Is Recycling Plastic Too Good To Be True?

As a company who works with plastics every day, we are always intrigued by any news regarding the material.  When it comes to disposing plastics we also want to stay on top of the best way of doing so.  Recycling has always been what we are taught to do with materials like plastic, metal, glass, paper, etc., because they can be broken down and repurposed or reused.  Or so we thought.  Researchers and inquisitive minds alike have begun exploring just how many recyclable materials are recycled and how many are existing as pollution.  The article below explores more on this topic.  Check it out!

Is living on a plastic planet necessarily a bad thing?

by: Clare Goldsberry in Recycling, Sustainability on July 20, 2017

News flash! “Plastic pollution risks near permanent contamination of natural resources” (theGuardian); “Earth is becoming a ‘Plastic Planet'” (BBC); and “World’s Plastic Waste Could Bury Manhattan 2 Miles Deep” ( New York Times ). Those are just some of the nearly two dozen headlines from around the country and the world announcing our fate at the hands of the monster called plastic.

Roland Geyer, an industrial ecology professor at UC Santa Barbara, and a team of researchers released a new report, “ A Plastic Planet ” (first published in Wednesday’s Science Advances ), which measures the production, use and fate of all the plastics ever made, including synthetic fibers. According to an article in the UC Santa Barbara Current, they found that global production of plastic resins and fibers increased from two million metric tons in 1950 to more than 400 million metric tons in 2015, outgrowing most other man-made materials. Roughly half of that amount was produced in the last 13 years.

Geyer noted in the UC Santa Barbara Current that many man-made materials such as cement and steel are built into infrastructure that lasts for many decades, whereas plastics “become waste after four or fewer years of use.” Geyer wants to measure plastics production and use the data as a “foundation for sustainable materials management” because “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Recycling just isn’t working, Geyer claims. Only 9% of plastics in the United States are recycled. He’s skeptical about incineration of plastics, which I believe to be the greenest and most efficient way to capture the true value of plastics, because of the potential for toxic pollutants and lack of good filtration systems to capture them. (Maybe he should ask Germany—incineration is one form of waste-to-energy used in that country.)

Plastics get a bad rap because they are visible. Plastic floats, which means everyone sees plastics in the oceans, but no one has ever measured the amount of cement, metal and glass that have sunk to the bottom of the ocean from huge container ships that lose some of their cargo (a regular happening).

One journalist writing about this new study noted that most of the plastic ever made remains on the planet in landfills. Well, here’s another news flash: Most of everything we’ve ever thrown into a sanitary landfill over the last 50 years is still there. Look at the studies performed by University of Arizona “garbologist” Dr. William Rathje (1945-2012), which proved that nothing—not newspaper, chicken bones or vegetables—degrades in a landfill environment. Rathje dug down to layers of garbage nearly 25 years old and found still-readable newspapers.

This study is the best case yet for waste-to-energy if, indeed, recycling isn’t working. From what I’ve seen, it takes more energy to collect, sort, bale, ship to a reprocessor, reprocess into pellets and ship to a distributor for reuse in new products than it would to collect plastic and burn it! We are being fooled into thinking that recycling is a “good” thing. It is, to some extent, but it’s certainly not the most cost effective or “greenest” thing to do, and it fails to capture plastics’ BTU value that could provide energy.

I’ve heard many people say that the reason people throw away plastic is that they don’t understand the inherent value in plastic materials. It’s trash; it’s junk to be thrown away. For that reason we need more education on the value of plastics. Headlines like “Production of enough plastic to cover Argentina causes havoc” (Reuters) do not help the plastics industry or the huge economy that plastics supports. These headlines say nothing about the benefits of plastics or show people the “true cost” of replacing every plastic item or product with an alternative in paper, glass or metal.

It will be, once again, up to the industry to confront these types of studies, acknowledge the facts and figures (we know plastics are ubiquitous), then explain to the masses why plastic really is fantastic!


Injection Molding for Mass Production

If you are creating new products and are at the production planning phase, you should consider the most efficient way to produce a lot quickly.  Injection molding does just that and it is also on the environmentally friendly side of things.  Read about what Hackaday suggests in the article below.

Designing Products With Injection Molding In Mind

by: Bob Baddeley  June 5, 2017

3D printing is a technique we’ve all been using for ages at home, or via Shapeways, but if you are designing a product, 3D printing will only get you so far. It’s crude, slow, expensive, and has lots of limitations. While it’s great for the prototyping stage, ultimately products manufactured in volume will be manufactured using another method, and most likely it will be injection molding. Knowing how to design a part for injection molding means you can start prototyping with 3D printing, confident that you’ll be able to move to a mold without major changes to the design.

The 2017 Hackaday Prize includes a $30,000 prize for Best Product as we seek products that not only show a great idea, but are designed for manufacturing and have thought through what it takes to get them into the hands of the users. Some of the entries seem to be keenly aware of the challenges associated with moving from prototyping to production. Here are some examples of best practices when prototyping with future injection molding in mind.


