Flexible plastic is a collapsible material used in various areas of industry for its storage properties.
Condition “flexible plastics” refers to plastic with the ability to bend or bend. They are widely used in flexible plastic packaging and can be classified into two structures: single-layer and multi-layer.
A single layer is just a layer composed of some type of plastic, such as polyethylene, polypropylene, PET, PVC and BOPP. On the other hand, the multi-layered structure is made of a mixture of plastics, and moreover, it can be mixed with other materials such as aluminum and paper.
What industries use flexible plastics?
Have you ever noticed how many products on your shopping list are overflowing? flexible plastics? These packages are used in many areas of industry. Check out some examples below:
Food and drink
The food industry is the fastest growing market in the production of packaging since flexible plastics. Its properties for preserving and packaging food are very attractive, as well as the low cost of production and transportation. Therefore, it is very common to go to the market and find food in flexible plastic packaging, such as rice, tomato sauce and snacks.
Soaps and detergents can vary in form, be liquid, solid or powder. In this way, we see that most of them are packed in bags or plastic packages for greater practicality, reducing the occupied space and preventing the creation of waste.
Medicines and products for personal use
The pharmaceutical industry is also one of the biggest users flexible plastics, due to its property of extending the life of the product. Therefore, they are used in medicine packages, pills and capsules.
In addition, they are also found as bags of personal products such as shampoos, conditioners, tubes and makeup brushes.
For safe storage of building materials, flexible plastics they serve as a cheap and reliable option. The most common product is bubble wrap, which offers the necessary strength.
E-commerce, made up of virtual stores, you decide to use flexible plastics in the packaging of its products for safety and cheapness of transport in the entire supply chain. So they benefit from the profit generated.
Advantages of flexible plastic
Since they can be shaped, flexible plastics they adapt to the shape of the object they protect without losing their integrity. Furthermore, the quantity flexible plastic package production is minimal, which reduces production and transportation costs.
A book “Recycling of flexible plastic packaging” also highlights other relevant advantages over flexible plastics and its use in the production of packaging, such as:
- It creates less CO2 in transport and creates less waste compared to packaging made of rigid plastic and other materials;
- Extends product life;
- Keeps food fresh;
- Reduces food waste;
- Enables greater product visibility, with attractive packaging;
- Increases convenience when opening, storing and taking;
- It can be used in products from different areas of industry;
- It’s easier to print ads.
Disadvantages of flexible plastic
Despite its practicality and advantages, flexible plastics they have their limitations. Besides being made from fossil fuels, there is no sustainable recycling process for these materials that would allow them to be part of the circular economy, generating a lot of urban solid waste and negative externalities for human and animal health. This is mainly due to the lack of identification or incorrect identification of the packaging, which complicates the process of separation and selection by collectors and recyclers. In addition, plastic is a material that loses its quality when recycled, which makes the recycling process environmentally and economically unprofitable.
Bio-oriented polypropylene film, better known as BOPP, is used in the packaging of snacks, instant soups, cereal bars and many others. This is an example of a lack of identification, as many of its packages do not have the recycling symbol and the acronym “BOPP” printed on them. As a result, tons of tailings are generated, which worsens flooding and causes suffocation of marine animals, when introduced into the aquatic environment.
In addition, due to improper disposal flexible plastics, microplastic pollution is increasing. They are major pollutants of the ocean and their presence in the environment can lead to several socio-ecological problems.
Because it is very small, microplastics are found all over the world and can easily enter the food chain. A study published in the journal Environment International confirmed their presence in human blood, implying an impact on health that is not yet fully known.
They can trap pollutants in the environment, such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which are highly toxic, causing hormonal, immune, reproductive and neurological problems in humans and animals when ingested. The release of bisphenol, a toxic organic molecule that acts as an endocrine disruptor in human and animal organisms, can cause infertility, endometriosis and other problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
In the aquatic environment, plastics and microplastics can harm the functioning of marine life, causing possible problems in the organism of animals and even death. In this same perspective, flexible plastics they can also be part of some pollutants from plastics, such as plastites, plastiglomerates and pyroplastics.
Oligomers are molecules in plastic packaging that unintentionally migrate into food, mainly under the influence of thermal energy. Their biggest problem is the lack of control over the release of these by-products, which have no viable treatment alternatives.
In this way, it is important to effectively manage this waste, as well as to reduce its use, in order to mitigate the consequences flexible plastics environment and health of organisms.