The sense of multilayer films for packaging

Everyone knows potato chips and has tasted them before. One likes them more, the other less. The main point is that they are fresh and crispy if you want to consume them. If you open a pack of chips, they become soft relatively quickly. After about one or two days, the chips are no longer as crispy as when the packaging was opened because they have absorbed moisture. Thus, it is important for manufacturers to use packaging that keeps the potato chips fresh and crunchy.

Did you know that an ordinary package for chips is in fact made of many (ultra thin) different layers of plastics?

So called ‘multilayer films’ are used for this purpose, because each layer has a different function. The requirements placed on films for food packaging include strength, flexibility and barrier properties to aromas. However, these different properties can only be achieved if different plastics are bonded together.

Summarized, the materials used are:

  • Polyethylene (PE) (depending on the density, different types of polyethylene are used)
    • polyethylene-low density (LDPE)
    • polyethylene high density (HDPE)
    • ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyamide (PA)
  • Ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer (EVOH)
  • Tie layer

The main components of multi-layer films are polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). Both materials have

  • very good flexibility,
  • barrier effect against water vapour and 
  • are sealable.

Combined with polyamide (PA), the potato chips packaging have very good properties, while PA supplements PE and PP with its flexibility, stability, good strength at higher temperatures and very good sliding and wear properties. In addition, PA has good resistance to chemicals and is an effective barrier against oxygen.

Furthermore, ethylene-vinyl alcohol (EVOH) is used as a barrier and adhesion promoter between these layers in multilayer films.

This multilayer films can be produced in a coextrusion process, where each extruder melts one material and extrudes one film, before the get bond together. Alternatively, a more complex extrusion tool combines more of the molten plastic to extrude a thin film. The film is then further stretched on rollers and wound up.

As you can see in the video below the process isn’t simple at all, thus we call a potato chips package a “high-tech product”.

multilayer film production

Such great products shouldn’t be thrown away carelessly, nor are they easy to dispose of, but there are

Recycling solutions for multilayer films:

Nowadays it is important to handle resources consciously and carefully. Therefore, the recycling of waste is extremely important, especially for non-consumable goods such as packaging. Composite materials pose a major challenge. The question arises as to how thin multi-layer plastic films can be separated again according to type.

There are solutions for this on the market that include a mechanical and a chemical-physical preparation process.

Recycling sounds easier as it is:

Using a multilayer film made of polyethylene/polyamide (PE/PA) as an example, the films are crushed into flakes. The flakes are then fed into a solvent container and the PE is dissolved. This does not break up to the monomer but the chain floats in the solvent and is therefore not destroyed. The PA does not dissolve and remains as a solid phase.

The liquid phase is then separated from the solid phase in a centrifuge. The solids flow then enters the extrusion process.  The solvent is removed by degassing and PA is granulated.

From the liquid phase, the solvent is reduced to a certain percentage via various stages and also fed into an extrusion process. The remaining solvent is removed by degassing and the PE is granulated.


Hopefully we were able to give you some new inputs. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and join the hubbub.

Peter & Herwig

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3D Printing for COVID-19?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, several 3D printing campaigns have launched or companies have used additive manufacturing technology to rapidly develop protective masks or spare parts needed for equipment such as ventilators. Even countries with highly developed health care systems are facing resource problems, additive manufacturing is an ideal technique to bring products quickly from idea to finished product. Nevertheless, 3D printed products still have to be tested and approved for the medical sector.

source: pixabay.com, PIRO4D

One of the first prominent actions was the oxygen valve which was manufactured for a hospital in Brescia / Italy. The original supplier was unable to meet the high demand, so the company Isinnova reverse engineered the valves and 3D printed them for the hospital.

The hospital used 3D printing to produce the valves. Photo via Isinnova.
Oxygen valves (Photo: Isinnova)

A production-ready respirator, the “Leitat 1”, was developed by a consortium comprised of HP, Seat, Navantia, Airbus, Consotrium Zona Franca Barcelona (CZFB) and led by the Leitat Technological Center. The respirator contains several 3D printed parts and the whole device has already been medically validated and tested in a hospital. The team named production numbers of 50-100 pieces a day now, and large-scale production is planned too. Additionally the team is already working on an improved version, the Leitat 2.

