Plastic may not be the most beloved of materials to the more environmentally minded, but Plasti 2012, a Milan, Italy-based show held last week, aimed to mold a different opinion of the material in people's minds.
"Plastic is a huge and innovating world," said Mario Maggiani, director at Assocomaplast, the association of Italian plastics and rubber machinery producers. Those innovations include processes like injection molding, extrusion of film, blow molding and rotational molding, though the real steps forward are arguably being taken in material composition.
"Biomaterials are becoming big in the world of plastic," said Maggiani, noting that this had come as a result of a "war against plastic," not just in Italy, but across the globe.
With over 3,500 machines dedicated to plastic production on display at the event, Magianni and Plasti 2012's exhibitors are eager to prove that plastic can be good if made correctly.
Indeed, with new laws in Italy mandating the production of biodegradable plastic for shopping bags, the industry knows it is expected to clean up its act, but is still shifting blame using the good old gun excuse.
"It's not plastic that's polluting the world… it's the people throwing plastic around, these people are polluting the world," said Maggiani, adding that if only plastic was managed appropriately, it wouldn't pollute, and could even be re-cycled or used to create energy.
Burning one kilo of plastic, said Maggiani, was the approximate equivalent of one kilo of oil, "so you can burn it and recover energy," he said, though failing to address the ecological implications of the process.
Environmental issues aside, Maggiani also believes Italians have the capabilities to do "unbelievable things" with plastic, based around the Italians' "special flare" for design and zeal for fashion and furniture.
Also, as the exchange rate between the U.S. and Europe stabilizes somewhat, Maggiani said trade to North America has also picked up significantly, though Germany, France and China remained the biggest markets for Italian plastic machinery exports.
With exports making up over 90 percent of Italy's plastic machinery sales, Maggiani admits that the 20 percent increase last year has been a lifeline for the industry. "We survive thanks to exports," he said.
In total, the output of machines, plants, moulds and ancillary equipment came to four billion Euros in 2011, which though not quite at a pre-2007 crisis level, is slowly clawing its way back up.
"Italian manufacturers complain about sales trends and fear of the future, but if we look at the figures, the situation is not so gloomy, at least for companies with international market outlets," Maggiani said.
The problem gets even worse when it comes to so-called "bio-plastics" because then people think it's ok to just throw plastic wherever they please. It's an education problem. People have to learn to not be gross.
Perhaps, but it's wrong to condemn a material with as many obvious benefits as plastic, just because people are too lazy to dispose of plastic bottles. Or just because, when used in some products, it has gotten a reputation as being "cheap." You can focus on any modern industry, look where they use plastics, and in most cases, you'll be hard pressed to find a better alternative.
I've been to over 30 countries around the world and each one had plastic bottles scattered as garbage across the land.
People are inherently lazy and toss them aside without a care. Corporations would rather use non-biodegradable bottles because it looks much better on the bottom line and makes the shareholders happy. Both groups need to become more responsible and ethical. Blaming one side over the other is just a using them as a scapegoat.
I guess Social Mania about anything is dead right. They are anti everything modern and yet use the modern technology and fly around mostly at public costs or vested interests. Fact is the dicipline required to make modern technology sustainable is conveniently ignored. Such as disposal of plastics.
The "mania" in "Social Mania" is right. These guys sound like fanatics, not scientists.
The good, and unusually prophetic for Hollywood: from the movie, "The Graduate" - "I just want to say one word to you... plastics. There's a great future in plastics". Indeed, it was the future!
But generally plastic is not biodegradable. Much of it does, however, age poorly when exposed to UV. And I can't tell you how many plastic (or even nylon) car parts I have broken and had to replace because they were plastic, but wouldn't have been a problem if they were still steel. And the plastic in the toilet tanks crud up or break too, and need to be replaced.
Maybe the problem is that people don't want to specify the right tensile strength or grade of plastic, don't care if the part breaks in 2 or 5 years, or they have "cheap" on their mind so they just go with minimums. But plastic has its reputation for a reason. It may not rust, but it does age and break, and not degrade biologically. And don't try to tell me I can burn plastic. That's just plain stupid.
I don't know where we would be without plastics, but don't act like there's no down side to it, and that "people pollute".
I agree! and I am also excited to learn that one kg of plastic can generate energy equivalent of burning 1 kg of oil. If some research team comes out with an engine which can use plastic ( thrown away ) as fuel with permissible emissions then the garbage industry will compete with gold mines for mining the plastic out of garbage
I fully concur with him. One of the really nice features of plastic is that, where this is needed, it does not degrade. But it can be recycled, so it doesn't HAVE to pollute. Another feature is that it can be formed into any shape you need, unlike almost any other material. And it's also much lighter than just about any other material.
Remember how the running boards and the fenders of cars used to rust out and look awful, especially in places where they use salt in winter? Not if those car parts were made of plastic. Remember how the mechanisms in toilet tanks became so badly corroded that they were really difficult to replace, when they needed replacement? Not with plastic.
Tell me, how would you build a cell phone without plastic? Wood? Aluminum? Steel? Hah. What would you use to insulate electrical wires? Silk? How much extra fuel would it take for transportation, if every bottle we used were made of glass instead of plastic?
It's not for everything, but I think it's silly to pretend plastics aren't essential these days.