The fact that plastic residues are accumulating in the world’s oceans and massively polluting our environment has caused a change of attitude in society. Driven by heightened environmental consciousness, countermeasures firmly rooted in sustainability have been initiated. To fill them with life, companies large and small, operating both globally and locally, are participating in these campaigns. They have begun to thoroughly reassess how to handle polymer materials. The objective is to devise rational, appropriate and responsible ways of using plastics.
Retailers are asking themselves whether it is really appropriate to stock their displays with shrink-wrapped fruit and vegetables, thus depriving their customers of sensory impressions – visual and olfactory – that have a distinct inﬂuence on purchasing behaviour, even if the lack of wrapping means reduced protection for the product which then looses freshness faster and could lead to higher food wastage. Deliberating about “accessible” presentation of merchandise does, however, trigger innovation processes and lead to futureoriented developments that, while they may seem trivial at first, can have far-reaching consequences.
For example, liquid laundry detergents are not subject to the stringent hygiene standards that foods are, so why sell them to consumers in plastic bottles, when smart stand-up refill pouches requiring less packaging material have already been around for a long time? And certain washing additives can even be tapped by the litre from dispensing stations inside the stores themselves.
Sports equipment manufacturers who process large volumes of plastics are recognising the need as well and using more and more recycled materials to manufacture functional sportswear, hiking backpacks and sports footwear. Up to now, this has been mainly single-grade PET (polyethylene terephthalate) recovered from packaging materials. However, other synthetic materials such as recycled fshing nets and marine litter salvaged from the oceans are being used with increasing frequency.
Not all possible solutions have been exploited yet, though. When it comes to rational use of plastics – in other words, saving on material and producing high-quality recycled plastics for use as feedstocks in production – experts are needed who can provide advice on formulating recipes and designing technical solutions. Other specialists are needed to point out sound methods of harvesting plastic litter from the environment and the oceans so that it can be upcycled to make new products.
That’s no small task, it’s a real engineering challenge. Don’t miss the unique opportunity this coming October to reliably find solutions and answers to your questions: K 2019 in Düsseldorf sets standards in this area too.