Plastic Injection Mold Manufacturing becomes more Sustainable with Natural Additives

While there are various methods to manufacture plastic products, plastic injection molding is one of the primary approaches many companies choose to adopt. We often hear about the many negative aspects of plastic, from pollution to worries about the non-biodegradable nature of the material. Although this has gained a significant amount of press coverage in recent times, the fact is that due to its desirable characteristics, plastic remains a necessary material to us. Companies like TechTank have been implementing and improvising the use of natural substances into their plastic injection molding process to combat some of the negative realities of using plastic for certain products or components. Currently, TechTank injects natural elements like:

  • Corn
  • Fungus
  • Starch
  • Algae

TechTank adds a portion of natural elements along with the plastic material into the injection molding machine to then produce bioplastic products. Adding in these natural additives will help to reduce the enormous carbon footprint that most plastic manufacturing companies have placed throughout the world. Depending on how much clients want to add, TechTank can reduce the amount of plastic up to 50% through this natural additive process.   

Why Algae over other Natural Additives & BPA Substitutes?   

Algae has a better demand in terms of producing bioplastics as compared to corn, starch, etc. due to food spikes, both through consumption or volatile pricing. Algae has less impact on the food chain and on any food that could be consumed by humans. Also, TechTank believes that algae helps the greening process of plastics and ensure sustainability. A key advantage of using algae over other BPA substitutes is its availability: it is washing up on beaches everywhere and floating in seas throughout the world. The algae-based biomass behaves like traditional starch-based resins and also has a high heat tolerance. In the past, algae plastic had a strong fishy smell, but innovations and new technologically that TechTank has acquired now has a process that eliminates that fishy odor.

This new additive substance has a tall order: people are looking for something can clean up industrial wastewater and polluted fish farms, convert CO2 emissions from utility and ethanol plants into oxygen, and replace fossil fuels — a tall order for pond scum. However, the emerging algae industry is targeting all of them. Green algae, usually found in fresh water, can be used to purify wastewater and remove CO2. Uses of algae help to minimize the carbon dioxide and nitrous gases from polluting smoke-stack environments, and also with potential chemical conversion companies that could convert the algae biomass into viable monomers for further conversion into potential biopolymers. Commercial algae resins represent a significant breakthrough in the greening of the plastics industry, a transformation that we believe is critical to helping ensure the long-term sustainability of the planet.

As the demand for algal biomass increases, the incentives for other industrial plants to build out algae-based water treatment systems and sell the biomass will soon be realized. Livestock operations such as dairies, fisheries, etc. located in the southeast and southwest can use algae to treat their manure effluents and provide additional biomass to the market. Over time the aquatic biomass will become a commodity product traded like other traditional crops. Currently, large amounts of corn are being diverted from food production to enter biofuel or bioplastic production. Introducing a new, low-Eco footprint biofeedstock will help alleviate the demand on food-based crops for plastics and liquid fuel conversion.

The Benefits of Using Bioplastics

Generally speaking, the most considerable advantages of using bioplastics is to reduce the energy footprint and provide a less polluted ecosystem. In theory, the problem of overflowing landfills and floating islands of trash will be addressed through the increased use of bioplastics. Not all bioplastics degrade in a meaningful time span though – it is entirely realistic that some bio-based plastics will remain intact for decades — especially if they are not discarded properly.

Bioplastics are also gaining popularity because they don’t contain bisphenol. Bisphenol S (BPS) are chemicals that were implemented when the FDA put BPA-free regulations on products in the food storage and baby feeding/accessory industries. Bisphenol and other BPA substitutes were not well studied before mass use; however, in the past few years, they have been shown to have endocrine disrupting similar effects to BPA in laboratory tests according to Center4Research. BPA alternatives also enter the human body just as quickly as BPA, suggesting that substituting BPA with new compounds are unlikely to provide any health benefits — showing why it is important to test the safety of potential BPA substitutes before they can be sold. For the time being, most of the concern seems to be centered on BPA’s alleged ability to disrupt hormonal activity. Bioplastics provide a potential alternative to this issue, although there is no guarantee that BPA won’t be added to bioplastics in the future.

The best-understood advantage of biodegradable bioplastics lies in the reduction of permanent litter. Plastic single-use shopping bags are the most obvious example of how plastics can pollute the environment with vast and unsightly persistence. A large fraction of the litter in our oceans is of disposable plastic bags. Cities and countries around the world are taking action against these type of bags, sometimes by banning non-degradable plastic bags entirely.

Are there Disadvantages to Using Bioplastics?

It can be challenging for consumers to determine if the conventional plastics they’re using are biodegradable, compostable, or otherwise recyclable. For this reason, many bioplastics do not get recycled. Many facilities don’t have the abilities to sort, compost, or recycle bioplastics; so everything ends up in a landfill anyway. For example, a cup made from polylactic acid (PLA) looks and feels like regular plastic, so a consumer may throw it into the recycle bin when it could be composted.

Aside from identifying bioplastics correctly, they must be discarded appropriately to biodegrade or compost. For instance, if a biodegradable fork is packed into an airtight landfill, it may not degrade at all. Conversely, anaerobic degradation–decomposition, in the absence of oxygen, could happen when moisture is present. Meaning biodegradable bioplastics create an air pollution problem.

Other companies already use starches from corn, tapioca, wheat, and potatoes in manufacturing hybrid plastic products. Many competitors question why would TechTank bother adding yet another biomass to the mix? Simple. Algae is cheap, plentiful, doesn’t take away from the human food chain, and represents the near-perfect closing of the renewable products loop.

TechTank–Your Natural Plastic Injection Mold Manufacturer

TechTank can provide natural, environmentally friendly plastic injection molding services on full-sized runs, but mainly works with small to medium sized runs (around 5,000 pieces). TechTank offers a vast range of plastic injection molding services, working with all thermoplastic materials such as PETG and polyurethane. TechTank performs contract plastic injection molding services for many industries including medical and retail.

TechTank does more than plastic injection molding and CNC machining. TechTank provides in-house new product design, development, prototyping, and manufacturing for various products across hundreds of industries. TechTank has the resources needed to take a new product idea from a concept and turn it into a reality, manufacturing high-quality products with quick turnarounds. Unlike your average machine shop, TechTank’s mission is to provide our customers with the best possible products inexpensively. For more information on the advantages of using natural additives in the plastic injection molding process with TechTank, contact one of TechTank’s professionals today.

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