Manufacturing & Sustainability in Plastics Processing

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SustainabilityAsacleanComing from a background in research and development- an area of research very close to my heart has always been our role in sustainability. Being green is not just a fad or a cool thing to do; it is saving our future, and it is often not taken seriously enough. With plastics being the number one pollutant for waste near oceans and in landfills, recycling and re-use has never been more important. It is extremely important for the plastics industry in particular, to play a role in this and I think there are also many ways we can be more sustainable, including throughout the production process.

First and foremost, the use of biodegradable plastics is becoming more and more common. Sometimes switching from plastic to paper can be seen as being more sustainable, but the fact of the matter remains that plastics are just so much more resistant, versatile, and cost effective that it makes them the preferred (if not the ONLY) material for many applications.

When I speak with plastics processors on a plant floor, I talk a lot about cost savings. I explain how reducing machine downtime and reducing waste can increase productivity. However, it is not just money that is being saved. If we look at the bigger picture- being green and saving money goes hand in hand- and this to me is more important than the latter. We cannot stop making plastics but we can learn to be more environmentally friendly.

Reduced Waste: Our cost saving analysis (which is completed with every single one of our customers) shows the customer how much we look to “reduce waste.” For example, often using 10-15lbs of a purge compound can result in hundreds (or thousands) of pounds of reduced resin waste. Many processors will argue that they regrind their resin waste, however they usually do not take into consideration the energy associated with the regrind process. Ultimately, it is cheaper AND more environmentally-friendly to reduce the waste in the first place.

Reduced Shipping: Many companies like to order little and often. They may do this because of storage concerns OR concerns that their processors will waste product if too much is sitting on a production floor. What they do not consider is the additional shipping costs they are incurring from multiple deliveries a year and even more so the carbon footprint associated with transporting that material. By purchasing items in bulk we can save from a huge reduction in shipping costs (reduced frequency in orders) and a reduced carbon footprint in getting the product to your door. Most companies will even offer an additional incentive of reduced price per pound when you order in bulk, so the cost incentive here is 2-fold. This is something to consider when you are both receiving or sending product. To ensure we are maximizing on this incentive, it is also important to consider packaging size, and ensuring that your product FILLS a package to the maximum (safest) levels. Nothing makes me more angry than when an online retailer ships me a box of pencils in a 24in x 15in box.

The world of plastics is huge, and one thing for certain is that we cannot move away from them. They play a huge part in our every day lives. I believe that being responsible when processing plastics is just as important as being responsible with how we use and dispose of plastics.

Ready to reduce your production downtime to protect your profits? Learn more about how purging compounds and process efficiency work in tandem.

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Topics: Plastics Processing, Extrusion, Plastics Production, reduce downtime, Extrusion Purging, plastics manufacturing, regrind, Reduce Scrap-rate, Environmental impact, Sustainability, Shipping Costs, Waste

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