Everyone on the planet today has a serious responsibility to engage in active recycling. We all need to ensure that we and our children understand what is at stake, and part of our action to protect our planet includes making ourselves familiar with recycling practises and plastic manufacturers’ symbols.
Lack of knowledge is a serious problem that is hampering the recycling efforts of many manufacturers of plastic tube packaging. For example, it is estimated that 62% of Americans believe that ignorance is causing them to recycle incorrectly – if at all.
Unfortunately, the whole issue of recycling, particularly of plastics, is becoming more complicated every day. The rapid introduction of a wide range of eco-friendly plastics has led to shortfalls in process for the recycling industry and new rules to learn for consumers. Most eco-friendly plastics cannot be recycled in the same was as traditional plastics have been. This means that bioplastics cannot simply be put into the recycling bin with virgin and recycled plastics.