It’s tough to find any corner of the planet where rigid plastic packaging isn’t dominating our consumer-driven lives. The bottles and cups we drink from at our local coffee shops are made from this popular polymer, as are the rows of commodities found in our supermarkets. Shampoo containers, pharmaceutical packs and commonly used medical devices, all of these products come in plastic packaging with a healthy dose of mechanical stability. Less expensive and lighter than glass, goods encased in tough plastic can also take a drop and keep on performing, unbroken and unbowed as today’s preferred packaging medium.
Protective features are one compelling reason to pick the material as an ideal packaging solution, but what makes this type of plastic the perfect match for the ever-expanding packaging industry? Well, we’ve always had a few choices when it comes to shipping liquids and other goods. Glass was the perfect choice, but it’s fragile and heavy. A plastics alternative needed to deliver the same chemical neutrality of glass and also infuse the solution with key polymer characteristics. Design engineers got to work and the result was polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyproplene, and a number of other rigid thermoplastic polymers. Able to be moulded and produced in bulk, production incurs a fraction of the energy required to produce similarly-shaped glass profiles, thus allowing the industry to grow and evolve. Additionally, intermodal shipping fees are dramatically cut because the plastic is much lighter than other packaging options.
Biodegradable rigid plastic packaging is entering the consumer ecosystem and providing an answer to the recycling woes we all see spreading around us. The products exhibit the same chemically neutral features as past rigid products, are light and tough, but they break down over time. Next to come into focus inside our crystal ball, the versatile material is breaking free of the beverage and food industry. Polystyrene packaging, for example, conforms to the shape of expensive cameras and high-end televisions, taking the material to the softer end of the spectrum, to polystyrene and foam-like variants. But the inbuilt malleability and durability factor of the plastic is also adding additional revenue streams to the packaging format. Food and beverage applications will indeed increase, naturally, with the addition of more temperature-resistant variants making the material the ultimate winner over glass and pottery. Meanwhile, the healthcare market is embracing the technology because these newer plastics don’t leech chemical compounds from the product.
Adoption of rigid plastic manufacturing science is expected to top 370 Billion US dollars by the year 2020, and Australia will be close on the heels of this figure with cutting-edge production facilities and new biodegradable products.