ORLANDO (ICIS)--With current consumer trends geared towards protecting the environment, the plastics industry needs to address misconceptions and highlight sustainability, Germany-headquartered additives supplier Baerlocher said on Thursday.
“Plastics are not seen favourably, and the value is declining,” Baerlocher’s North America CEO Ed Hall said on the sidelines of this year's National Plastics Exposition (NPE).
“We need to do something about that as the plastics industry to help people understand,” he added. “I’ve had that conversation a couple of times. People in plastics tell me, ‘This is in our hands.’”
Baerlocher’s director of specialty additives Roberto Nunez said that consumers are generally unaware of industry technology that addresses recycling, such as resin reprocessing systems.
“We have lots of interest in that,” he said, noting the company’s latest generation of stabilisation technology for polyolefins was being showcased at the expo.
Consumer misconceptions can be as simple as assuming paper is better for the environment than plastic, he said, despite the fact that plastics can be reprocessed.
“But the message that people are hearing, via the web, or wherever, is: choose paper,” Nunez said.
Hall cited businesses in the food industry that have considered phasing out expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) cups for reusable ceramic versions, without considering energy and water consumption, among other resources.
“The cost to create a ceramic mug, and to use a dishwasher, and soap, is far worse on the environment than a styrofoam cup,” he said. “You have to use energy to wash it, you’re putting detergent chemicals into the water stream.”
Despite technology advancements, recycling in the plastics industry is still driven by the costs for virgin resin, Hall noted.
“From a cost point of view, what we have is extremely effective,” Nunez said.
In the US, the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Plastics Division has established three goals for the recycling and recovering of all plastic packaging in the US by 2040.
The EU has set out to make all plastic packaging recyclable by 2030 in an effort to reduce single-use packages.
Sponsored by the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS), NPE2018: The Plastics Show takes place on 7-11 May in Orlando, Florida.
Interview article by David Haydon