Formac and plastics
For decades, plastic has been used for its properties and versatility. By adding various substances, plastic can be produced as, for example, soft, hard, elastic or shock-resistant. It can be transparent or opaque and also assume all possible colours and shapes. In general, plastic is also more durable than glass, lighter than metal and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.
In short – it is not surprising that the use of plastic has spread to almost every part of our lives. Today, it is an incredibly important resource in, for example, medical equipment, electronics, the construction and packaging industry and not least the automotive industry. It is therefore not particularly difficult to argue in favour of the advantages of plastic.
But in a meaningful discussion about plastic and its advantages, we must also highlight the problems and disadvantages. There is an excess of plastic today and the traditional production requires crude oil or natural gas, which has a negative impact on our environment.
The challenge with plastic thus lies in retaining the use of such a versatile material, but without its negative effects on the environment. Concepts that are often mentioned are bioplastic and recycled plastic. In this article, we will go through these concepts, what they mean and also how we work at Formac and what our position on plastic is today.
The term "bioplastic" can mean different things depending on who you talk to. It can mean bio-based plastic, that is, plastic made from renewable raw materials such as sugar, corn starch or wood. But it can also mean plastic that is produced biologically, but that is not biodegradable to a varying degree.
From an ecological point of view, bioplastics made from organic raw materials are more beneficial compared to conventional plastics. Very few fossil resources are used in the direct production and very low amounts of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide or methane, are released in the process.
Bioplastics are still in their infancy, currently only in small-scale production and use compared to conventional plastics. If we look at the available statistics, however, it looks like the market share for bioplastics is about to increase. In 2017, it was 6% compared to only 1.5% in 2013 (1) . The current political situation also indicates that the market share of bioplastics will increase further starting from 2021, when the EU's plastic ban will enter into force and a wide range of disposable plastic products will be banned.
One of the main arguments against bioplastic, however, is its direct competition with food production and biodiversity in rainforest areas. Large-scale cultivation of the raw materials necessary to produce bioplastic also requires large-scale land use, which results in deforestation and destruction of arable land. Critics therefore argue that bioplastics should only be made from plant waste products.
The alternative to bioplastics is the reuse of existing plastics, which significantly reduces the impact on the climate. According to a study carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute, the production of recycled plastic uses up to 60% less carbon dioxide compared to conventional materials (2)
Of course, this is still more than organically produced bioplastics, but with the existing recycling systems, recycled plastics are the best alternative available on the market right now, from both an economic and ecological perspective.
Existing plastic materials also do not compete with, for example, food production. In addition, there is a large amount of conventional plastic in the world which becomes an important resource rather than being thrown away.
The downside is that this plastic still consists of conventional raw materials, and even in a circular use of plastic, crude oil is added to some degree.
For several years now, Formac has been investing in products made from recycled plastic. The main examples are our plate holders, ad strips and our new tire bags. We believe that the most effective contribution we can make to a more sustainable future is effective recycling.
At the same time, we are constantly looking for more, and better, environmentally friendly materials, as well as suppliers, to reduce our climate footprint. We are convinced that plastic is and remains an important part of our everyday lives, but that manufacturing and use must be done with common sense and respect for nature.