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Various topics related to sustainability in plastics, including bio-related, environmental issues, green, recycling, renewal, re-use and sustainability.
Opportunities for Bio-polymer Resource Conservation through Closed Loop Recycling
Oil-derived plastics have become well established as a packaging material over the past 75 years due to their many technical and commercial advantages. However, the disposal of plastic packaging waste, a large proportion of which still goes to landfill, continues to raise increasing environmental concerns. Meanwhile, the price of oil continues to rise as demand outstrips supply. In response, biodegradable polymers made from renewable resources have risen to greater prominence, with a variety of materials currently being developed from plant starch, cellulose, sugars and proteins. Whilst the polymer science continues apace, the real ecological impacts and benefits of these materials remain uncertain. Although life cycle assessment (LCA) has been used to provide comparisons with oil-derived plastics, published studies are often limited in scope, allowing the validity of their conclusions to be challenged. The literature appears to support the popular assumption that the end-of-life management of these materials requires little consideration, since their biodegradable properties provide inherent ecological benefits. Opportunities for conserving resources through the recycling of biopolymers are rarely addressed. Through a review of current academic, industrial and commercial progress in the field of biopolymers, a number of LCA case studies are proposed which will address this weakness in existing research, related to the recycling of biopolymers. These, or similar, studies are required to provide a more complete picture of the potential effects of a transition from non-renewable to renewable polymers, thus allowing material selection decisions to be made with greater confidence throughout the packaging supply chain.
FOAMING OF PLA – THE USE OF MELT STRENGTH ENHANCERS TO ACHIEVE LOWER DENSITY FOAMS PRODUCED BY CHEMICAL BLOWING AGENTS
Many factors influence the ability to produce a good quality, low density foam. Physical factors include proper cell nucleation; melt strength, viscosity, molecular weight and solubility of the gases generated by the chemical blowing agent in the polymer to name a few. There are also outside limiting factors that include regulations around some physical blowing agents’ global warming potential, which can lead to expensive equipment retrofits. Foaming PLA is particularly challenging due to its poor melt strength. The addition of low percentages of an acrylic melt strength enhancer increases the extensional viscosity of the PLA allowing the gases generated by the chemical blowing agents to form a more uniform foam structure. Chemical blowing agents were chosen as an option to reduce global warming potential without the need for changes to the existing equipment. This paper focuses on the optimum levels of melt strength enhancers in conjunction with various chemical blowing agents to achieve a low density foam with fine cell structure.
Polymer Blends and Composites Derived From Biopolymers
Fabrication and evaluation of biodegradable materials from natural resources have attracted significant attention because of sustainability and dwindling petroleum reserves. This research focused on fabricating biodegradable composites from natural polymers such as proteins and describing the properties of plastics made from these biopolymers. Specifically, plastic samples from partially denatured, animal co-product proteins, such as feathermeal and bloodmeal, were successfully produced through the compression molding process. The molded bioplastics demonstrated modulus (stiffness) comparable to commercial synthetic plastics such as polystyrene, but lacked toughness, which is common among plastics produced from natural feedstock and/or their byproducts. Therefore, this research used blends of undenatured and partially denatured proteins to improve toughness. Plastic molding conditions for undenatured animal proteins, such as chicken egg white albumin and whey, and animal co-product proteins, such as feathermeal and bloodmeal were experimentally identified in order to prepare their blends. Plastic samples from these biomacromolecular blends demonstrated improved mechanical properties. Properties such as modulus, tensile strength, and elongation were also predicted using theoretical models known for polymer blends and composites.
Comparison of Carbon Footprint of Standard Thermoplastic Urethane (TPU) and TPU from Renewable Resources
Merquinsa has developed Pearlthane® ECO, based upon polyols derived from various plant sources. The driving force to develop this bio TPU was our interest in creating a more sustainable product offering for companies and brands to choose from. These products, with very similar thermal, mechanical and rheological behaviour to standard TPU’s, have been widely accepted in the marketplace and are affording design engineers performance with sustainability. Although conceptually it is believed that producing TPU parts from bio based products is more environmentally friendly, Merquinsa will quantify and compare the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to validate this belief with hard science. The quantification of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the production of a product is commonly referred to as the “carbon footprint”. PAS 2050 is a method prepared by the BSI British Standards for assessing the product life cycle GHG. For the purpose of this comparison, the lifecycle is defined as beginning with raw material manufacture, either from agricultural or petrochemical inputs, through to the delivery at our customer’s facility. This is commonly referred to as the cradle-to-gate approach. Any process at customers beyond this point will be similar for the Pearlthane® ECO and standard Pearlthane® TPU materials.