The team around the “Leitat” project (Photo: zfbarcelona)

Automotive industry

Manufacturers of the automotive industry have partly stopped production, but are using their capacities to produce medical equipment. Following are some examples:

  • Jaguar and Land Rover produce protective face shields.
  • The Volkswagen Group is working in collaboration with Airbus to produce 3D printed face shields.
  • Skoda uses their HP 3D printer to to produce respirators for front-line medical staff.
  • Ford is working with GE Healthcare to produce 50,000 simplified ventilators within the next 100 days.
  • GE  has started production of Level 1 surgical masks and FDA-approved ventilators.
  • Mercedes Benz announced to provide its resources to produce medical gear.
  • Tesla  is building ventilators for coronavirus patients out of their cars.
SKODA 3d printed respirator
CIIRC RP95-3D respirator mask (Photo: CTU)

3D printER manufacturers

Currently several 3D printer manufacturers are using their print farms to produce protective face shields like Stratasys, 3DSystems, PRUSA or BCN3D, the Global Center of Medical Innovations ( GCMI). Links to the mask files can be found at the end of the article.

Photocentric, a stereolithography 3D printer manufacturer produces several parts like face masks, ventilator valves and respirator masks.

respirator masks (Photo: Photecentric)

3D Systems published a list of solutions it is exploring as well as a FAQ section how 3D printing can be used for the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ultimaker has launched a community webpage to find help with design or production of medical gear or the ability to offer your help.

Formlabs produces nasal swabs for coronavirus testing.

3D printed Nasal swab for tests, source: formlabs.com

CAD Crowd started a design contest to produce 3D printing files. The contest involves creating products that will be shared under a publicly downloadable open source license (Creative Commons). The goal is to develop designs that can be quickly and affordably produced with 3D printing and/or off the shelf basic components (i.e. pre-made parts that are readily available).

Carbon is producing medical testing equipment as well as face shields.

Farsoon has made design files available for several 3D printable pieces of PPE equipment, find the links below.

To help defeat the COVID-19, in less than 24 hours CRP Technology has manufactured in-house several prototypes of emergency valves for reanimation device and link-components for emergency respiratory mask for assisted ventilation.

Currently products and ideas are brought up by companies and by private individuals and most of the models can be downloaded for free.
We list some different projects and print models here with links, so that you can print them at home, or if needed, request them from a 3D printing service provider.

This was the third part of our our series how plastics can protect us form the corona virus. If you missed part 1 or part 2 check them out too.

DOWNLOADABLE 3D printING files:

Face Shields:

Face shield by PRUSA

Face shield by BCN3D

Face shield by Photocentric

Face shield by GCMI

3D Systems

3D printable pieces of PPE equipment

Facial Mask Adjuster by Farsoon

Medical Safety Goggles (small and large) by Farsoon

Door Opener and Shopping Cart Handle

door opener

door opener by Materialise

shopping cart handles

Shopping Cart Holder
shopping cart handles

Protective Masks:

NanoHack

cults3D

NanoHack 2.0 mask

Hopefully we were able to give you some new inputs. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and join the hubbub.

Peter & Herwig

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Can plastics protect us from the Coronavirus? (Part 2)

In part 1 of our Coronavirus series, we presented the half-life results (in hours) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on different surfaces such as Polypropylene (PP), stainless steel, cardboard and in the air. In this post we present different plastic end-use applications helping to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.

Plastics for medical devices and personal protection equipment

Just a few weeks ago, plastics industry was mainly in the news for discussing single-use plastic bans and other measurements to minimize plastics use. However, the Coronavirus outbreak, which ended in a pandemic quickly changed the course of the discussions. The whole plastics industry, from polymer manufacturer to plastics processing companies, is being challenged to increase the supply of life-saving medical devices.

