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Plastics these days are often seen as the devil in the world of recycling and the environment, but for something that we use and see around us every day, how has this come about and is injection moulding contributing to this “menace”?

We can manufacture lots of items from lots of materials using injection moulding. Why? Because it is fast, relatively cheap and is able to satisfy the customer demand for quality at a low price and in high quantity. These days, however, customers want something else. They want this to be produced in an environmentally friendly factory, with materials and the end product to match. Can injection moulding deliver on this or is it doomed to the dustbin of the past, along with diesel engine cars and single use plastic bottles?

In short, the answer is yes! The first part of the answer lies in the kind of resins that are used to manufacture parts initially, how long those parts are meant to last and, even more crucially, how each part is able to be dealt with at the end of its life. The second part is the way in which the products are manufactured, the moulding machine itself and the environmental credentials of the factory in which they are produced. All of these aspects need to be jointly driven by the manufacturer, consumer and national governments in order to provide a sustainable and eco-friendly supply chain which provides for product that is not disposed of in the correct manner.

If we manage to perfect the manufacturing of products that are mindful of the environment throughout their life and beyond, providing grants and tax breaks so as to allow manufacturers to invest in the latest and most efficient factories is something that cannot be denied by national governments. These positive environmental responses to the continuing use of plastics in manufacturing will ensure that our environment is protected from all aspects of the production process, with further development refining this process until plastic is no longer considered the threat to the environment that it is now.

Current advancements in engineering mean that injection moulding machinery now uses around 20% to 50% less energy than was the case only 10 years ago. This dramatic reduction in energy use, along with the use of plastics that are replacing metal parts in fuel-heavy sectors such as aviation and automotive so as to save weight, proves that plastic is here to stay.