Sustainability & Regulatory Requirements
What is Sustainability Industry Sustainability is related to the quality of life in a community, where the economic, social and environmental systems that make up the community provide a healthy, productive, and meaningful life for all community residents, present and future. EPA “Create and maintain conditions under which [humans] and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans." The most widely quoted definition internationally is the "Brundtland definition" “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Common Approach to Packaging Sustainability • Materials substitution • Recyclable, reusable, biodegradable • Broader view of packaging sustainability • Cost reduction opportunity • Greater impact in supply chain Industry Commitments- The Sustainable Packaging Coalition Committed to as an inspirational vision for packaging where: • Material is sourced responsibly • It is effective and safe through its lifecycle • Packaging meets market criteria for performance and cost • It is made entirely using renewable energy • Once used, it is recycled efficiently To provide a valuable resource for subsequent generations
Comparison of Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas and Energy profiles of bio-plastics and petroleum based plastics
While the first man-made plastics were derived from biomass resources, they were progressively replaced as of the 1930‟s by petrochemical polymers. Plastic production and consumption reached approximately 245 million metric tons in 2008 worldwide and is expected to increase with economic growth in developing and emerging countries. With an estimated per capita plastic consumption of up to 140 kg annually in 2015, Europe and North America will remain the top positions, while packaging is the largest end use of thermoplastic resins (32%), followed by building and construction applications (14%), consumer and institutional products (13%) and other application that include medical and recreational products (14%) in the U.S. [1, 2]. However, these conventional plastics have the disadvantage that they are produced from diminishing fossil petroleum resources such as gas and petroleum and once they are produced and manufactured into consumable products they are very resistant to degradation processes which leads to litter problems, injury to wildlife and disposal may cause environmental damage due to emissions from combustion. Due to these concerns, there has been increasing interest in bio-based plastics. In principle, biodegradable polymers and plastics can also be manufactured from petrochemical raw materials. However, bio-based plastics, are defined here as plastics that are fully or partially produced from renewable feedstock. Biodegradable bio-based plastics in particular have the potential to replace traditional plastics in applications ranging from packaging, to disposable road signs, to drug delivery, while they do not significantly impact the environment. However, because plastic waste significantly contributes to pollution and consumes landfill space, removal and disposal is an important step in the lifecycle of plastic products. The disposal costs of plastic material include the costs to remove the final product from the consumer and the costs of waste abatement. This paper will present all commonly used end product treatment options of plastic waste and introduce a method to calculate their beneficial as well as non beneficial effects in terms of energy consumption, emissions generation and financial costs.
Packaging as a Waste Reducer
Too often, we think of packaging as waste and as something that we need to eliminate altogether. In a global society, where we are becoming more efficient with our food and goods production, we need to broaden our view of packaging and understand how it, if carefully designed, can reduce waste. There are more and more choices on the type of packaging for consumer products including bio-based plastic packaging, recycled content packaging and compostable materials. How do we then decide what type of packaging to use for our products and how do we make the best choice for our brands? This discussion will introduce the idea that packaging can be a waste reducer and present the idea that, in order to truly reduce waste, we must have a more rigorous understanding of the function of packaging. It will also delve into alternative end-of-life options that are complimentary to recycling.
Landfill Biodegradation of Conventional Synthetic Polymer Using BIOchem Organometallic Additives
A variety of anaerobic landfill microbes are shown to be able to metabolize conventional synthetic polymer compositions such as PVC plastisol signage film, EVA sheets, and expanded polystyrene and polyvinyl chloride foam containing BIOchem organotitanate or organozirconate additives that provide hydrophilic points of attack, but do not catalyze degradation during service in an aerobic environment. What is claimed is that ordinary commodity plastics such as PVC, PS, PP and EVA can be rendered landfill biodegradable with as little as 1 phr of the subject additive under anaerobic landfill conditions while performing equal or better than controls under normal use having aerobic conditions such as oxygen and light. The technology will be shown to make it possible to render synthetic polymers sustainable while having inherently more robust properties than biobased polymers. Application considerations will be presented as to recommended dosages, various additive forms, optimal extrusion conditions, and possible interference mechanisms with other additives such as zinc based stabilizers that interfere with the efficiency of the anaerobic microbe’s ability to eat the plastic.