Following medical devices are made by the help of plastics and are currently in high demand:

  1. Plastics for medical devices (engineering and high heat performance polymers): components for respiratory equipment including humidifier housings, positive end-expiatory pressure (PEEP) chambers and connectors.
  2. Plastics for additive manufacturing: 3D printing solutions for face shield holding frames. Details of different additive manufacturing applications will be discussed in our third part of this series.
  3. Plastics for personal protection equipment: face shield films made out of several materials such as PET (single use) and Polysulfones (sterilization possible; multiple time use).
Plastics for personal protection equipment: face shield films made out of several materials such as PET (single use) and Polysulfones (sterilization possible; multiple time use). The face shields are stabilized by a 3D printed frame (Source: pixabay.com).

A lot of companies, although Covid-19 impacts themselves (low order intake; safety measurements), show great innovation spirit. They turn their current facilities into producing the much needed parts for ventilation, face shield, and masks.

For example in the US, Prent Corp. dedicated an entire thermoforming production line to make face shields. They extrude scratch-resistant, recycled PETG and shape it afterwards. The extrusion die was developed in just five hours. The main aim is to supply the face shields to the local hospital since it is suffering a personal protection equipment shortage.

Apart of masks and face shields, single-use gloves are needed too. Austrian based rubber product manufacturer Semperit AG quickly reacted. They donated more than 60 million gloves from their Sempermed production facility in Kamunting, Malaysia. Four flights, operated by Austrian Airlines, are needed to bring them to Europe.

Apart of masks and face shields, single-use gloves are needed too (Source: pexels.com).

Hands-free opening of doors

Another creative way on how plastics can prevent the Coronavirus to spread is the application “Freehander” made by moulding company Stolz & Seng. It is a two part system which is mounted over screws onto your door handle. The used plastic is resistant towards aggressive cleaning detergents. Furthermore, the used compound is equipped with a flame retardant which allows using the Freehander in public offices and houses. Stolz & Seng set up a webshop too where you can order the Freehander.

“Freehander” made by moulding company Stolz & Seng (Source: Freehander, Stolz & Seng)

What about our food?

Not only protecting ourselves with face shields and gloves is important. Also protecting the food from germs is vital during the corona crises. Different studies have been kicked off to investigate weather single-use plastics are suitable to protect food from the Coronavirus. The US based Plastics Industry Association wrote a letter to the US Department of Health in which they claimed that:

” single-use products are the most sanitary choice when it comes to many applications.”

What are the plastics industry leaders thinking?

Due to the Coronavirus crisis, the annual technical conference for plastics professionals was moved from San Antonio, US into the online domain. It was named “ANTEC® 2020: The Virtual Edition”. One of the major key note speakers was Mr. Jim Fitterling, CEO of Dow Inc. During his discussion which was led by Plastics News, he stated:

“I’ve never in my career seen a time when our industry was more necessary and indispensable in the fight that we have on display today.”

This statements sums up all the creative and innovate minds working in the plastics industry helping to ease the pain of the corona crisis. Polymeric materials play an important role in the fight against the Coronavirus and also when the Covid-19 crisis is over, plastics will continue to play an important role in our healthcare systems.

We hope to welcome you in part three again which will focus on how additive manufacturing is helping to combat the Coronavirus.


Hopefully we were able to give you some new inputs. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and join the hubbub.

Peter & Herwig

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Literature:

https://www.rubbernews.com/coronavirus/semperit-group-sending-millions-rubber-gloves-austria-help-fight-covid-19

https://www.4spe.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3697

https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2020/04/01/Plastic-packaging-Hero-or-villain-in-the-coronavirus-era#.XoUIeKnzNuN.linkedin

https://www.plasticstoday.com/medical/thermoformers-step-produce-protective-gear-healthcare-workers/49704222062744

https://www.plasticstoday.com/business/plastics-workers-unsung-heroes-battle-against-covid-19/107038555662677

Can plastics protect us from the Coronavirus? (Part 1)

Every country is now affected by the new SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID 19. In many countries, measures have been taken to keep the spread of infections at a minimum. Numerous appeals by famous people call on fellow human beings adhere to social distancing as well as staying at home.

Arnold Schwarzenegger calls on people to stay at home.

Arnold also stays at home and only goes out for his workout or shopping. However, also when shopping, people should keep a distance of 1-2 meters to other people.

That’s why many people use online shopping more frequently and receive their goods in packages. Someone in the warehouse packs the items and someone else delivers the package. These are potential threats where the virus could get onto the package.

