Thursday, 3 June 2010

Plastic (super duper) fantastic

Yesterday I attended the British Plastic Federation (BPF)'s annual seminar The Future of Bio-based and Degradeable Plastics: Markets and Applications. It was a really good insight into bioplastics as an industry and some of the challenges that we face on the whole in regard to waste management, products and "green/sustainability" in relation to plastics. There were some fascinating presentations on everything from landfill site management to using bio plastics to grow bone (amazing!) and even a bit of an uncomfortable debate over "Oxo-Degradable" plastics..I left with a lot to think about and some mixed feelings:
  • Firstly that I really need some experience of how plastics are manufactured and which plastics are really used in shoe manufacture today.
  • Secondly that bio plastics have their own hugely complicated problems and are maybe not the golden solution for product designers - e.g. bio plastics in waste streams could be a massive issue when products are sent for recycling (as they can't be recycled with petro-plastic) but how does the waste collector know the difference?
  • Also that Carbon and Water footprints are going to be increasingly important and I need to learn more.
  • Finally that there is sooo much out there to learn about, and ways bioplastics can and will be used it really is fascinating.
It was also great to meet some of the industry noggins and other interesting people (including a sustainable packaging designer and army chemist!) who were there and I came away distinctly glad I went, even if I didn't understand all of the polymer science.

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