Plastics and sustainable development
Plastic product solutions help reduce emissions and preserve important resources, such as time, food, water and even money for other purposes. The choice of material has surprisingly far-reaching effects in numerous areas.
Raw materials used in plastic production are by-products of existing processes and they only account for about 4% of the world’s non-renewable (fossil) resources. Plastics can be processed at significantly lower temperatures than other materials, making their processing more energy-efficient. Plastic can also be produced from renewable sources, such as sugar cane or corn, in which case starch is used as the starting point. For these reasons, plastics are efficient materials that contribute to a better quality of life.
Plastics’ main strengths lie in their lightness. This property is particularly beneficial in the logistics sector, because it reduces the consumption of fossil fuels. Light plastic packaging transported in a lightweight vehicle containing plastic components helps save money and preserve natural resources. Plastic is an ideal material for the manufacturing of cars and aeroplanes. Modern cars have a plastic content of about 11% or higher. Because of this, they are lighter, using less fuel and generate lower levels of carbon dioxide emissions. Plastics can also be used to replace other materials in aeroplanes. Lighter planes can fly further and carry more cargo without the need for more fuel.
Social and economic sustainability
Only a well-functioning society can ensure welfare and look after the environment. Most plastic products are manufactured by small and medium-sized companies, which provide jobs and make necessary products available to everyone. The plastic sector is also sustainable because a business can be established with relatively small capital investments.
Renewable energy sources
Plastics are also valuable materials in the renewable energy sector. The efficient utilisation of wind and solar energy would be almost impossible without plastic. Plastic components are required for the efficient recovery of energy. For example, windmill wings and several solar panel components are made of plastic. In these applications, plastic cannot be replaced with other materials.
Plastic offers excellent insulation properties. It keeps fridges and freezers cold, extending the shelf-life of food and drink. Fridges’ energy consumption can be optimised when the devices are well-insulated. Good insulation also keeps houses warm in the winter. Correctly installed insulation can reduce heat loss by up to 70%, significantly improving buildings’ energy-efficiency.
Plastic is also an integral part of energy-efficient lighting solutions. Thanks to the latest lens technology, which has been made possible by plastic machining techniques, modern LED lamps achieve levels of brightness that are twice as high as those achieved with conventional solutions. This reduces the amount of energy consumed by lighting.
Food and drink
The use of plastic reduces food loss. In Finland alone, more than 400 million kilos of food goes to waste every year. Plastics keep foodstuffs fresh, help them retain their flavour and fragrance and protect them from contaminants