We believe in being transparent with our customers and working in the plastics industry we understand that there are questions about whether different materials are environmentally friendly and if so, what are the positive and negative key points about this plastic. As we all become more conscious of the World around us and how our carbon footprints are contributing to the environment, attention has turned to plastics in particular because of the positive exposure of Ocean waste and how it’s affecting the ecology. This of course relates to many types of plastic, including straws, drink bottles, containers and many, many other retail and manufacturing package materials which can severely affect marine life. It’s estimated that there are around 12.7 million tonnes of waste from plastic being dumped into the oceans, either consciously or otherwise from the daily process of society and how we live our lives. There is a big push by many companies to reduce their output and use of plastics, particularly in areas where it can be reduced, such as the retail industry and food industry. However, there is no practical way to remove plastic completely from society due to infrastructure and necessary implementation of how it is used. At the Polycarbonate Store we are always looking to improve our own practices, however, small and reduce our footprint where we can.
One of the most common plastics in use is polycarbonate due to its flexibility across a wide range of industries, as well as it’s durability. As we’ve discussed in our look at the uses of polycarbonate plastic it is commonly used in the medical industry, day to day products such as mobile phones and LED lighting, and probably most prominently, the building industry. It is of course used in technology and there’s a good chance you are holding or using something right now which contains polycarbonate. It really is a versatile, incredibly prominent material in our society. So why has there been concern in the past about BPA?
What is BPA? BPA is bisphenol-A which is a chemical used in plastics and resin and has traditionally been a concern for some, due to its presence in plastics used for food and beverages. The concern is that there is a chance of toxicity affecting the products from the containers that they are stored in. This includes cans and bottles or food containers, plates and baby bottles. However, it’s not as simple as this statement suggests. The fact is it sounds scary when we think of our food and drink being contaminated by the plastic that it’s supplied in but Government agencies and the industry worldwide over the years has researched and tested many products and found that actually, the level of risk is extremely low. In fact potential migration of BPA into foods and drinks is barely measurable and it’s suggested it’s as low as 5 parts per billion. It’s understandable why the question is raised and that there has been concern in the past but research and studies have proven that it is barely traceable and requires very specific circumstances for it to be even a margin higher, for instance excessive heat. An estimated intake per day, for one individual is less than 0.0000125 milligrams per kg per day which is well under the acceptable dose of 0.05 per day per body weight. In fact it’s 4000 times lower.
Baby Bottles Concern
The main concern, in addition to the food and drink industry, has been baby bottles and the fact that they use plastic which could contain BPA. The fact is that plastic has always been the ideal material for baby bottles due to its durability and “soft” and light nature compared with glass or aluminium. The studies taken on baby bottles in particular, show that when detected, migration of BPA was less than 5 parts per billion. Again, there’s always a possibility of scare mongering particularly when it comes to health and safety on products or food-related items, however, as with many other food or beverage containers we can safely say that polycarbonate plastic is a safe material for baby bottles.
Plastics are recyclable and this is a key factor in why it is still used across so many industries worldwide. It can be harmful to the environment if it isn’t disposed of properly but we now have systems in place to recycle on a large scale and polycarbonate is still the best option for many products manufactured.
Just some of the recycling methods include:
- Sorted and categorised by type (including polycarbonate)
Some plastics can also be moulded into new products so that there is little wastage. This in turn lessens the environmental impact. This certainly offsets the miniscule risks which have been tested and analysed for years now and offers a valid, sustainable material which sometimes has a hard time publicly but which offers versatility, choice and an effective recycling option. This impact is no small thing, offering a knock-on effect in a positive way which results in:
- Reduction of gas emissions
- Reduction of waste in landfills
- Conserving oil and non-renewable energy which can be used on other endeavours
Everyone and everything has a footprint but when you look at the facts surrounding polycarbonate plastic, you find that it’s popular and the most-used material worldwide because of its sustainability and effectiveness.
As if the sustainability and eco-friendly benefits weren’t enough, it’s fair to say that polycarbonate plastic offers a multitude of applications as we’ve seen here. But on top of its environmental benefits and various uses, we should also consider how polycarbonate plastic is used to make people’s lives easier and in some cases, included in building crucial technoloqy, such as MRI machines and other medical industry products, large and small. Implemented across many industries, including the army, polycarbonate has become the most valuable plastic to be used because of its durability and toughness. Whether it’s military vehicles, bullet proof panels, interior cladding, traffic lights, sports arena safety panels or medical equipment, polycarbonate is the choice for many manufacturers now. And with so many benefits such as thermal resistance, shatter resistance, toughness, and the recycling possibilities that it offers, we hope that the reputation for polycarbonate plastic is one known for being eco-friendly and responsible, as well as versatile and effective.
The Future of Polycarbonate
As we’ve described above, polycarbonate is still a plastic with the potential for harm to the environment if it’s not recycled or used responsibly however, it’s benefits are undeniable and it offers efficient recycling options. The previous concerns over bisphenol-A has reared its head occasionally however, it looks like with advancements in manufacturing and studies, we could be seeing an organic alternative component to be used in order to remove BPA altogether. A team of chemists have researched and tested creating polycarbonate from limonene and carbon dioxide. Limonene would substitute the bisphenol-A present in polycarbonate. Essentially, it would be an alternative without the carcinogenic properties currently seen in bisphenol-A. Limonene is basically isolated from oranges and lemons, offering an organic and sustainable option in future. It’s a way off from being implemented fully and it could take years because of the manufacturing process but it’s a potential improvement which could see polycarbonate become 100% green and an even more desirable plastic moving forward.