Recycling Post Consumer Plastic Automotive Fascia
In this World we are facing many environmental issues and one of the most visible is plastic solid waste pollution going into our landfills. Contained in this plastic solid waste feed-stream are automobile fascias that are not repairable or useable by the primary or secondary markets. These unusable fascias are presently being collected by MRC Polymers. The Fascias are processed to reclaim the thermoplastic raw material. The thermoplastic is then compounded into pellets to meet the customer’s requirement for various applications. The process includes sorting where the material is segregated into different types of plastics. Then the sorted parts are reduced in size through a shredding and grinding process. Following the size reduction, the material is passed through a non-chemical washing process to remove paint from the fascia regrind. Then the washed regrind is transferred to be compounded into various products. In the compounding process, the properties of the product are improved by utilizing additives when necessary. The final compounded plastic resin enables molders to produce first quality products. This recycled product replaces virgin thermoplastic resin providing a cost savings, reducing the use of energy, and lowering the landfill waste. MRC will present an overview of this process of Sorting, Grinding, Washing and Compounding and its application in automotive industry. MRC will also show the property improvement throughout the process that meets the customer requirement for a specific application.
The Use OF Recycled Post Consumer Content To Manufacture Automotive Grade Tufted PET Carpet
New breakthroughs in PET (polyethylene terephthalate) carpet fiber and manufacturing techniques, have lead to significant advancements in tufted PET carpet technology. The most significant enhancements have occurred through improvements in material performance characteristics while also incorporating significant percentages of post consumer recycled content in the production of automotive grade tufted PET main floor carpet and floor mats. This paper will discuss the development and use of post consumer recycled PET in automotive carpets and it’s environmental benefits verse traditional tufted automotive carpet materials. The abundent material feedsteam and outstanding material properties of food grade recycled PET, make it an excellent material staple to incorporate into tufted automotive carpet.
Sustainable Plastic Packaging in California with Reduced Carbon Footprint and Reduced Waste
Plastic packaging can be made more sustainable by reducing its carbon footprint and solid waste during production of plastic bags. Life cycle assessment is used to compare the carbon emissions and waste generation while producing plastic bags. The environmental impact of plastic bag manufacturing is compared to the environmental impact of paper bag manufacturing. Plastic bag manufacturing emits less carbon dioxide, consume less energy, produce much less waste, and require significantly less water than paper bag manufacturing. Plastic bag manufacturing can meet California’s 50% diversion rate requirements by utilizing post industrial and post consumer plastics. Plastic bag manufacturing plants can certify their carbon reductions and waste diversion performance through a non-profit organization that performs energy and waste audits at the manufacturing operations. Increased recycling can provide carbon credits for manufacturing companies.
Harness the Sun for Waste Management
Communities everywhere face a challenge of managing trash collection. On average, Americans throw away 30 lbs of trash per week—that's 245 million tons of municipal solid waste each year and it is increasing at an alarming rate. Cities and towns have responded by increasing the number of receptacles and scheduling more pick-ups; but at the same time, budgets have tightened, especially when it comes to fuel, labor, and equipment. How do beaches keep birds from feeding on the overflowing trash and generating high levels of E-Coli? How do they keep wind-blown trash out of rivers, lakes and oceans? Despite all efforts, trash remains the top nuisance complaint. As a grad student, Jim Poss, now President of Big Belly Solar, wanted to make his mark. Poss learned that garbage trucks consume over 1 billion gallons of diesel each year in the U.S. alone. His conclusion - saving fuel is environmentally and fiscally sound. He came up with the idea for a solar powered trash compactor. Use the sun to power a trash bin that will hold more, require less frequent pick ups, save energy and look good. He founded Big Belly Solar and the first solar powered trash compactor came to be. Big Belly Solar partnered with Mack Molding as their development partner and contract manufacturer. From concept to production, we have met every challenge presented. The original model, while it worked well, was costly to manufacture. The resulting product has achieved cost goals, improved efficiency and product features, conserved energy and, finally, converted a prototype unit into a well designed and well manufactured product. We then answered consumer desires and addressed recycling needs. The ultimate challenge was met with a wireless feature that enables each unit to communicate when a service pick-up is required, again saving more fuel and labor. This patented product has burst onto the scene with global interest and can be found in national parks, beaches, universities, towns and major cities all over the world. Transportation cost and emission has been reduced by 80%, waste management capacity increased by 5X. Hear how this product was developed, is manufactured, and how it will change the way you perceive trash.