And that is the point on which this title focuses on: How long does the virus live on surfaces? Can we get infected when touching a surface or a packaging foil?

source: pixabay.com, PIRO4D

In a study by the National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists in The New England Journal of Medicine, slightly different results were found.

The exact risk of virus transmission cannot be deduced from laboratory tests, as the experiments were carried out under controlled conditions.

After 30, 60, 120 and 180 minutes a gelatine filter was used to determine the virus concentration in the air. In another experiment, surfaces made of plastic (polypropylene), stainless steel (AISI 304), copper (99.9%) and commercial cardboard were sprayed and the virus concentration was determined after 1, 4 and 8 hours and after 1, 2, 3 and 4 days.

As well as in the air as on surfaces the viruses were detectable until the end of the experiments. However, their concentration decreased exponentially.

The half-life of the viruses in air was examined in 2 studies and gave different results.

The half-lives for SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1 in the air were each 2.74 hours according to the publication in medRxiv. According to the results in the New England Journal of Medicine, the half-life for SARS-CoV-2 in air was only 1.09 hours (95% confidence interval 0.64 to 2.64 hours) and for SARS-CoV-1 1.18 hours (0.78 to 2.43 hours).

Half-life in hours of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on surfaces and in the air.

The half-live of SARS-CoV-2 on copper surfaces is 0.774 hours (0.427 to 1.19 hours). According to the current publication, no “viable” viruses could be detected after 4 hours. It took 3.46 hours (2.34 to 5 hours) on cardboard, 5.63 hours (4.59 to 6.86 hours) on steel and 6.81 hours (5.62 to 8.17 hours) on plastic until half the viruses had disappeared.

Viability of SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 in Aerosols and on Various Surfaces. (www.nejm.org)

Researchers from Singapore had examined samples from rooms in which patients with COVID-19 were accommodated. According to their report in JAMA, the viruses were detectable on the toilet bowl, washbasin and door handle to the bathroom, while all air samples tested negative.

The concentration of the viruses leading to an infection is also unknown at present. There are probably differences between individuals in this respect.

The National Institute for the Control and Prevention of Viral Diseases in Beijing reports in the American Medical Journal on the analysis of 1,070 samples of excretions taken from 205 patients with COVID-19.

The tests were positive in the bronchial lavage fluid to 93 %. This was followed in frequency by sputum (72 %), nasal swab (63 %), bronchoscopic brush biopsy (46 %), throat swab (32 %), stool samples (29 %) and blood samples (1 %). In contrast, none of 72 urine samples were positive.

In conclusion, the virus SARS-CoV-2 does not exist very long on surfaces like a packaging foil or on the package itself, made of cardboard. We do not recommend to be careless about touching surfaces, e.g. when being shopping, but the data shown above indicates the virus can not spread easily through surfaces. In the end we can be happy that plastics and other packaging materials protect goods like food or articles of daily use.


Hopefully we were able to give you some new inputs. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and join the hubbub.

Peter & Herwig

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Articles:

N van Doremalen, et al. Aerosol and surface stability of HCoV-19 (SARS-CoV-2) compared to SARS-CoV-1. The New England Journal of Medicine. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973 (2020). link

Air, Surface Environmental, and Personal Protective Equipment Contamination by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) From a Symptomatic Patient, JAMA, 2020; doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.3227 link

Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Different Types of Clinical Specimens, JAMA. 2020; doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.3786 link

Do we need this much food packaging?

Packaging films often come into disrepute, and with some double- and triple-packed foods one really wonders whether this is necessary. So the common perception is: there is too much packaging. Let’s have a deeper look into it: packaging is a cost for the industry, so there is a commercial motivation to keep it to a minimum. The amount of packaging on the vast majority of individual products has gone down over the last years, however consumers now buy far more products so the total amount of packaging used has gone up.

