There’s a bright future in plastics all right. A flurry of innovations shown at NPE 2009 (National Plastics Expo) prove that. But the recent public relations nightmare surrounding the use of bisphenol-A (BPA) also shows that perception-or misperception-can totally eclipse reality. Think the BPA controversy doesn’t affect you because you don’t use it? Think again: Because of the BPA fear, consumers are shying away from plastic packaging in other areas.
My gut tells me that BPA might not survive public opinion, despite its benefits. Maybe I’ll be wrong, though. Remember back when irradiation and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) were lambasted in the media? Well, guess what? Irradiation is prospering now (thanks to food safety issues). And…shhh…come closer while I whisper: PVC is still widely used in some packaging markets, but we call it vinyl now.
BPA isn’t the only chink in plastics’ armor. Some consumers, retailers and brand owners are starting to feel disenchanted with biodegradable materials because many of the claims are unsubstantiated.
But it’s challenges like these that drive innovations, like some of those I saw at NPE, including a solution for mixed plastic waste recycling, foamed polyethylene terephthalate (PET) blow molding and microspheres in thermoplastics (visit www.foodandbeveragepackaging.com and click on the headline “Plastics: Friend not foe” for more details on these three technologies).
On a personal note
From the bottom of my heart, let me say that it’s been my pleasure serving you for the last 16 years. Next month, Pan Demetrakakes will speak to you from this page as chief editor. New challenges await me elsewhere. Starting July 13, I’ll be writing about packaging for consumer market research and advisory company Iconoculture. Social media makes it super easy to stay connected today. You can still reach me through Linked In (search for Lisa McTigue Pierce). Until we meet again, hasta la vista, baby!
Lisa McTigue PierceEditor-in-Chief
Member of the Int’l Packaging Press Organization
• Presented at the co-located PET Strategies+ conference, mixed plastic waste recycling from Polyflow Corp. solves the problem of container sorting (none needed!), as well as how to recycle flexible packaging, including coextruded or laminated films, pouches and bags.
• Foamed polyethylene terephthalate (PET) blow molding produces the lightweight oPTI bottle from Plastic Technologies Inc.. Not only does this process reduce the amount of resin, it creates a unique texture and look (opaque or slightly transparent in various colors) without additives.
• Microspheres in thermoplastics (tiny hollow spheres filled with gas that expand when heated during processing) from Expancel save material, add texture and provide anti-blocking properties on sheets and rolls.