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Sustainability Challenges Facing The Plastic Components Industry

 The injection molded plastics industry's expansion shows no signs of diminishing. Despite the impact of COVID-19, the plastic injection molding industry is predicted to rise at a 4.2% annual rate through 2028.  

Plastic Components Industry

Many executives in the plastic injection molding business acknowledge that, and in order to prepare for the future, the industry must dramatically minimize its environmental effect. To do so, it must overcome some significant operational hurdles. This article will look at issues and how the market is addressing them. 


Feedstocks Are Unsustainable

Carbon molecules are used to make plastics. This means that different carbon sources are used to produce each form of plastic. As a result, traditionally, fossil fuels such as gas and gasoline were employed as the primary feedstock for plastics manufacture.  

Plastic manufacture has a major environmental effect, with 98% of single-use plastics made from 'virgin' fossil fuel feedstock and 19% of the global carbon budget anticipated to be a consequence of fossil fuel plastics by 2040. As a result, in order to increase the sector's sustainability and resilience, it must minimize its reliance on these unsustainable fuel sources. 



Manufacturing Process Inefficiency

Injection molding requires a significant amount of energy. Indeed, polymer processing consumes 66% of the energy consumed by an injection molding manufacturer's operation, the bulk of which is utilized by the injection molding machines themselves. This energy is mostly needed to pre-heat the plastic and finish the molding cycle.  


Many injection molding factories run their production lines around the clock, using legacy technology such as less efficient hydraulic machinery. All of this leads to excessive energy use, especially in injection molding operations that are not optimized.

Check Also: Type and Advantages of Boxed Packaging


The Environmental Consequences Of Plastic Waste 


More than 60 years of mass production have resulted in the production of 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic items. Only 12% of this garbage is burnt, leaving 79% in landfills or the global ecosystems. This trash, which takes more than 400 years to degrade, litters the oceans and presents a significant risk to birds, marine life, and fish.    

Furthermore, the problem of plastic trash is only going to become worse, with 12 billion metric tons of it expected to end up in landfills by 2050. This has caused environmental organizations, governments, and users to become more aware of their own contribution to plastic garbage.  

Check Also: Advantages and Disadvantages of Can Packaging

How Is The Industry Addressing These Challenges?

Despite these substantial obstacles, the plastics sector is taking steps to enhance its sustainability and decrease its environmental effect. 


Creating Less Harmful Plastics

According to recent US research, the plastic sector's annual emissions are comparable to the output of 116 coal-fired power plants. It also predicted that pollution levels will be higher than those produced by coal in the United States by 2030.  

This carbon footprint is mostly produced by the use of fossil fuels as raw materials for plastic products, especially single-use items such as packaging, disposable cutlery, and consumer goods. The industry can quickly lower its environmental effect and progress toward carbon neutrality by producing plastics that employ sustainable feedstocks.  


Making The Switch To Electric Equipment

Hydraulic injection molding machines were the preferred model until the late 1990s. These machines were challenging for operators and manufacturers to regulate and generate consistent quality products from, in addition to consuming large volumes of hydraulic oil (which comes from a non-renewable source and is hard to decompose of responsibly).  


Although newer hydraulic versions have been demonstrated to be 25% more efficient than their older equivalents, all-electric machines may increase this ratio to up to 80%. As a result, several manufacturers are implementing incremental machine replacement programs in order to transition from inefficient hydraulic models to all-electric versions.


Embracing The Circular Economy

A circular economy, as defined and supported by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, is one in which businesses strive to eliminate all waste and pollution from their activities, keep goods and resources in use for as long as feasible, and regenerate natural systems.  


There are considerable financial benefits to organizations who adopt the circular economy model, which is expected to be worth $4.5 trillion in the next 15 years, with a 30% improvement in productivity driving a 0.8 percent gain in GDP. Manufacturers must concentrate on essential aspects of their operations in order to reap the economic and environmental benefits of building a successful circular economy such as:  


End-of-life items and materials  

Pre-consumption waste  

Post-consumer trash  

waste and pollution


Final Words

Climate change and resource depletion put us at the point where we need to rethink the way we produce our goods. The injection molded plastics industry's future well-being is highly dependent on what forms of sustainability it will be able to offer. This means paying attention both to operational efficiency as well as lower environmental impact: new products, cleaner production processes, and a commitment to conservation. 

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