What are the top 4 Key Challenges for Plastic Manufacturers

While the single-use plastics have gained rapid traction over the past decade, there have been a few restraining factors coming in the way of the plastic manufacturers. Implementation of various rules and regulations by government and non-profit organizations coupled with the growing concern regarding environmental impacts of the non-recyclable plastics is working as a major challenging factor to the plastic manufacturers and suppliers. According to the report published by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in November, 2020, the eight states in the United States- California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont have banned single-use plastic bags.

California became the first state to enact legislation imposing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores in August 2014, while New York became the third state to ban plastic bags in 2019 with passage of Senate Bill 1508.
As the negative effects of non-recyclable plastics is getting prominent across the globe, various campaigns to spread awareness are taking place. Research says that, natural decomposition of plastic can last from 400 to 1000 years and few types of plastics are not degradable at all. Apart from that, there are a lot of other disadvantages of plastics, such as-

  • Plastic materials, being non-biodegradable, clog waterways, seas, oceans, lakes and others which in turn endangers marine lives and negatively impacts the marine environment
  • The process cycles for creation and recycling of plastics both produces toxic gases which is a major reason behind air pollution
  • Plastics are not fully safe in terms of fire hazards
  • The excessive usage of plastic containers or wrappers for consumables increases the risks of cancer

China, one of the world’s biggest users of plastic, has taken the initiative to ban non-degradable bags in all cities and towns by 2022. According to the report published by the European Commission (EC) in March, 2020, the first-ever European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy adopted on January, 2018 will transform the way plastic products are designed, used, produced and recycled in the EU. The European Commission (EC) proposed on May 2018 new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear, which altogether constitute 70% of all marine litter items. The United Nations Environment Organization launched ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ initiative in order to reduce the environment pollution due to plastic wastage. According to their report, more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s, while about 60% of that plastic has ended up in either a landfill or the natural environment.

As per the report published by Japan’s Resource Circulation Policy in March, 2018, there are nearly 9.4 million tons of plastic wastage in Japan per year, which is 2% of total waste. As per the report, the recycling rate in Japan is 24.8%, while the Carbon Di-Oxide emission rate is 18 million tons (60% of waste sector). Experts have estimated that annual waste generation in India will increase to 165 million tonnes by 2030, which implies that around 66,000 hectares of land is needed to set up a landfill site which is 10 meters high and can hold up to 20 years’ waste.
As per the report published by The World Bank in 2016, the world generated 242 million tonnes of plastic waste per year, which is 12% of all municipal solid waste. As per the report, this waste primarily originated from three regions- 57 million tonnes from East Asia and the Pacific, 45 million tonnes from Europe and Central Asia, and 35 million tonnes from North America.
While the rise in awareness has put the recyclable plastics in the spotlight for the plastic manufacturers, there are certain drawbacks of plastic recycling as well, such as-

  1. Increased Level of Pollution and Consumption of Energy: In plastic recycling process tons of garbage need to be transported, sorted, cleaned, and processed in factories which causes high level of air, water, and soil pollution while consuming a lot of energy
  2. High Cost: The plastic recycling process is complex, time-consuming, and costly. Also, plastic recycling involves a lot of manpower and despite being eco-friendly, it is often not so profitable for the plastic manufacturers
  3. Requires Proper Stringent Implementation: Without proper handling, the recycling of plastics causes high level of pollutants and hence it requires stringent implementation to minimize its adverse effects
  4. Good Quality Products are not Guaranteed: While the plastic recycling process is highly sought-after in order to reduce the risks of plastic pollution, it doesn’t always guarantee good quality products which is one of the major constraints for the plastic manufacturers

While the demand for single-use plastic is exhibiting upward curve owing to the rise in demand from the fast-growing industries such as food & beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, and others, there are certain rules to be complied by the plastic manufacturers while developing plastic products for these industries. For instance, in the report named “Packaging & Food Contact Substances (FCS)” published by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April, 2020, several rules and regulations regarding food packaging have been mentioned such as “FDA’s Food Contact Substance Notification Program”, “Guidance for Industry: Preparation of Food Contact Notifications”, and others.

Furthermore, the outbreak of novel coronavirus in the last year has substantially declined the sales for the plastic manufacturers due to the long lock down period. While the financial crisis, shortage in manpower, and scarcity of raw materials have given a tough time to the plastic manufacturers during this period, the decrease in demand from the key industries such as food & beverages, cosmetics, and others due to the new social norms and shifted focus towards the more emergency situation has further affected the sales.
However, the future of plastic manufacturers is highly progressive as the demand for various type of plastics such as Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE), and others is rising steadily. And the manufacturers are continuously investing their time, effort, and money in the research & development activities in order to the make the best out of the upcoming opportunities.

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