SnapBloks is building interactive modular blocks that each have different functions, from power to temperature monitoring, playing sound, turning on LEDs, and moving motors. The blocks snap together with magnets. Having a modular block-based system like this means many products to build and stock. This means a lot of inventory and parts to source. It could also mean many different injection molded pieces. One thing SnapBloks did well is to have the same top piece for each of their blocks, differentiated by color. Running the injection mold with one color, then switching to a different color gives the look of a different product without having to do additional expensive molds.

One mold, multiple products. Reuse your molds if possible.

Wherever possible, try to reduce the number of molds you need. SnapBloks may still need a lot of molds for their bottom halves, but reusing the top is a good plan.


SnappCat is a device that takes pictures of your cat, a sorely needed product in an age where there are not enough cat pictures on the Internet. A simple mold will open and close and eject a part without resistance. This means the part can’t have any features that would “lock” the part into the mold, like a side hole or overhang.

If side features are required, this is accomplished in the mold with a slide, which is a third piece of the mold that slides in from the side and then comes out before the part is ejected. Slides can be expensive, but side holes are still a necessity in enclosures. The way to do that is to have your holes be at the union of the front and back of the enclosure, so that each side of the enclosure has 1 or more sides of the hole. SnappCat’s design has that built into their 3D printed mold. Notice that 3 sides of the hole are in the purple part, and the back part will cover up the final side, making a complete hole without a complicated mold.

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Ways to Control Energy Costs

Plastics companies like us use a lot of energy, but fortunately there are ways to lower costs. In the article from Plastics News below, Robert Knaster of SyncroSpeed North America says companies pay electric costs without even trying to minimize the bill or check if their meter is even working. His company designed a piece of technology called the SyncroSpeed that “helps make motors run more efficiently.” Read more about keeping costs down in the article.



Efforts to Help the Environment

A major plastics company out of Atlanta, Georgia called Envision Plastics has announced that it will be making efforts to prevent up to ten million pounds of plastic from getting into the ocean. We applaud this kind of work (especially following Earth Day) because we know how polluted our waters are with materials like plastics. Learn more about this project in the article below.

Envision Plastics’ (Atlanta) new goal is a kind of watershed moment for the supplier that is also welcome news for pollution prevention: Recovering up to ten million pounds of plastic at risk of polluting our oceans, equivalent to approximately 70 million 1-gallon milk jugs, over the next two years.

Past efforts to protect oceans from plastic have focused on removing the material after it has reached a beach or entered a waterway, but these efforts have failed to collect meaningful volumes, according to Envision Plastics. Envision’s OceanBound Plastic leverages the OceanBound graphiccapabilities of the company’s global supply chain and manufacturing expertise to solve this problem and deliver a resin fit for most high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic applications before it can enter waterways and oceans.

“We cannot solve this problem alone; we invite you to join us in this great undertaking by incorporating Envision’s OceanBound Plastic into your products,” states Mark Shafer, general manager of Envision Plastics. “Envision’s 16-year history of product innovation, commercialization and technical expertise provides a platform for creating sustainable, reliable resins that meet the performance needs of our customers and meaningfully engage end consumers.”

Since partnering with Method in 2011, Envision has worked to better understand how it can help maximize the use of post-consumer resin in a manner that benefits the environment and supports the needs of Envision’s customers. Envision is partnering with local communities in at-risk areas around the world to recover plastic before it enters the ocean.

Sustainable packaging, plastics and a host of other markets and applications are bundled together under one roof as part of the Advanced Design & Manufacturing (ADM) Expo Toronto that includes PLAST-EX, Automation Technology Expo (ATX), PACKEX, Design & Manufacturing and Powder & Bulk Solids (PBS) on May 16-18 in Canada. For more information, visit .

Envision has created a comprehensive guide to help communities implement a robust, mutually beneficial process to collect and ship this material to Envision processing facilities. These guidelines focus on ensuring everyone benefits from the process, including Envision customers and ultimately the local communities.

According to an employee of one of Envision’s suppliers, “Living so close to shore, the ocean is a place I love. Sadly my community’s discarded plastic is at high risk of entering and polluting the ocean. Before partnering with Envision Plastics, recycling and shipping this material was not profitable. Now we have the tools in place to make a difference in our community and in the lives of people who ultimately buy the products using our repurposed plastic.”

Envision’s OceanBound Plastic can be used in many of the same rigid plastic packaging applications as traditional post-consumer resin, with the added benefit that using material collected from at-risk areas helps economically disadvantaged communities and eliminates that plastic from reaching beaches and waterways.

“Part of Method’s mission is to leave the planet better than we found it,” says Ryan Williams, senior director of sustainability at Method. “No one can fix the ocean plastic problem single handedly. Our partnership with Envision pushes boundaries, educating consumers about the benefits of repurposed plastic packaging and the


dangers ocean plastic poses to marine life.”

OceanBound Plastic is a fully traceable, versatile resin that can be further processed into natural and mixed color as well as the many proprietary products Envision offers including PRISMA and Deodorized Resin.


