Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New Plastics from Waste

Every company that sincerely establishes environmentalism as a key component of its vision and core values deserves thanks and appreciation. One such company is NEC. Their stated desire to be "a leading global company leveraging the power of innovation to realize an information society friendly to humans and the earth," was proven to be sincere when they applied true innovation to the plastics industry.
Facts of plastic recycling: * Shoving all your plastic in a recycling bin doesn't guarantee that any of it will be recycled.
o Millions of tons of plastic will be produced worldwide this year, and more than half will not be recycled.
* Putting the wrong type of plastic in your recycling bin can ruin the whole batch.
o Many people don't realize that the chasing arrows emblem doesn't mark a container as recyclable. Every plastic container has that symbol. It encircles a code-number indicating what resin was used. Items numbered 1 & 2 are the only commonly recycled plastics. Number 6 needs special handling. Numbers 4, 5 & 7 will contaminate a load. But even number 1 &2 plastics might not be recycled after you put them in the bin. Sorting plastics is expensive, and mixed loads may simply be shunted to the dump.
* Recycling is not a magic solution.
o The plastics industry has spent millions on advertising to make folks think recycling is solving the whole problem, so everyone will just keep buying and tossing containers, in the belief that it's all been worked out. No. Recycling does not reduce the use of petroleum in the manufacture of new plastic bottles and packaging. Recycled plastics are made into secondary products, not containers. That's not a wholly bad thing - the products very often replace items made of wood. But still….
Reducing the use of Petroleum for Plastics * The real solution is for the plastic-making process to become eco-friendlier. Plastic made from plant cellulous is an option that has been touted over petroleum. But opponents feel growing a crop for plant-based plastic is little better than petroleum-based production. They argue that fuel, water, and other resources are consumed in growing a crop and the plastic will still be only haphazardly recycled.
o A more promising option, now available, is plastics made from wasted plant material that already exists, bringing recycling into the front end of the process. NEC Corporation has developed a new plastic with a plant ratio of 70%, and far fewer petroleum-based additives than other bio-plastics.
o The new product is made with rice-straw and the oil from cashew shells. Both are byproducts discarded by the agricultural industry. NEC also says the plastic "can be produced using manufacturing and molding processes that halve the CO2 emissions of conventional processes used to make petroleum-based flame-retardant plastics."
So, this company made use of sustainable resources; improved the entire process of manufacturing a product; and reduced the percentage of petroleum additives needed to make the product durable. In a nutshell, they kept their promise. That is worthy of praise.

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