The discovery of plastics revolutionized our society by introducing lightweight and strong products with many uses. Plastics are used to manufacture an incredible amount of products we use every day—and that amount is only rising. People now understand that plastics are not environmentally friendly to our ecosystem. They have become a greater part of the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream—growing from less than one percent in the 1960s to 13 percent in 2014. Now, recycling plastics or switching to biopolymer plastics have become a huge factor in our everyday lives. Not just at home, but many companies are taking the initiative to go green and be responsible for our future.
What are Biopolymer Plastics?
At Midstate, we use green alternatives for producing plastic parts called Biopolymers: renewable plastic material manufactured from biomass. The biomasses come from material such as corn, wheat, sugar cane, and potatoes. At the end of a part’s life, the product can be disposed in a manner that will degrade back into carbon dioxide and water by microorganisms—This process will reduce waste produced from commercial goods. At Midstate, we offer three different ways your material can be disposed of (depending on their genetic makeup). The plastics can be biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable. It is important to understand the difference between the terms.
Biodegradability refers to the ability to break down and return to natural elements. When these products are in landfills, they help reduce waste which helps contribute to a healthier environment. Besides plastics, there are naturally occurring polymers such as starches, soy protein, vegetable oil, and many others. Microorganisms and plants produce substances that can be polymerized in Bioplastics. Bioplastics, which are biodegradable, can be produced from renewable resources (bacteria or plants) rather than nonrenewable resources like oil.
Compostable materials are similar to biodegradable because it is intended to return to earth safely, but with an added benefit. They provide the soil with nutrients once the material has completely broken down. These materials should be added to compost piles and not just any landfill since they can help aide the growth of trees and plants.
Oil based plastics are collected and reprocessed to produce new items. They can melt the plastic again for further use or loaded into a machine specifically designed to bring the plastic back to its starting point: pellets.
While they are not able to naturally break down, many types including polypropylene (PP), Low-density polyethylene (LDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can be recycled. Depending on the identifying number for the type of plastic, it is important to check with your recycler or municipality about the plastics that will be accepted for recycling.
The Limitation of Biopolymers
As of now, biopolymers cannot replace every plastic, but they are a green alternative with lots of benefits. Some consumers are leery of the idea for the fact that some biopolymers do not behave like typical thermoplastics. Where you would think to add heat or pressure you need the opposite effect. The products final stage can either be damaged or distorted than what you intended.
Another trouble is the concern of a shorter shelf life. Say you buy a plastic container of a condiment that has a long shelf life (i.e. mayo or mustard). If the container starts to decompose before the condiment is finished, then the container is not performing its duty. It all depends on what you are trying to make.
We offer fully-compostable/biodegradable molded parts and reuse discarded oil-based plastics. As the manufacturer, we know we are a link to providing a cleaner and safer environment since regular plastics take decades to decompose. In the near future, new research into biopolymers may produce new bioplastic products from renewable resources that are easier on our environment.
With higher quality, better recycling options, and being cost-effective, it is hard to beat biopolymer plastics. If you have any other questions or concerns about using one of our eco-friendly solutions, contact us. At Midstate Molding & Engineering, we have a team of extremely skilled plastic injection molders who can help with any problem you face.