Today’s blog is a review of different types of plastics; their uses and impacts. It also includes actions you can take to reduce plastics use.
PET (Polyethylene terephthalate)
It is a plastic used mainly for bottles of water, drinks or food because it offers a strong barrier to the penetration of oxygen. Over time it tends to release phthalates and therefore the same container cannot be used more than once. It has a density higher than water and therefore, if dispersed in the sea, it can hardly be recovered and disposed of. It has a very low starting viscosity temperature (60-80°C), if you put it in the dishwasher you will find it deformed; to recycle PET it is necessary to bring it to about 280°C. It is easily recyclable and is reused several times.
According to a recent study, water bottles made from PET plastic leach compounds that mimic the hormone oestrogen raising questions about their safety. Previous research has focused on plastics containing the chemical bisphenol-a (BPA). During that time regular PET plastic water bottles have maintained a reputation as safe, at least as far as human health is concerned.
However, lead researcher Martin Wagner says, it’s too soon to say whether drinking out of PET plastic bottles is harmful to human health. It now appears possible that some as-yet unidentified chemicals in these plastics have the potential to interfere with estrogen and other reproductive hormones, just as BPA and phthalates do.
HD-PE (High-density polyethylene)
Polyethylene is one of the most common plastics and the first to be synthesized, it has a high resistance to corrosion and is used to contain food, but also: detergents, shampoos and chemicals. It has a density slightly lower than water, resists well up to temperatures of 120°C and is malleable at 180°C. It is easily recyclable and is reused several times.
HDPE plastic is currently considered a low-hazard plastic with a low risk of leaching. However, HDPE contains nonylphenol which has been found to be dangerous to aquatic life. Nonylphenol is also an endocrine disruptor. This means it may affect your endocrine system, which controls your hormones.
PVC (Polyvinyl chloride)
It is used for pipes, sheeting and insulation-strip curtains (such as used in warehouse coolrooms). It is a rather dangerous type of plastic because it contains many additives including phthalates, which are very dangerous for humans. It’s dangerous for the environment as over time it tends to degrade and pollute the water it comes into contact with because is much heavier than water and if it settles on the bottom of the seas it is difficult to recover it and continues to release toxic substances. The fumes generated by the fusion or combustion of PVC are carcinogenic and also, for this reason, it is not easily recyclable.
LDPE (Low-density polyethylene)
It has long been used for shopping bags, glasses, plates and cutlery. in Europe these products have been banned, replaced by more easily biodegradable plant-derived polymers. It is still used for packaging. The real impact of this type of plastic is its contribution to the of marine life.
It is one of the most popular plastics and is used for a variety of objects. It has excellent mechanical characteristics, withstands high temperatures and fatigue efforts. It softens from 160-170°C and becomes malleable from 190°C. It has a density slightly lower than water, about 0.9g/cm3. It is used for plastic containers, reusable water bottles, medical components, outdoor furniture, toys, luggage and car parts. It is considered the safest of all plastics as it is a robust heat-resistant plastic. Because of its high heat tolerance, it is unlikely to leach even when exposed to warm or hot water. It is approved for use with food and beverage storage. It can be re-used safely and used with hot beverages. However, few studies have reported that it can leach on plastic additives and cause occupational asthma. It is less likely to contain fillers, plasticizers, and additives compared with many other plastics, but they may still be present.
It can be found in solid or foam form and is used especially for food containers and packaging as it is inexpensive and easily synthesized. It is one of the most dangerous plastics as it is not biodegradable and if heated (or worse burned) it emits carcinogenic black fumes; it is often not even accepted by plastic recycling centres. It is the plastic that most pollutes the seas, and it would be appropriate to ban it or severely limit its use.
Polystyrene contains the toxic substances Styrene and Benzene, suspected carcinogens and neurotoxins. Hot foods and liquids actually start a partial breakdown of the Styrofoam, causing some toxins to be absorbed into our bloodstream and tissue.
In this category there are non-recyclable plastics: Polycarbonate (PC), Nylon, ABS etc. some of these are particularly dangerous if not disposed of correctly.
Most microplastic pollution comes from textiles, tyres and city dust which account for over 80% of all microplastic pathogens in the environment.
From Science at https://www.plasticoceans.org.au/science-banner:
“The initial convenience that single-use plastic products offer has led to a throw-away culture that exposes the horrifying impacts of plastic. Today, single-use plastics account for 40% of the plastic produced every year, this includes plastic bags, food wrappers and product packaging which can have a lifespan of mere minutes, yet then remain in the environment for hundreds of years after as plastic pollution.
KEY FACTS ABOUT PLASTIC POLLUTION
- The amount of plastic trash that flows into the oceans every year is expected to nearly triple by 2040 to 29 million metric tons. (Nat Geo 2020)
- We are producing over 380 million tons of plastic every year (Plastic Oceans 2021)
- Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century (Plastic Oceans 2021)
- 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million seabirds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually. (UK Government, 2018)
- Plastic production has been forecast to grow by 60% by 2030 and to treble by 2050. (Center for International Environmental Law, 2019).”
