Industries are in constant flux. Availability of materials, advanced production processes and automation techniques, client requirements, consumer desires, and a huge number of other factors are always changing.
If an industry or an industry sector cannot keep pace with the changing times, they will be left behind, becoming obsolete. Thermoforming and the plastics industry have been able to keep up with the current green products trends in consumer preferences — sustainability and renewable alternative materials.
Basic sustainability can be quite easy to implement in plastics thermoforming. There are two simple practices that can jump start sustainability efforts for a thermoforming manufacturer. They are lightweighting and recycling.
Lightweighting and downgauging are material reduction methods. Downgauging, sometimes called thin-walling, is when a thinner gauge of sheet or extruded plastic is used in the thermoforming process of certain products, often packaging materials.
Lightweighting is a slightly more complex process. When a product is lightweighted, it is redesigned specifically to reduce the amount of material that each piece uses. The product’s use, shape, strength, load bearing requirements, possibility of downgauging, and other factors are all reconsidered and optimized to reduce the amount of material that is required.
Another sustainability initiative popular in the thermoforming industry is simple recycling. Instead of disposing of waste scraps, they can easily be collected.
Thermoforming manufacturers can then sell the plastic scraps to a specialized recycling facility. Alternatively, they can recycle the waste material themselves. There are new recycling technologies that allow thermoformers to integrate plastic scraps directly back into their own raw material stocks, saving costs and eliminating waste.
Renewable Alternative Materials
Sustainability goes hand in hand with renewability. Reducing usage of raw materials and eliminating waste are important, but their impact is minimal if dedicated steps toward using alternative and renewable materials are not also taken as well.
Traditionally, plastics are made from crude oil or natural gas, non-renewable resources whose use is harmful to the environment. Bioplastics are a burgeoning new alternative. Bioplastics are created using biomass, things like vegetable fats, oils and starches, cellulose, and microorganisms.
Bioplastics sources are naturally renewable: They can even be made out of agricultural byproducts, thereby reducing waste. Their production creates no harmful substances and uses less fossil fuel than production of traditional plastics.
Bioplastics, which are naturally well-suited to the thermoforming process, are the future of plastic.
There are a lot of choices to make if you are considering thermoforming for your products. It can be overwhelming, but McClarin Plastics is here to help. Contact us today to discuss your design requirements and specifications, and to learn how McClarin can help you meet them.