What Does the Future Hold for Plastics?
Even though plastics are workhorse material in most industries yet they have made a
bad name for themselves for two reasons. One, it is made from petroleum materials and
secondly, they litter the environment. However, the volatile nature of oil price has
instigated a clamor for an increase in research into bioplastics. A key driver of the
packaging industry currently is the replacement of oil-based plastics to a renewable
source due to the depletion of oil.
Bioplastics currently account for around 1% of total world consumption of plastics.
Despite the low figure, the need and request for renewable, non-composite, durable and
recyclable product is increasing by the day. All this coupled with the fluctuation of oil
price and interest in social responsibility is taking research from the drawing board into
the laboratories and an expected mass production of bioplastics in the future.
One issue that has affected the spiral growth of bioplastics is the fear of individuals on
the price of food. Many bioplastics rely on food to make ethanol, this may end up driving
up the price of food. The masses are afraid that using food crops for bioplastics might
take the food out of their mouth as they cannot match the financial superiority of the
companies. However, experts are countering this claim neglecting that perception is not
The future of plastics is hinged heavily on bioplastics. Even the automobile industry is
moving away from non-renewable sources and the packaging industry will never be left
A biodegradable plastic is considered as such, if microorganisms (decomposers) can
dismantle them. The plastic has to change its characteristics and chemical structure. Mostly
the plastic gets dismantled into CO 2 , H 2 O and biomass- those materials are considered as
natural ones and do not pollute the environment.
Plastics are very important in our world today. They are used everywhere and the
manufacturing is cheap. We need plastics in our life. Normal plastic is made out of oil that
occurs deep in the earth under the sea. The problem is that some additives of this plastic are
similar to natural hormones- they act like softeners. Other additives are hardeners, colorants
and balancers. The enzymes in organisms process them.
The consequences for sea animals have not been fully researched, but many species die
painfully because of micro plastics in the sea. For example, sea turtles eat plastic bags, which
are swimming around in the water. Normally sea turtles eat jelly fish. Those fish are white
and transparent so they seem similar to the plastic bags. Animals cannot distinguish
between rubbish and food so they eat it without thinking about it. Some small fish are eating
the small plastic parts on the water and those fish are eaten by us humans. So the plastic
gets back into our body and damages it slowly. These problems can be prevented by
Eco packaging a new sustainable way to package goods in a safe and environmentally friendly way, the world is now becoming more environmentally friendly by the day the next step is to develop eco packaging that can be recycled this help to sustain a good healthy environments for the generations to come.
There are businesses supporting the innovation of eco packaging for example biopac technology believe that this is the sustainable packaging solution. Eco packaging can be many different things for example many coffee outlets, festivals and outdoor events now have eco-friendly drink cups these are a FSC board lined starch material these cups are 100% compostable meaning they will not harm the environment
Eco packaging saves large amounts of emission from reaching the atmosphere for example over a year we can save 4,908,885kg of carbon this can result in the greenhouse gas levels slowly lowering over time and helping to improve the global warming crisis.
Problems & Solutions
Household products are a large portion of the contribution to landfill waste, for example, crisp bags and toothpaste tube are two of the hardest products to recycle due to the separation of materials within the product themselves. Crisp packets, made from seven layers of foil and plastic made this way to reduce shipping volume. A hard ineffective way to help recycle the market for recycling crisp bags is not cost effective and there is no market for it. A solution to this is that although it is not quick fix if company’s and businesses decide to go forward fewer layers or metal and plastic will be fused together this will reduce time and cost of the separation and recycling of the crisps packets.
Bioplastics are made from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats
and oil. Bioplastics can be made from agricultural offshoots and also from
previously used plastic bottles and other containers that use micro organisms.
The most common plastics, such as fossil-fuel plastics, are derived from
petroleum or natural gasses.
Some but not all bioplastics are designed to biodegrade. Biodegradable
bioplastics can break down in their environments, depending on how they are
manufactured. Bioplastics can be composed of starches, cellulose, biopolymers, and a selection of other materials.
At one time bioplastics were too expensive for consideration as a replacement for petroleum-based plastics.
However, the lower the temperature needed to process bioplastics the more
stable supply of biomass combined with the increasing cost of crude oil making bioplastics more pricy and competitive with regular plastics.
Bioplastics are used for disposable items such as packaging, crockery, cutlery,
pots, bowls, and straws. They are also often used for the production of bags,
trays, fruit and vegetable containers, egg cartons, meat packaging, vegetables,
bottling for soft drinks, dairy products.
These plastics are also used in non-disposable uses including mobile phone
casings, carpet fibres, insulation, car interiors, fuel lines, and plastic piping.
Packaging must change. Not a should, could or a maybe. It must.
220 million tonnes of non-biodegradable plastic is produced each year. During that time over one million sea birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals die from exposure to plastic.
Bags, bottles, tin cans and synthetics are designed to can make our lives easier. They are durable and withstand extreme temperatures. However, with the high technology invested in these materials they will not break down naturally. So when we place them in a garbage tip the air moisture, soil and
climate cannot break them down into the surrounding land naturally.
Although it’s not just the wildlife and ocean biomes that are being affected. A process called outgassing occurs when plastic is exposed to heat and it pollutes the air by emitting gases and toxic pollutants into the atmosphere and water supplies. One toxic pollutants is “Bisphenol A”, which is found in water bottles, food containers and hard plastics. A 2007 study by the Environmental Working Group showed that low doses of “Bisphenol A” can cause insulin resistance to humans and interfere with contraception. This toxic has be often found in water supplies, caused by it leaching into human
So what might packaging look like in the future? A government strategy has recently been introduced called “Making the most of Packaging”, aimed to minimalize the environmental impact of packaging, but still allowing for the function of protecting the product. Part of this government strategy involves the UK government working with varying delivery bodies and industries to enable packaging to be designed in 10 years’ time, by using the smallest amount of materials where possible. The government states they are pushing re-usability, recyclability or recovery to be considered as standard when
designing packaging. The packaging industry will be facing rising pressures from the manufactures, governments and supply chain companies, to reduce costs, cut wastes, prevent damage and reduce
However there are conflicting signals being provided by retailers and especially consumers, by holding back development with a lingering perception that packaging denotes quality. Therefore, consumers have to change this mind-set as this will encourage manufactures to join schemes like the governments “Making the most of Packaging” to end non-biodegradable packaging for good.
- Biodegradable products are products that can be broken down and
decomposed by microbes and other natural processes. They consist of
food waste, paper, wood and fabric. In the absence of moisture and air,
decomposition slows and methane, a greenhouse gas, is released.
- The term is often used in relation to waste management, ecology, and
the bioremediation of the natural environment. It is now commonly
associated with environmentally-friendly products, capable of
decomposing back into natural elements.
- Although often conflated, biodegradable is distinct in meaning from:
compostable. While biodegradable simply means can be consumed by
microorganisms, compostable makes the further specific demand that
the object break down under composting conditions.
- Organic material can be degraded aerobically (with oxygen) or
anaerobically (without oxygen). Decomposition of biodegradable
substances may include both biological and abiotic steps.
Although much of what ends up in landfills is biodegradable, it won't break
down if it is not exposed to air and moisture due to the fact microbes need a
warm and moist environment to thrive. This prevents the microorganisms from
decomposing the garbage quickly, unlike what happens when biodegradable
materials are composted.