From its humble beginning in 1957, the Indian Plastic Industry
has come a long way, making significant progress and growing rapidly over the years. Today, the country has over 2000 exporters with an overall employment of around 4 million people and with more than 30,000 processing units of which 85 to 90 per cent are small and medium sized enterprises. In the financial year of 2020, India has exported plastic and linoleum worth $7.55 billion. Plastic packaging
is a need for any other industry for its survival. Playing an important role in our daily life right from plastic bottle manufacturer to engineering plastics, the plastic industry is here to stay.
There are several trends that are prevalent in the plastic industry. Let us look at some of the most important ones that are pushing the growth of the industry.
Plastic roads: The road to a safe environment
“We spend so much on building roads that develop potholes and need rebuilding in no time. The road I built is still intact – there are no potholes, no cracks. That is proof of its strength and durability, plus it uses waste plastic that otherwise litters streets and rivers. At least 11 states have used the technology to build more than 1,00,000 km of roads,” said Padma Sri Rajagopalan Vasudevan to Thomson Reuters Foundation.
India has built 1 lakh kilometres of roads using discarded plastic in 11 states. India has the world’s second largest road network. Executing this plan not only controls the pollution but also it is notable that roads made using the plastic waste provides better durability thus neglecting the potholes that are usually visible in the Indian roads. These roads don’t absorb water and also provides better flexibility leading to lesser needs for repair works.
Engineering plastics: providing promising products to various industries
Engineering plastics exhibit superior qualities such as providing better heat resistance, chemical resistance, impact resistance and mechanical strength when compared with the standard materials like wood or metal. They are also easier to be moulded for the required complicated shapes. The applications for engineering plastics are numerous including automotive, electrical and electronics, building and construction, consumer goods & appliances and industrial sector.
Challenges faced by the Plastic Industry
The challenges that are prevalent in the Plastic Industry are that supply chain has been impacted, the technological difficulties in the Industry and the environmental impact.
Supply chain goes haywire
“The industry is facing hardship because of raw material shortage which will lead to the closure of many units across the country,” said Dilip Gandhi, former President of Vidarbha Plastic Association.
Before the pandemic situation, the plastic industry was progressing rapidly with an efficient supply chain. But the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is visible in the supply chain system of the Plastic Industry in India. One of the main concerns is that the workers need to isolate themselves in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. This has led to minimal workforce being used in the manufacturing industries which consequently means less production of raw materials.
Technological difficulties prevalent in the Industry
The Plastic Industry in India has seen a noticeable change from low output technology machines towards high output technology machines. However, in areas like multilayer blow moulding, stretch/blow moulding machines, particular projects that involves high CAPEX like PVC calendaring, multilayer cast lines, BOPP and non-woven depend majorly on imported technology. Some of the other technological needs for India are Automatic block bottom bags production line, higher tonnage Injection moulding machine and multilayer blown film line up to 9/11 layers.
The environmental effect left by the usage of plastics
A global material balance study shows that 79 per cent of the total plastics produced in the world is disposed as waste to our environment. With only 9 per cent of the total plastic waste being recycled around the globe, a CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) report puts the total annual plastic waste generation in India at 3.3 million metric tonnes per year.
“We had imagined that we had solved the problem of plastic waste through recycling it, or burying it, or shipping it out of our sight. But we were wrong. Plastic waste is everywhere today. It is in our faces. It is filling up our oceans and destroying marine life and even invading our food chain to get into our bodies. Our per capita use of plastics is growing – and as we become richer, we will end up generating more plastic waste,” Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
The major issue in administering of the plastic waste has been the lack of credible information available in order to grasp the intensity of the situation that is present here and hinder us in taking appropriate steps.
How is the future looking for the Plastic Industry?
The issues that are seen in today’s scenario can be met only with the innovations in the field of science and proper application of the innovations in the required segments of the Industry. Now let us look at some of the upcoming innovations that show promise for the Plastic Industry.
Polymer 3D printing
Buildings made with the eco bricks not only deals with the problem of plastic wastes but also it is evident that the plastics are sturdy and will stand the test of time.
The 3D printing technology is going through leaps and bounds as progress has been made in high-speed photopolymerisation, augmented polymer deposition (APD) technology, large scale FDM 3D printing being a select few.
3D printing for tooling has arisen as one of the most assuring technologies. Polymer 3D printing allows the companies to produce tools using technologies such as FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) and SLA (Stereolithography). One of the leading car manufacturers has been reported to be using Ultimaker FDM 3D printers to create customized tools.
Eco-bricks and refugee shelters made from plastic
Plastic waste management has been a huge concern for people, governments all around the world for quite some time now. In parallel, the main concern for people who are in refugee camps is the fear for their own safety and shelter. Combining the two major concerns, a leading refugee relief organization provides an innovative solution. They have merged hands with an engineering organization in undertaking a project in three refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya wherein discarded plastic waste materials are to be turned into building materials. Buildings made with the eco bricks not only deals with the problem of plastic wastes but also it is evident that the plastics are sturdy and will stand the test of time.
Wood Plastic Composite to become the next big advancement
Wood plastic composite (WPC) is a recent innovation that may change the future of construction forever. Wood plastic composite is a material created from a unique blend of natural wood and plastic fibers. It also incorporates materials such as sawdust, pulp, bamboo, peanut hulls and bark with plastic powders. WPC can be molded into almost any shape or size thus being adaptable according to the needs in the construction site. WPC is also moisture – resistant, rot – resistant and also provides more heat resistance than normal wood. These properties of WPC open up so much scope for the construction industry.
Moving forward, the plastic industry is evolving fast to counter its negative environmental impact. As it progresses, the future for the plastic industry seems to be in safe hands as revolutionizing ideas and technologies are being produced with each passing day.