A US study shows that if plastic packaging is replaced by other materials, the energy consumption and carbon emissions involved would grow by 82% and 130% respectively; while a complete ban on plastic bags in favor of using paper bags would put significant pressure on the environment through water consumption and damage to natural forests. For this reason, “plastic” is not a simple question of materials, but rather a complex chain of factors that have ripple effects both upstream and downstream through various industries.
As FCS Group’s Vice General Manager Benjamin Lee notes, “Plastics are not the chief culprit when it comes to the environment, and with today’s technology, we can evolve composite materials and develop lightweight chemical methods such as sheet metal plasticization, glasslike materials, and MuCell micro foaming, but this is by no means a simple manufacturing question, as it requires comprehensive work on areas including material management, mold management, production process design and management, and equipment structures.”
As Taiwan’s largest plastic injection molding machine maker, FCS is actively researching a variety of green molding technologies adapted to today’s recycling mechanisms. Taking sneakers as an example, the soles are the most plastic-intensive part of the shoe, so they are innovating from the production side by introducing MuCell micro foaming injection molding technologies that make sneakers both greener and lighter.
However, plastic production processes are energy-intensive, with the machinery alone consuming considerable amounts of power. FCS has developed dual-servo, all-electric systems that conserve energy and keep processes under precise, consistent control. Taking the FA-series as an example, the combination of electric servos for injection and material storage reduces energy consumption by over 70%, while the new iMF4.0 Intelligent ManuFactory system also increases both energy efficiency and production efficiency.
As Mr. Lee notes explain, “Plastic and rubber injection molding equipment is facing a series of new challenges, but as long as we move in the right direction, we will be able to find solutions for our customers so that they can realize the potential of intelligent manufacturing and recycling.”
To solve the plastic problem at the source, many countries are creating legislation that requires manufacturers to add a high percentage of recycled materials to both hard and soft packaging products. It is estimated that global plastic recycling rates may hit 50% by 2030, not only driving demand for plastic recycling machinery and systems, but also making the quality and stability of recycled plastic materials a key area of technological competition.
Polystar, known as one of Asia’s most influential recycling equipment brands, has combined recycling and blown film extrusion technology to provide global industries with simple, convenient recycling systems that are driving a new era in green intelligent manufacturing.
The Repro-Flex cutter compactor integrated recycling machine is the perfect combination of crusher, extruder, and pelletizer, and features energy-saving inverter drive technology, automatic pelletizing systems, and intelligent PLC control systems, enabling it to produce high quality recycled plastic pellets at low cost, as well as helping manufacturers to increase reclamation rates in all types of plastic extrusion production line.
David Lo, Chief Marketing Officer at Polystar, explains that, “For plastic producers that handle recycling or secondary processing of factory waste material, the reusability rate for recycled plastic pellets is the most important consideration. By degrading the material to the smallest possible extent, they can produce higher-quality recycling pellets, minimize production costs and boost waste usage rates, which is the only way to increase the development value and targets of the global green recycling economy, thereby reducing the industry’s emissions and promoting corporate sustainable development.”
With resources becoming less plentiful, people continue to look for new possibilities with different materials. “Plastics” were originally sought after for their durability, but the use of natural fibers in extrusion molding to work with the diverse properties of plastic is becoming increasingly popular, as it not only retains the properties of plastic, but also reduces the consumption of natural resources.
Plastic extruder specialist Everplast is focused on developing whole factory output recycling solutions that integrate grinding and mixing into extrusion machine production lines and use different mixing ratios to help customers create different material profiles. Taking the example of wood-plastic composites (WPCs), the final products are not only durable, but also have a grain and hue that is close to that of real wood, reducing the number of trees cut down and the carbon emissions involved in creating a product.
Imitation wood materials made from recycled waste bottles, containers and soft plastic films can also be used for building materials or fencing, while waste fabrics and plastics generated by the fast fashion industry can be combined and extruded into car trunk liners and other high value-added components. Other examples include the reuse of waste materials like rice husks, plasterboard and even coffee grounds in fields including construction, interior decoration, art and design.
“We have always started out by looking at the best way to make use of resources, and we pay close attention to customer needs and industry trends, continually investing in R&D into everything from 3D printing to extrusion production lines and whole-factory equipment, so that we can transform waste into new materials and applications, so we are convinced that we are on the right path,” explains Denny Huang, Vice General Manager at Everplast.
As the world’s sixth largest plastics equipment manufacturing region, Taiwan is working to protect the environment and make the future brighter by using innovative green materials to open up new development paths and create a new plastic economy in areas including manufacturing, recycling and reclamation. Taiwan is also helping to achieve a better balance between the global plastics industry and environmental sustainability by leveraging the limitless potential of recycling to create a world of sustainable development.
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