04 October, 2010
We hear a lot these days about waste and about litter – about over-packaging and about the plastic materials that are supposed to be destroying our environment.
As with most things, you just have to scratch the situation just a little and the picture can then look a whole look different.
Most commodity plastics today are a by-product of the oil and gas industry. The leading companies – suppliers of materials – in both sectors, are often related to each other. And by no stretch of the imagination could they be said to have effectively done a good job of work – either with the environment – or in communicating with the public.
We all can see that alternative energy – hybrid cars – alternative fuel and power sources – is on the rise and rightly so. It seems simply a matter of time – albeit it decades – as the planet reduces a dependence on oil based fossil fuels.
However, and that said, we can only start from where we are: The past few years have seen many misconstrued and knee-jerk measures applied in relation to plastics. These reactions have happened mainly in order to curry favour – votes or money – with the buying public. The measures include plastic bag taxes and much of the fossil fuel energy itself expended in attempts to boost mechanical recycling. Only this month has it become apparent, for example, to supermarket Tesco that it needs to call a halt to the lightweighting of its checkout bags – since the customer shopping is simply just falling through onto the floor.
It never ceases to amaze me that politicians, producers and consumers never want to recall that a ten mile ride in their car is equivalent to one whole year’s supply of checkout plastic bags. Somehow, foregoing the use of the car – to the supermarket - never seems to compare with flaunting a so-called ‘bag for life’ at the checkout.
And looking at the larger picture, plastics and packaging have made possible some large scale and positive resource savings possible in recent years: To look at but one sector – agriculture. Like it or not, the sight of a hay bale wrapped in sileage film is a commonplace. We can be sure that the development is saving the industry resources and money. Wider examples are commonly quoted. For example, it is estimated that some 40% of Russian agricultural output would be wasted, were it not for plastics packaging. And there is nothing more wasteful than the scrapping of finished produce or product.
The truth is that – notable exceptions notwithstanding - the world of industry and commerce is a pretty good taskmaster when it comes to not paying for goods and services that it doesn’t need. That includes packaging – plastics packaging and over packaging.
At Ceramicx, however, we believe that the best is yet to come, and we are playing our part in helping industry to further reduce its scrap and its faulty packaging so that it is truly fit for purpose.
We also believe in stopping energy wastage at source: The less energy – carbon footprint – you put into making a product, the less expensive it will be on the environment and on all of us. One of our key skills – through the art and science of infrared heating
methods - is to help manufacturers further reduce the energy content of that packaging.
At the end of October we will be exhibiting these skills at the world’s leading plastics exhibition, K 2010 in Dusseldorf
, Germany. We hope to inform and educate the plastics industry gathered there that there is way of making their essential products with less energy.
Meantime, spare a thought for the humble plastic bag. Like all of us, it’s trying to do a good job of work – often taking on more, with fewer resources.