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In 1950, there was almost no plastic production. But the 20th century saw plastic revolutionise the world. Many people fail to recognise just how essential this material is in today’s society – from essential medical equipment and construction materials, to packaging and automotive parts, there’s not much we don’t rely on plastics for anymore.

With the attitude that ‘all plastics are bad’ gaining traction in the media, it’s easy to forget the many advantages of plastics; it is the vast range of applications that means a total ban on all plastic is simply inconceivable. Instead, we would benefit by focusing on our poor use of plastic, and looking for ways to innovate this material to reduce its environmental impact.

How can plastic be innovated to help the environment?

1) Increase the amount of reusable, recyclable or compostable plastics

The aim is to have zero plastic ending up in the environment – and increasing the amount of reusable, recyclable or compostable plastics is a great way to achieve this goal. This requires a combination of redesign and innovation in business models, materials, packaging design and reprocessing technologies. Ensuring that the plastics you use to produce your products can be reused, recycled, or composted helps to eliminate today’s throwaway culture and encourages people to dispose of their products in a way which is not damaging to the environment. Following several high-profile campaigns, a change in society’s mindset is already in motion. Consumers are becoming ever more conscientious in their use of products and a number of multinational corporations, such as Coca-Cola and Ikea, are taking action to ensure their plastics are recyclable or compostable and include increasing proportions of recycled plastic.

2) Source your raw materials and plastic products from a trusted supplier

Unfortunately, not everyone produces plastics with the environment in mind. That’s why it’s important you choose a supplier who promotes a circular economy and ensures that every stage of production is as sustainable as possible. At Polyblend, we understand the importance of minimising our impact on the environment. That’s why we adopt a life cycle thinking approach across all of our operations, ensuring that our processes, right from material extraction to end of life, are as responsible and sustainable as they can be. As a provider of global polymer solutions, our compliance with ISO14001 alongside our strong commitment to sustainable practices, enables us to provide the highest level of environmental standards to our customers.

3) Make your plastic products antimicrobial

With 54% of consumers now shopping more sustainably, increasing the reusability of plastics products is essential. An antimicrobial plastic is a synthetic polymer material containing an integrated active ingredient which makes it effective against microbial and bacterial growth. Antimicrobial additives are proven to increase the functional lifetime of a plastic, and so innovating plastic products in this way ultimately helps to minimise the ‘throwaway culture’ of today’s society. Once manufactured into the material, they will work to minimise the presence of bacteria that can cause the plastic to degrade quicker. This means that a product made from antimicrobial plastic is more durable and has increased reusability.

Polyblend’s recent collaboration with Biomaster enables us to incorporate world-leading antimicrobial technology into any of our custom formulated plastisol products as part of our new PB-protect range. This silver ion technology provides long-lasting and effective product protection against harmful bacteria, biofilm, fungi and mould for the lifetime of the end product without affecting its structural and physical qualities.

There is no doubt that the plastics crisis is a serious issue, and that we need to encourage a change in attitude towards the single-use mindset of society. But we have to keep in mind the environmental and economic benefits that plastics offer, and use innovation to find a solution. By adapting the way plastics are produced to become more environmentally friendly, we can help reduce the impact this key material has on the planet.


Can long life cycle plastic be recycled?

Yes, it’s a commodity. This allows for manufacturers to use less single use plastic through both extending their plastic life plastic whilst still being recyclable.

Is PVC a sustainable plastic?

Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, is one of the most widely used polymers in the world. Due to its versatile nature, PVC is used extensively across a broad range of industrial, technical and everyday applications.

PVC is most frequently made from salt (57%) and oil (43%), however in some regions of the world PVC is made without using oil feedstock at all (substituting oil-derived hydrocarbon with bio-derived hydrocarbon feedstock). PVC is therefore far less oil-dependent than other thermoplastics. It is also highly durable and energy efficient across a range of applications, which makes for an extremely effective use of raw materials. Coupled with PVC’s preferential environmental characteristics in production, PVC is also recyclable up to eight times.

What plastic products would benefit from longer usable life cycle?

All disposable or single use.

How to increase plastic life cycle?

Innovation to look at materials to optimise formulating products to promote extension of life. I.e. antimicrobial coatings which reduce the build-up of bacteria, keeping plastic products in working condition for extended periods of time.

Report Published by

Mark Stewart

Supporting plastic manufacturers with bespoke polymer and colour solutions | Managing Director | Polyblend UK LTD

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