Below we have found some more values of weight savings on individual packages in the last decades. This also underlines that the industry itself is interested in reducing packaging while maintaining or improving performance. In the case of plastics, the weight saved is approx. 30% due to the low density, whereas in the case of glass and metal almost 2/3 of the weight from 1950 could be saved.

packaging reduction examples, source: incpen.org

Many foods today are packed in plastic film. If you look at the total energy used in the food chain, to process food from production to the finished meal at your home, you can divide it into the following categories:

  • production
  • packaging
  • transport
  • shopper (driving to the store, storage, cooking)

The following chart visualizes the amount of energy used for each section of the food chain.

50% of the total energy in the food chain is used for production, source: incpen.org

Combining the two previous charts, one can say that packaging in general was reduced over the years and uses about 10% of the total energy needed to produce food. Still, due to our focus on plastic packaging we often detect some “useless” packaging and ask ourselves why not cutting down on it? Let’s discuss it using an example:

How about cucumbers?

Cucumbers can be found in shops either packed in plastic foil or loose – without foil. As a nature-conscious buyer one would like to think that the cucumber without packaging is not a burden to nature, as there is no plastic waste. Furthermore, cucumbers come “wrapped” by nature, so why packing it into plastic at all?

If you look at the quantity of cucumbers sold in the shops and the entire life cycle of an individual cucumber, there are some reasons for plastic wrapped cucumbers:

To grow cucumbers you need water, around 350 litres per kilogram. Compared to other foods, this value is still relatively low. The water stored in cucumbers also ensures a fresh appearance. Over time, however, the water evaporates. and the cucumber looks increasingly wrinkly and often ends up in the garbage. If this already happens in the shops, then huge quantities of unsold cucumbers end up in the garbage, converted to 350 liters of water / kilogram, this corresponds to an enormous waste of water and energy.

So how does plastic help there? Polyethylene (PE) film is not only a barrier for oxygen, moreover also for water vapour – and that prevents the cucumber losing moisture too fast. There are also bio-based materials such as cellulose / cellophane, which are a good barrier to oxygen, but not to water vapour, and therefore do not offer usable functionality for our cucumber. So, if you want to enjoy a fresh, juicy cucumber and if you want to prevent shops from disposing of large amounts of cucumbers on a daily basis, take the cucumber wrapped in a PE foil. On top of that any packaging is a protective layer preventing people touching vegetables in the supermarket or sneezing on it.

As it often is in life, things need to be put in the right perspective. Here are some numbers (source: incpen.org):

  • Packaging from all sources (industrial, commercial and household) makes less than 3% of litter sent to landfill, measured by weight or volume
  • 60% of packaging from industry and households is recovered and recycled
  • Each household generates 23 kg of litter each week (recyclables and residual waste) of which 4 kg (18%) is packaging
  • Household waste is 9% of all solid litter generated
  • Household packaging litter is therefore less than 2% of all solid waste

Hopefully we were able to give you some new inputs. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and join the hubbub.

Peter & Herwig

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Do you buy your water in PET or glass bottles?

Monomere of Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

For a long time drinks and other liquids were filled in glass bottles. Glass is a very suitable material for this application: it does not release carbon dioxide, it is acid-resistant, it leaves no residue in the liquids and it is relatively easy to process. In contrast, however, it is heavier than the plastic PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) which is used today for beverage bottles. Furthermore it is fragile and more energy is required for the production of bottles.

E.g.  Coca Cola supplied its product of the same name exclusively in glass bottles, until in 1978 (www.coca-colacompany.com) the company decided to bottle its drinks in plastic (PET) bottles as well.

If one compares the glass and plastic bottles in terms of their environmental impact, one should consider a few other points:

  • resource consumption in production
  • energy expenditure during transport
  • resource and energy consumption for multi-purpose bottles
  • the impact on the climate over the entire life cycle
  • the burden on the environment caused by pollution or careless throwing away

In summary, the returnable PET bottle performs better than a returnable glass bottle. But why?

Due to the lower weight of the plastic, it is more efficient in transport because no beverage crates have to be used. The density of PET is approximately 50% lower than that of glass (density PET: 1.38g/cm³, density glass: 2.5 – 2.6 g/cm³). This also means that a truck can be loaded with more plastic bottles than glass bottles in terms of weight, and the savings in deliveries in turn affect the amount of CO₂ emitted by the truck during transport.