Use of recycled carbon fibers in thermoplastic articles
Carbon fibers are widely used in the aerospace and sporting goods industry to reinforce thermoset matrix composites. Carbon fibers are also finding use within the automotive industry in thermosets and thermoplastics, due to the high specific modulus and strength. With use, comes manufacturing waste and disposal issues. Typically, carbon fiber containing composites are considered unrecyclable. Recently, carbon fiber has been reclaimed from the composite manufacturing process. This has been largely driven by the need to increase the supply of carbon fibers in the marketplace, but also the desire to reduce costs of materials made with carbon fiber. Costs of carbon fiber can range to $40/lb. Costs of engineering thermoplastics can rival and exceed the cost of carbon fiber. Thus, displacement of either of these two materials with a cheaper, physically equivalent material will make carbon fiber reinforced materials more economically tenable in the market. The disposal of manufacturing wastage from composite manufacture drives up cost of production of these engineered lightweight materials. With properly designed processes, recycled carbon fiber may be able to be produced for a fraction of the cost of virgin fiber. The economic recovery of these fibers will allow for the economic use of carbon fiber in more products than is currently feasible. Recycled fibers compounded with engineering resins were used to fabricate thermoplastic parts. This report will detail the processes used to obtain the recycled carbon fibers, the properties of the materials, products manufactured and details of economic and engineering factors in the recycling of composite materials.
Recycling Mixed Domestic Post Consumer Film
Mixed Domestic Plastics will become an important source of plastic recyclate feedstock over the coming years, three streams are typically found – bottles, rigids and flexibles (films). Bottles and trays are readily sortable and recyclable back into similar articles. Film poses significant recycling problems. Recycling Mixed Domestic Post consumer film poses many challenges, this paper outlines the principal issues, both technical and commercial and provides solutions to move the process forward. Mixed Domestic film recycling poses five principal technical hurdles – 1. Handling of commingled film waste including residual paper, cans etc 2. Separation of olefinic & non-olefinic streams 3. Devolatilisation of highly printed film 4. Compatibilisation of mixed olefinic (PE/PP) stream 5. Management of residuals in recyclate Described is the front end of the process to handle commingled waste, separation techniques for the two streams, level/type of devolatilisation required to negate ink/print effects, compatibilisation methods to homogenenise PE/PP and information on final applications, including commercial examples.
Plastic Ocean Debris and Biodegradation in the Marine Environment
Marine debris or ocean litter is a worldwide problem. In fact, 60 to 80% of the ocean litter is plastic based. 80% of the ocean debris is from land based sources. Plastic pellets from plastic manufacturers can flow into storm drains and end up in the oceans. The plastics can harm the environment in three ways: (1) plastic marine debris can cause injury and death to marine life by ingestion or entanglement; (2) plastic marine debris can release toxic chemicals in the marine environment that fish and other marine species consume and then are absorbed by humans when the animals are eaten; and (3) plastic marine debris can absorb toxins from industrial, urban, and agricultural runoff that are in the marine environment in higher concentrations than the surrounding water, and then enter our food chain through aquatic species who eat the plastic. UV light and oxygen can cause degradation of plastics in the marine environment. Biodegradation can occur for some biobased plastics. ASTM standards provide methods to test for biodegradation of biodegradable plastics. PHA and bagasse biodegradable plastics have shown biodegradation in the marine environment.
Improving the properties of polylactic acid
The toughness, stiffness, and strength of eco-friendly polymers can be modified without significantly affecting optical clarity.
Material characterization of novel bioplastics for food packaging
Composite polymers based on bioresins have attractive advantages, but require additional research for use in foodstuff industries.
An Investigation of ‘Green’ Class-A SMC
Saturated- and unsaturated-polyester resins containing glycols made from renewable or recycled sources are being developed as a way to become less dependent on petroleum-based glycols. In this study SMC performance of standard-density Class A automotive SMC containing polyester resins produced from petroleum-based glycols was compared to standard-density Class A automotive SMC containing polyester resins produced from renewable-source glycols. The evaluation included processing aesthetics and adhesion performance. Finally a new low-density Class A automotive SMC containing polyester resins produced from renewable-source glycols will be introduced.
Development of Injection Moldable Composites Utilizing Annually Renewable Natural Fibers
In order to advance the commercialization of natural fiber reinforced plastics for automotive use a partnership was formed between academia natural fiber processor material supplier and OEM. This partnership improved the communication along the supply chain and resulted in optimized material properties to meet OEM specifications and application part performance. Several products have been developed that meet current material specifications offer significant weight savings over conventional mineral- and glass-reinforced composites and are competitively priced.
Bio-Based Polymers from Soy Chemistry
Research on the use of soybeans to produce polyurethane polyols unsaturated polyester resins and thermoplastic fibers has been funded by the United Soybean Board (USB). The USB funds a wide range of activities including research and development of new industrial products made from soy. These developments have resulted in new patented technology. Commercialization of this technology has resulted in the production of unsaturated-polyester resins for fiberglass-reinforced composites and urethane polyols for polyurethane foams. The commercial applications of these bio-based polymers are found in a wide range of applications in the transportation markets.
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