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Ecological plastic breaks the necessity of plastic biodegradation
In recent years, in order to reduce the degree of plastic contamination, degradable plastics, bioplastics and ecological plastics have emerged. Environmentalists are more inclined to eco-friendly packaging made from starch, sugar beets or corn. However, technically speaking, ecological plastics will not be much worse than conventional packaging materials, and its birth has broken the need for plastic biodegradation. Whether or not the packaging made of eco-plastics has a better environmental performance is a difficult question to answer.
Germany produces 14 million tons of packaging materials each year, almost 40% of which are made of plastic materials. About 1.8 million tons of this plastic wrap has a short life span, or just a disposable plastic wrap, such as plastic film, plastic bags, plastic tote bags, plastic sacks or disposable tableware and disposable cookware.
These packages can also be made from starch plastic and polylactic acid materials without any problem. In this way, in Germany and in Europe, about 6 million tons of 'waste-like packaging' can be replaced with eco-friendly materials. Due to the strong competitive mechanism in the plastics in-process market, the price of eco-plastics in the market has not yet reached the price level of traditional packaging materials. However, the latest survey by the European Union Eco-Plastic Committee indicates that the positive growth trend of eco-plastics will continue.
In the next few years, the global production capacity of eco-plastic products will increase from 4.2 million tons in 2016 to 6.1 million tons in 2021. Here, the interventionists no longer only focus on the degradability of eco-plastics, but more emphasis on their longer life and better technical performance.
An example of the most common eco-plastic packaging is an integrated tote bag, plastic bag, etc., packaged in starch-based raw materials. In addition to their very flexible packaging methods, starch-based eco-plastics also have biotech alternatives; for example, eco-plastic packaging used in the packaging of cosmetics and lipstick products. In addition, beverage industry companies are also an important user of eco-plastic products.
The definition of eco-plastics is itself a problem because the concept is not protected by legal documents. At the same time, there are big differences and differences between eco-plastic products: for example, some eco-plastics are made from renewable raw materials that have been proven, some are because they are biodegradable, and The ecological plastic is because he has the above two characteristics.
In the most common thermoplastic ecological plastics, in addition to ecological plastics based on starch raw materials, there are also PLA (polylactic acid) and PHB (polyhydroxybutyric acid). The main raw material of PLA polylactic acid comes from corn, which is most suitable for the production of packaging films used in short-term use or deep-drawing products (such as beverage cups, yogurt cups, fruit, vegetables and meat packaging films). PHB polyhydroxybutyric acid is a polyester produced by fermentation of renewable raw materials, and has characteristics similar to those of petrochemical raw materials.
Eco-PET (the most commonly used eco-plastic material in plastic bottle products) has the same chemical composition as conventional PET plastics; however, his raw materials are not raw materials produced by petrochemical companies, but renewable raw materials such as beet. The biggest advantage of eco-PET plastics is that the production equipment is adjusted and set up exactly the same. The main production processes of eco-plastic packaging materials are very similar to the conventional plastics production processes for petrochemical raw materials, such as plastic film blow molding machines, plastic extruders, and thermoplastic deformation processes and deep drawing processes.
In 2012, after a survey by the German Federal Ministry of Environmental Protection, there was no clear assessment of whether ecological plastics had an effect on ecological balance, but rather the complexity of such an assessment. Since then, eco-plastic packaging has often yielded better results in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and paleontological resource consumption in ecological balance assessments; but in terms of overall ecological balance, he is no more than plastics produced from paleontological raw materials. What are the advantages of packaging?
Today, almost all household items have packaging; 56%, or more than half, are ecological packaging (only about 3% about 20 years ago). This figure is even more optimistic in the production of PET bottles: 98% of PET bottles use eco-friendly raw materials and do a good job in recycling raw materials: every plastic bottle today contains 25% recycled pellets. . PET and eco-PET plastic bottles are usually recycled and reused without problems.
However, the recycling of eco-plastics has to go further. Eco-plastics based on biological raw materials that are not biodegradable, such as eco-PE plastics and eco-PET plastics, can be recycled together with 'ordinary' plastic waste; many green plastics are burned in waste or The end of biodegradation is over. Therefore, the process technology of reusing these materials is very attractive. The first process technology to achieve recycling of these materials has been introduced, and there are some new developments in the corresponding sorting and recycling equipment.