An undeniable advantage of glass is it is 100% recyclable and could be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity – theoretically. In practice only 33 percent of waste glass is recycled in America. When you consider 10 million metric tons of glass is disposed of every year in America, that’s not a very high recycling rate. Mostly glass put into the recycling bin is used as a cheap landfill cover to keep costs low.

Glass takes a very, very long time to break down. In fact, it can take a glass bottle one million years to decompose in the environment, possibly even more if it’s in a landfill. Because its life cycle is so long, and because glass doesn’t leach any chemicals, it’s better to repurpose and reuse it over and over again before recycling it.

Due to the lower energy requirement of plastic bottles during production, it also conserves resources. Even with the higher refilling of glass bottles (glass up to 40 times, plastic up to 25 times), however, the advantage of PET bottles cannot be eliminated. Around 500 billion plastic beverage bottles are produced worldwide every year, over 100 billion of them by Coca Cola alone, which is around 190,000 bottles per minute (!). The demand for lightweight packed beverages is not stopping, and the question is: Which packaging to choose?

ALPLA Packaging Report 2019

According to Alpla (a manufacturer of plastic bottles and closures) which published the Alpla Packaging Report 2019, performance of the returnable PET bottle is overall better in the following categories:

  • Climate change [equivalent to kg CO₂]
  • Acidification potential [equivalent to kg SO₂]
  • Summer smog [equivalent to kg Ethylene]
  • Water consumption [liter]

The comparison in these categories of different bottle types (glass and plastic (PET and recycled PET (rPET), one way (OW) and more way (MW)) for mineral water is shown in the charts below.

As expected, the disposable glass bottle shows the worst result with a value of 324 g CO₂ equivalent. The returnable PET bottle with 100% recyclate (rPET) content has the lowest environmental impact.

In acidification, the disposable PET bottle with 100% rPET performs best, followed by the returnable PET bottles. The worst values are again for the glass bottles, with the disposable glass bottle having a significantly higher value than all other bottles.

The comparison with summer smog shows a similar result. All three PET returnable bottles are slightly behind the PET non-returnable bottle with 100% recycled content, followed by the other PET non-returnable bottles, followed by the glass returnable bottle. The value of the non-returnable glass bottle is approximately four times higher than that of the PET bottles.

In terms of water consumption, the PET disposable bottle (< 0.6 liters) is ahead of the PET returnable bottles (0.84 liters), followed by the glass returnable bottle (1 liter) of water per packaging system. The glass non-returnable bottle is again the worst performer with a water consumption of 1.57 liters of water per package.

You can download and read more comparisons about milk, lemonade and detergents as well as these results in detail in the ALPLA report 2019.

Alpla Packaging Report 2019 (c7 consult)

Conclusion

Glass bottles for beverages are still part of our daily use and for water bottling it can be an option when the water source and processing as well as the distribution is not too far away. For longer distant transports, PET based packaging is more resource efficient.

Moreover, glass bottles have still an appearance advantage for beverages such as wine, beer and other alcoholic liquors, which is driven by customers.

Which packaging do you choose? Leave us a comment!

Hopefully we were able to give you some new inputs. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and join the hubbub.

Peter & Herwig

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A brief introduction to packaging

In many areas plastics have become indispensable nowadays. Plastics are used in a wide variety of applications and can be individually adapted to the requirements and needs of a certain product. There are tailor-made solutions everywhere, where plastic makes life easier for us. With regard to the impact on the environment, one has to ask oneself whether we want this simplification at all? Can’t we go without plastics in some points or even live without it completely?

With the production of bakelite around 1950, which is regarded as the first “plastic”, apart from resins and similar materials, the production of plastics has strongly increased. In the next graph you can see a comparison of the worldwide production and the European production in million metric tons from 1950 to 2017. As you can see there,  the worldwide demand for plastics and therefore the production is constantly increasing which shows the importance of this material.

If you have data from other continents from this period, we would be very pleased about a message.

Production volume in million metric tons worldwide and in Europe, 1950 – 2017

What is the share of packaging?

Whether in electronics, medicine, mobility, construction or packaging, plastics are used everywhere and above all, packaging requires a large share of the total quantity of plastic produced.The next chart shows the plastics production per industry sector in megatons. Packaging weighs 146 million tonnes, or 35.9% of the total.

