Can You Use Recycled Plastics When Injection Moulding?
Environmental issues and concerns are front and centre of the public consciousness as we move in the 2020s. The likes of campaigner Greta Thunberg and the activities of Extinction Rebellion are further opening eyes to the environmental impact of plastics and plastic use. And that concern extends to the plastics industry itself, which is keen to do whatever it can to research alternative ways to working with plastic, and making this crucial material friendly to the environment. Plastics, as we know, are a ubiquitous, fantastic and endlessly useful material, but our resources of plastic are also finite… so if there are any potential ways plastic can be recycled, that is always something we will look to consider at Wheatley.
Traditionally – and even in recent memory – the plastics industry was resistant to using recycled plastics in injection moulding. Very understandable concerns revolved around issues to do with both the quality of the recycled plastics, as well as how reliable and dependable the material might be, in terms of then reusing it for injection moulding. However, here at Wheatley we have become aware of recent developments in the recycled plastics industry that has persuaded us this might now be a way forward. However, the bottom line is that while we feel this might be possible, there are still issues to using recycled plastics that also need to be born in mind, at the same time.
Let’s first look at the positive side of using recycled plastics in the injection moulding process. Plastic is, of course, an incredibly durable and adaptable material, which it is well suited to being reused in a variety of industrial processes. And it can be very cheap, and economical, to recycle. Using recycled plastic will have an immediate and dramatic impact on the environment: as there is less need to manufacture brand new plastic from more raw materials, there will be a consequent reduction in pollution and gas emissions, that can have a knock-on consequence in terms of environmental impact. At the other end of the process there will also be less need for dumping the plastic as it will be re-used, with less impact in terms of ground pollution.
Further, and crucially, using recycled plastic in injection moulding has no apparent impact on the quality of the manufactured part. This has long been the concern with using recycled plastic in the injection moulding process, but whether an item that needs to be particularly strong and durable, or indeed one that has to be pliable, there is no issue in using recycled plastic over newly manufactured plastics. And in addition, recycled material can be any type of plastic, or indeed any colour, just as with new material dependent, of course, on the original material recycled.
Recycled plastic is now more widely available as an option in injection moulding and can be used for fast turnaround prototypes, or mass scale manufacture. Using recycled plastic creates a very satisfying circularity in the production process, that can also form a positive message in terms of public relations messages and corporate social responsibility. So, it’s good for the environment but might equally make sound business sense.
It would seem to be a win-win but… as we say, there are still one or two issues remaining that still need to addressed before we step fully behind the use of recycled plastic in our own injection moulding processes. But we are certainly close.