Things you can do to reduce plastic use
Did you know the average plastic bag is used for 12 minutes but essentially lasts forever? You can avoid plastic bags easily:
- Say yes to reusable bags and bring your own from home
- Shop at local markets and don’t use plastic bags for loose vegetables – take your own reusable, washable Onya bags, or paper bags
- Support your local clean/bulk foods store
- Sign petitions to ban single-use plastic bags in your state
Plastic packaging in the supermarket is rampant, whether it’s fresh fruit on a styrofoam tray, wrapped in cling wrap, plastic squeeze bottles or over-packaged lunch options for kids. It doesn’t have to be this way:
- Choose the unwrapped produce where you can
- Bring your own veggie bags from home
- Choose bulk products where possible
- Choose glass bottles or buy containers only where they are made from recycled plastic
- Sign petitions to reduce or ban plastic packaging in supermarkets
Australians use 1 billion “disposable” coffee cups a year and millions of straws. But the coffee cups have a plastic lining and can’t be recycled and the straws end up in the ocean and are eaten by unsuspecting fish. You can turn the tide:
- Remember to bring your own reusable cup, such as a Keep Cup
- Some cafes will let you bring your own mug
- Introduce your local cafe to ‘Responsible Cafes’ and start saving money on each drink!
- Say no to plastic straws. Either bring your own metal straw or just drink from the bottle or glass
Big events should be a worry-free celebration — and what better way to celebrate than to take care of the planet while you’re at it.
- Say no to balloons — especially if they’re going to be released outdoors. They can travel for miles and end up as litter on land or out in the ocean. A mixture of plastic and rubber, they can last for up to four years once in the ocean – breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces
- Say no to plastic toys, trinkets, party bag fillers — there are lots of wooden and paper alternatives that are gorgeous
- Say no to the plastic bag for the gift, and anything else — carry your own bags for gift shopping and clothes shopping, just as you do for supermarket shopping
- Use real plates, cups, and cutlery. Remember that ‘paper’ plates and cups often have plastic lining
- Use rice or recycled paper instead of confetti — commercial confetti is filled with tiny sparkly bits of plastic which looks pretty in a photo but is devastating to marine life
- Choose new bio glitter rather than plastic glitter for facepaint, sparkly eye make-up and fancy cards
Last week, General Motors revealed more about the motors and propulsion systems that will power a generation of Ultium-based electric vehicles.
Motor design and efficiency is an unsung hero in the drive for pushing EV range higher without having to upsize the battery—and the demand on charging infrastructure—so GM’s in-house-developed solutions could potentially help make each kilowatt-hour go farther. GM’s head of global electrification strategy, Tim Grewe, says that GM’s set includes three motors: a 180-kw permanent-magnet front-drive motor, a 255-kw permanent-magnet motor that can be used in front or in back, and a 62-kw all-wheel-drive assist induction motor that can be used in front or in back.
The motors are part of GM’s Ultium propulsion family. They’ll be packaged with an inverter and gearset and go, in various combinations, into a generation of fully electric products. That will likely range from the GMC Hummer EV “supertruck” to family-sized crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox, efficient compact models like a replacement for the Chevy Bolt EV, and even performance cars like an electric Chevy Camaro. EVs from every GM brand, including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC will utilize the components, as well as future Honda and Acura models.
The GMC Hummer EV, for instance, uses three 255-kw motors—two in back, one in front, together yielding 1,000 horsepower—while a future mainstream Chevy crossover, Grewe hinted, might only have the 180-kw motor in front plus the 62-kw traction motor in back, used only on demand.
GM has said that given the five motor/propulsion layouts, plus the flexibility in battery pack layouts afforded by its Ultium battery strategy, there are essentially 19 different battery and drive unit combinations on the shelf.
Even though they span two different motor types, GM says that the three motors were built as a scalable family, intended to use similar tooling and manufacturing. They share a common stator and are designed to use common winding tools, common magnets, and common hairpins.
Meanwhile in other news, Ford is partnering with Tesla co-founder JB Straubel’s Redwood Materials for battery recycling. It could help Ford achieve a “closed loop” for batteries that might reduce costs and supply-chain issues, in addition to the sustainability boost.
Also, Lotus earlier this week revealed its E-Sport platform, a super-lightweight dedicated EV architecture that will be the basis for Lotus and Alpine sports cars and possibly other types of models.
CTI courses hosted by Ecoprofit
As climate change events increase in number and ferocity, so does climate change risk for businesses and organisations. To remove or control this risk, organisations need to be equipped with the right practical knowledge.
Carbon Training International (CTI) offers courses that give clear direction to understand how to deal with climate change risk, including a comprehensive understanding of the term net zero.
CTI courses include Strategic Carbon Management, Carbon Accounting, Carbon Offsetting, Carbon Accounting/Offsetting combined, Applied Energy Efficiency and Reducing Fleet Emissions.
You can easily enrol in one of CTI’s online webinar courses at:
Just choose your preferred course and course start date. Extra course dates can be arranged.
The good news: carbon emissions and business costs are linked. The more an organisation reduces its carbon emissions the more it reduces its costs.