Plastic production per industrial sector in megatons in 2017

This is the largest field of application for plastics. The reason for this is that plastics have certain properties suitable for packaging. They have a lower weight than e.g wood or aluminium, are less expensive in production and price per weight, require little volume as packaging material e.g. thin protective films and are also used as barrier material, e.g. to protect and maintain the odour of smelling foods or to keep rapidly spoiling foods fresh for a longer time. In addition, the name, logo, ingredients, content etc. can be printed directly on the packaging films and thus can be directly combined with the protective layer. The multi-functional use of films is described in more detail in the article “potato chips packaging”. The down side of plastic packaging is that it unfortunately often ends up in the environment and pollutes it. Questionable packaging or fake at all?

Unfortunately, the handling of plastics in society is unfortunately still very thoughtless. Particularly people in emerging countries have other priorities in everyday life than the proper collection and recycling of plastics. Whereas the collection and recycling of plastics is part of everyday life in highly developed countries, the challenges here are different: There are examples where packaging probably has a protective function but in many cases its use is very questionable e.g. sweets that are often packaged in several layers, or fruits and vegetables that are individually shrink-wrapped in foil. The authenticity of some of the pictures found on the Internet must be questioned. Anyway, we will take a closer look and question the meaning of these examples. 

Do you know plastic packaging applications which make no sense? Send us a picture, link, or leave us a comment.

In the following articles, some packaging examples will be discussed in more detail and the advantages and disadvantages will be highlighted:

  • Do you buy your water in PET or glass bottles?
  • Why do I need so much food packaging?
  • multilayer filmchocolate bar packaging
  • Life Cycle Assesment (LCA) of plastic bags

Hopefully we were able to give you some new inputs. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and join the hubbub.

Peter & Herwig

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Plastics, plastics… …everywhere plastics!

If you look around at home, you will probably find a lot of objects made of plastic. Well, this can have positive or negative aspects.

Some of the products take advantage of the properties of plastics such as low density and thus low weight, strengths from elastic to highly rigid, chemical resistance, or low electrical conductivity (insulator), some of them are not produced in a sustainable way and can even influence our health.

Stranded plastic waste mistakenly used as food by birds

In many media, in politics and also partly from many environmental organisations a large concern about the problem of plastic garbage in the environment aroe over the last years.

Well, who wouldn’t stand up and complain about the garbage and all the discarded plastic products that are carelessly thrown away and influence the environment and the species living in it?

I am sure you have heard these stories before, dying birds with their stomach full of plastic or the stranded whale that has swallowed several plastic bags. 90% of the pollution in the world seas come from ten rivers only. Eight of them are in Asia and two in Africa.

Stories about micro-plastics in the food chain rightly led to increased attention to plastic handling, and as already mentioned, various organisations, governments or groups are now launching initiatives, giving tips, creating laws and, above all, discussing how to handle plastics.

Many political projects communicated to the public have a onesided focus on the facts or even have nothing or very little to do with the scientific basis or simple facts. However,especially politicians tend to promote misleading, easy answers to complex questions. People can be won over too easily if you emphasise the downsides and promise a general ban of plastics. However, this view misses the big picture.

There is a need for a more detailed examination which is not so easy for the layman to grasp at first glance. Precise observations and comparisons of individual plastic products and applications show that their environmental impact is less significant than the same products made of other materials.

We would like to show you examples in more detail in the following articles. Some general examples would be:

  • Plastics in mobility for lightweight construction for air or road traffic: heavier vehicles would require more fuel or energy
  • Plastic-free hospitals: Naaah, this would be very questionable from a hygienic point of view and a constant cleaning of used utensils with chemicals would be even more questionable.

That’s why we feed this blog with some examples where it is more eco-friendly to use plastic. Of course with a certain awareness of how to deal with the created litter.

Because one thing is for sure: “There is no plan(et) B”, and we are responsible to handle the resources carefully and keep the impact on nature as small as possible.


Hopefully we were able to give you some new inputs. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and join the hubbub.

Peter & Herwig

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