Plastic in Medical Devices

The medical device industry is much bigger than most people think, and it is continuing to grow. Did you know that plastic is an integral part of that industry? Many kinds of plastic are used in medical devices such as implants, prosthetic devices, surgical tools and much more. The article below specifically talks about polymer and the numerous uses for it in medical devices. Learn more below!

Evonik (Essen, Germany) announced that its Vestakeep PEEK material has reached a milestone. The polymer, which is used in the design and development of surgical implants, recently surpassed more than 80 devices cleared by FDA.

Evonik's PEEK polymer used in spinal implantMedical OEMs usually take one of two paths to have their implantable devices reviewed and approved, or “cleared,” by FDA, explained Evonik. One is a Premarket Approval (PMA), which is the most stringent approval process, often requiring years of testing and clinical trials to prove the implant has sufficient safety and effectiveness for the intended use. The other is a Premarket Notification (510K), which typically takes 90 days or less and references a predicate FDA-approved device. Although Vestakeep PEEK has more than 80 customer devices cleared under the 510K process, it has also been used in devices approved under the more stringent PMA process.

Vestakeep was developed to address the medical device industry’s need for high-performance biocompatible materials. Its high fatigue resistance and toughness has proven to be critical in the successful development of these devices that see high stress loads during surgical implantation and throughout the healing process, according to Evonik. Material applications include the orthopedic, spine, sports medicine, cardiovascular, extremities, cranio-maxillofacial, dental and oncology market segments.

Advances in medical design and manufacturing and plastics technology will be showcased in the MD&M and PLASTEC zones at the Advanced Design & Manufacturing (ADM) Cleveland event. The trade show and conference comes to the Huntington Convention Center in Cleveland on March 29 and 30. Go to the ADM Cleveland  website to learn more about the event and to register to attend.

“Achieving this milestone with our customers demonstrates the overwhelming acceptance and growth of Vestakeep in the medical marketplace,” said Vikram Chatur, Vice President and General Manager for High Performance Polymers for Evonik. “With our strengths in R&D and innovation, we’ll continue to develop the Vestakeep portfolio to grow our business and to advance PEEK polymer technologies for improving healthcare worldwide.”


Plastic Water Bottle Design

Have you ever wondered what goes into the design and creation of plastic water bottles? Companies and manufacturers are always coming up with ways to make bottles more eco-friendly and cheaper to make. The article below describes all of this and what the future of plastic water bottles could look like. Check it out!

Global Plastics Bottled Water MarketConsumers’ thirst for plastic-bottled water flows directly into increased demand for those containers. Bottled water market drivers include population growth, increase in the prevalence of waterborne diseases and scarcity of tap water create a high demand for bottled water.

Some locations require water to be boiled for safety, but this inconvenient process is both time-consuming and energy inefficient, compelling users in those areas to turn to bottled water.

Also, bottled mineral water is purified and fortified with dissolved minerals, which provides added health benefits to wellness-aware consumers.

“The need for safe drinking water in developing countries like India and countries in the Middle East has made these regions favorable destinations for multinational bottled water manufacturers,” says Sharan Raj, a lead analyst at Technavio (London) for packaging research, referencing the company’s new report, Global Plastic-Based Water Packaging Market 2017-2021 . “The per-capita consumption of bottled water is expected to increase during the forecast period, which will drive the growth of the plastic-based water packaging market.”

Interesting in rigids and other plastics packaging? UBM America’s newest design and manufacturing trade show and conference debuts in Cleveland, OH, on March 29-30 where Advanced Design & Manufacturing (ADM) Cleveland showcases five zones including packaging and plastics. For more information, visit PLASTEC Cleveland website .

Weighty matters

On-trend, lightweighting involves the redesigning of packaging material to reduce the weight without compromising its quality (see Arrowhead water bottles reach recycled content milestone ). Plastic packaging vendors’ R&D teams develop packaging that is light and easy to carry. Moreover, reducing the weight of packaging material and modifying pack formats to light configurations helps vendors to reduce the cost of transportation.

An average commercial 0.5-liter PET bottle weighs 12 grams, though the PET bottles manufactured by Sidel (Hünenberg, Switzerland), for example, weigh only 7.95 grams. These bottles have 34% less weight than average commercial PET bottles. They offer 32% more top-load performance, saving up to $13 million per year on raw materials.

“Lightweight bottles require less raw materials for their production, which, in turn, increases the recycling rate of these bottles by 75% and decreases the energy required for production by 23%,” explains says Sharan. “It also reduces the greenhouse gas emissions by 26% and the amount of waste entering landfills by more than 20%.”

Manufacturers are designing PET-based water bottles using different methods to increase their barrier properties. Innovative technologies are being implemented to increase impermeability and eliminate the risk of harmful substances entering these containers. One such technology is plasma coating, wherein protective layers are applied to PET films have a thickness of 50 nanometers, yet the bottles remain easy to recycle.

For more information, view the report .