How Environmentally Friendly Are Plastic Injection Moldings?
It seems like every day there is a new story in the media about the dangers of plastics to the environment, talking about how plastics take thousands of years to degrade, how they clog our landfills and poison the land. The environment affects all of us, from the consumer to the manufacturer to the designer, should be a factor considered when determining manufacturing processes.
Plastic injection moldings save on material
There are many ways that we can reduce our impact on the environment, and one of the most effective is to use less. Manufacturers help the environment by engaging in "source reduction" which is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as using fewer resources, generating less pollution, or creating a more durable product that will be replaced less often.
Using plastic injection moldings to make drink bottles requires 2 pounds of plastic to deliver approximately 8 gallons of a beverage. The same amount of liquid would require 3 pounds of aluminum or 27 pounds of glass.
Using less material means a lighter finished product which means less fuel to ship it. This means fewer natural resources are used and less pollution is created.
Plastics can be recycled
Depending on the plastic used, products created through plastic injection moldings can often be recycled. Since most of the US population has access to recycling programs, these resources can be returned to the manufacturing pool, reducing the amount of new resources required. Although some other materials, such as metals and glass, can be recycled, others materials such as wood cannot be.
The durability of plastic means that plastic products can be reused. Ford Motor Company has prevented more than 150 million pounds of wood and cardboard packaging from ending up in landfills by switching to reusable shipping containers made with plastic injection moldings.
Discarded plastic can be used as fuel
There is a growing movement to burn municipal solid waste in combustion facilities, using the energy provided to generate electricity. Items made from plastic injection moldings have very high energy densities, not surprising since plastic is a petroleum derivative. The Environmental Protection Agency has strict regulations on the emissions from these plants, ensuring that any toxic emissions are treated properly.
Consider plastic for your next product
Is plastic the villain some people make it out to be? Should a manufacturer not consider plastic injection moldings as a green technique? The fact is that there are some serious and legitimate concerns about the environmental effect of plastics, but plastic also can be an environmentally friendly material.
Manufacturing products using plastic injection moldings uses less raw material, creates a lighter finished product that is durable and cheaper to ship.
All manufacturing materials carry environmental impacts, whether it's chopping down forests for wood and paper or scarring the land to mine metals. A balanced and comprehensive view of a material's positive and negative benefits over its full life cycle is needed to fully evaluate just how green a material is.