The plastics industry is constantly evolving and coming up with new, innovative ideas for recycled plastics and more. Read on to discover some of the latest innovations happening right now in the plastics industry.
New in 2019
We’ve updated our list with some fascinating developments that have occurred in 2019, so check them out along with the previous innovations that are sure to keep sending ripples throughout the industry.
1. Bacteria Capable of Breaking Down Plastics
As recently reported on Asahi Shimbun, a bacterium known as Ideonella sakaiensis that was discovered in 2005 has now been shown to consume PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, film with a thickness of 0.2 millimeters in about a month.
Since PET had previously been believed to be nonbiodegradable due to its origin in petroleum, this discovery could have major impacts on the future of plastic recycling and disposal.
Currently, the bacteria are being studied to determine the conditions needed for their enzymes to properly break down the materials.
2. Bioplastics for Food Packaging That Biodegrades
Another fascinating development comes from the exciting world of bioplastics. As Phys.org notes in a recent article, scientists at Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania have created a biodegradable plastic which is able to decompose in two years within a compost bin.
Applications of this material once it is made public include use as single-use packaging for goods, replacements for plastic shopping bags and storage bags, and more.
One of the challenges the scientists faced was that the material they were working with, cellulose, needed to be able to be made transparent or semi-transparent to match current plastic packaging products. With regular plastic, heating is involved to create what is called fluid plastic for these ends, but cellulose tends to burn when heated.
The scientists were able to find the correct composites needed to turn the cellulose into fluid plastic, however, allowing transparence as well as well as a nontoxic package safe for foodstuffs.
3. Fully Recyclable Toothpaste Tubes
Major brand Colgate is doing their part to contribute to the green movement by introducing a recyclable toothpaste tube, one that is the first to receive recognition by the Association of Plastic Recyclers.
As reported by Plastics Today, traditional toothpaste tubes often are not able to be recycled because while the majority of the tube is made of plastic, a thin layer of aluminum is used as well.
This new tube, however, utilizes high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a substance often used in the creation of plastic bottles. To get the proper malleability needed for squeezable toothpaste tubes, Colgate’s team had to test a variety of layering and composite options until they arrived at the desired result.
2017 Plastics Industry Developments
Give these innovations a look!
4. Plastic Roads
In an exciting bit of recycling news, the construction company VolkerWesser has designed PlasticRoad, a lightweight roadway design that requires a fraction of the construction time compared to standard roads, and one which is virtually maintenance free.
PlasticRoad lasts three times the expected lifespan of standard roads, is made from 100% recycled material, and is said to be “the ideal sustainable alternative to conventional road structures.”
Mashable recently wrote an article highlighting this fascinating innovation. They cite that roads made from plastic would be a great sustainable solution because asphalt is unsustainable, brittle and contributes to over 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide around the world each year.
5. Tennis Shoes Made from Ocean Plastic
While using plastic to build roads is an intriguing innovation, how about wearing plastic tennis shoes? Well, Adidas recently announced they are releasing a shoe made from recycled ocean plastic.
The shoe will be a part of their Parley series, called the Ultra Boost Parley and was made in collaboration with Parley for the Oceans. In 2016, Parley was able to pull 740 tons of plastic pollution from the Indian Ocean near the Maldives. Adidas is now using that waste to make its shoes in this line, and even some shirts.
Adidas said that at least one million tennis shoes will be created using ocean plastic by the end of 2017. That equals around 11 million plastic bottles put to good use!
6. Recycled Plastic for Beauty Packaging
The popular beauty company, Lush Cosmetics, known for its handmade ingredients, has begun using PCR PP packing for their Black Pot packages. According to Plastics Technology:
“The Lush Black Pot is a 100% postconsumer polypropylene package that includes an injection molded container and lid. The package, designed to hold cream and lotion, is made with KWR621FDA and KWR621FDA-20 resins that have received FDA letters of non-objection for 100% content.”
Pedro Morales, Director of Sales and Marketing for KW Plastics, the company behind the project, also had some great things to say about Lush’s new packaging, stating:
“The Lush Black Pot is a wonderful example of the success both a resin supplier and brand owner can enjoy when each link in the supply chain understands the respective challenges and commitment to using PCR.”
7. 3D Printed Plastic Braces
While plastic solutions for braces, such as Invisalign, have been available for some time, you might be able to save some serious cash by printing your own plastic braces at home!
Recently, an undergrad at the New Jersey Institute of Technology decided to create his own pair of braces by 3d printing them for just $60!
8. Turning Plastic Waste into Oil
Above: Watch this cool video explaining the process behind the machine that can turn plastic into oil.
We’ve covered plastics as roads, shoes, and braces, but have you heard about plastic being converted into oil fuel? Bloomberg recently featured an article on U.K. startup Recycling Technologies’ efforts to create a machine that can turn recycled plastic into oil.
CEO of Recycling Technologies, Adrian Griffiths, and his small team, have successfully created a machine called the RT7000. When you put plastic in one end of the machine, three types of oil are produced at the other.
Griffith told Bloomberg, “We want to change the history of plastic in the world,” and we think he’s definitely one step closer to doing so.
9. Plastics for Shelter
One of the most intriguing recent uses of plastic concerns incorporating recycled plastic into an unusual construction project. Recently, a social enterprise called Bamboo House India used 1,000 plastic water bottles to build a bus stop hub in Swaroopnagar colony in Hyderabad.
It only took around 15 days to build the bus stop, which now stands 8-feet high with its core metal frame and over 1,000 scrap plastic bottles. Due to bad weather in the area, the company knows it may not stand up to harsh storms, but they have aspirations to create a “permanent recycled bus shelter” in the future.
10. Reducing Plastic Pollution with Worms
Although it may not be categorized as an “innovation,” this new discovery and tactic is definitely worth mentioning, and is one which can cut down pollution rates one bite at a time. Thanks to wax worms, we now have a new resource for cutting pollution!
Known as the Galleria mellonella, these environmentally friendly worms may help reduce the waste caused by plastic bags due to their ability to biodegrade plastic bags. Like plastic, wax is a polymer, which consists of a long string of carbon atoms held together, with other atoms branching off the sides of the chain.
National Geographic recently wrote about this new development, and got input from Wei-Min Wu, an environmental engineer at Stanford University, who said, “This study is another milestone discovery for the research on biodegradation of plastics.”
Just another fascinating development in the field of plastics!
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