Plastic Positivity – Summary
For the final part of our #PlasticPositivity campaign we’re summarising how plastic benefits certain industries and giving an insight into recycling and the positive environmental impact of utilising plastic in the correct way.
Over the course of our Plastic Positivity campaign, we have focused on industries that benefit from the most positive uses of plastics. Some of the advantages are very similar, but it adds different value to each industry, making it an amazing and versatile material. Below is a summary of these advantages:
Plastics within the automotive industry have been used for the last 5 decades, but the latest innovations are really changing the industry for the better. Engineered plastics are continuing to replace aluminium and other metals for a whole host of automotive components. One huge benefit of plastics within the automotive industry is weight reduction, which has led to lowering emissions and the all-important development of electric vehicles.
Plastic is one of the most commonly used materials in the medical industry, it’s become an essential part of the modern medical industry and without the use of plastic materials, modern healthcare would not be possible. Not only does it help to enhance patient safety, but also makes procedures simple, reduces costs for hospitals, reduces the risk of transferring diseases and helps with pain management.
Travel – Aerospace/ Rail
Engineers within these industries have their work cut out ensuring components meet demanding requirements. Without highly engineered plastics the modern world of transport wouldn’t be where it is today. Engineered plastics have high thermal and mechanical stability, meet strict flame, smoke and toxicity regulations, are highly chemical resistant and are lightweight and highly efficient.
In the UK we still aren’t recycling as much as we should be, in 2019 the UK recycled 43.5% of all waste, as a nation we need to do better, but we wanted to highlight some of the positive recycling facts about plastic:
It takes 75% less energy to make a plastic bottle from recycled plastic compared with using ‘virgin’ materials.
Recycling a single plastic bottle will save enough energy to power a 60W lightbulb for six hours. Recycling 1 tonne of plastic bottles saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon.
Since the UK introduced the ‘5p carrier bag tax’ in 2015, we now use around 83% fewer single-use bags than in 2014.
The British Plastics Federation (BPF) launched a Recycling Road map earlier this year which shows recycling levels the UK could achieve by 2030, if the correct drivers are put in place.
For these targets to be met, especially where plastics are concerned, there need to be some key changes made within the next decade including all HWRCs to have recycling for durable plastics, legislative framework supportive of domestic recycling in the UK, and specific product recycling schemes set up for products not collected kerbside, amongst others.
With these policies, investments and infrastructure developments the BPF have found that by 2030 the following could occur: (Data source: https://bpf.co.uk/roadmap)
- Minimal plastic to landfill (1%)
- Zero reliance on low quality export (9%)
- Over 30% reduction in EFW
- Over 3 times increase in UK mechanical recycling tonnage
- 3.5 times increase in reprocessing in the UK
- Waste plastic processed by non-mechanical recycling could grow 60 times.
Environmental impact is always a talking point when it comes to the plastics industry, we drastically need to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our oceans, but we must not forget the positive environmental impacts that plastic is already making and it’s great to see Global corporate companies are setting the standard going forwards with changing their products to help with recycling and environmental issues.
The Food and Beverage Industry in particular get very bad press about their plastic packaging, but they seem to be making positive changes all round. Many fast food and drink chains such as McDonalds and Starbucks have stopped offering plastic straws in the battle to reduce single use plastics.
Leading drinks manufacturer, Sprite announced earlier this year that they’re ditching their on-brand green bottle for a clear bottle, as it creates really high-quality recycled PET whereas coloured plastics can’t be turned back into clear plastic as easily, so it’s less valuable for the overall market. And giant Coca-Cola have announced they are trialling a more sustainable paper bottles this summer, with an ultimate goal that they can be recycled as paper.
It’s not just the drinks industry making changes, the automotive industry is also making huge changes with schemes in place to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles in the not so distant future. Plastics feature heavily in the manufacture of electric vehicles (EV) where lightweight plastic materials with highly engineered mechanical properties are being used for many new components. Jaguar Land Rover recently announced that by 2025 all of new their vehicles will be all electric, with Ford offering electric or hybrid versions of all models by 2026, and offering only electric vehicles by 2030. Commercial vehicle manufacturers are also following suit with Arrival’s Electric Van carrying out road trials this summer and West Midlands Ambulance Service are already trialling all-electric ambulances.
We think plastic really is amazing. The engineering world wouldn’t be so advanced without it and we’re eager to see what applications plastic is used for in the future. The press often given the plastics industry a bad name due to the throw away single use items, but hopefully our Plastic Positivity Campaign has helped to remind everyone what fantastic benefits plastic does have.