plastic of the future

The Ultimate Guide to Plastics of the Future Part 6 – The Move Towards Bio-Based Plastic Additives

Plastic Resins Rely on Bio-based Additives?

Most of the plastics we see around us use additives to modify performance. There are additives that add strength, stability, flexibility, color, impact resistance, UV protection, and dozens of other characteristics. These different types of additives give plastic resins the characteristics that make them commercially viable.

Typically, additives used in the plastics industry are mined or synthetic materials. These materials are typically heavy, toxic, and have a high carbon footprint. The toxicity of commonly used plastic additives has started to push companies toward testing bio-based additives that can be used as alternatives. 

When used in plastics, bio-based additives can help to reduce the carbon footprint of the end product. The entry of bio-based plastic additives in mass manufacturing is the beginning of the transition toward a sustainable future. 

Since plastic additives are a group of materials that are used as performance modifiers to bring out specific properties, research is centering around bio-additives and their specific properties. The science is proving they not only compare, but in many cases exceed the required characteristics for plastics additives. 

For example, companies that manufacture automobiles like lightweight plastic. This type of demand has driven bio-product development initiatives that focus specifically on lightweighting. Hemp for example is 60% lighter than talc or calcium carbonate and adds much more volume. 

Manufacturing Using Plastic Additives

Since, traditional additives such as talc, glass, and calcium carbonate are used in plastics to reduce cost or increase strength and durability, bio-additives are being used in the exact same ways. 

These additives are mixed with commonly used resins to create thermoplastic compounds with improved properties. Other bio-additives can add flame retardancy, reduce weight, add pigment, and can even improve the overall flexibility or rigidity of the material. 

There are even certain bio-additives that can reduce shrinkage during processing, reduce warpage during molding, and improve dimensional stability at elevated temperatures. The world of plastic additives doesn’t stop at talc, glass, and calcium carbonate. There are hundreds of bio-materials that can be used by plastic compounders. 

The Need for Bio-Based Plastic Additives

Plastic is an essential part of human life. Plastics exist in your house, car, phone, clothes, and everything in between. For decades, the plastics industry has been using mined or synthetic materials as additives for their products. 

Since most of these materials used as additives come from non-renewable resources, companies are left looking for more sustainable solutions. 

Bio-based plastic additives come from renewable resources such as plants, proteins, carbohydrates, and cellulose. These are the materials that can remove the toxic mineral additives that we have relied upon for decades. 

We have found that by replacing traditional additives with bio-based materials (industrial hemp specifically) we can reduce the carbon footprint of a plastic by up to 44%!

The development of bio-based plastic additives is a promising area for research, and a very hot topic in the era of sustainability and ESG mandates. All Fortune 500 companies have impending sustainability mandates that are grounded in carbon footprint reduction. Leveraging a reliable supply chain of high-performance, carbon-negative plastic additives is a drop in solution that can help large manufacturers hit their sustainability targets.

Assessing Your Bio-Based Plastic Additive

The first step in selecting a plastic additive is determining what type of outcome you’re looking for in your product. You should also think about how this material will affect the characteristics of your product, as well as the production process itself.

Since the main task of plastic additives is to improve the performance properties of the plastic that is being created, the selection process needs to take into consideration the application the plastic will be used for. 

One of the most promising bio-based additives we have researched is industrial hemp. While  hemp had a 10,000 year history of being a really strong natural fiber, up until 2019, it was heavily restricted in the U.S. Fortunately, the Farm Bill of 2018 solved that. For today’s high-performance applications, industrial hemp is positioned to be the premier bio-based plastic additive.

Why Hemp Will Lead the Bio-based Additive Revolution

Here are just a few reasons why industrial hemp will make a great plastic additive in mass manufacturing:

  • Hemp is renewable, biodegradable, and strong.
  • Hemp provides thermal and sound insulation. 
  • Hemp is a carbon-negative material. 
  • Hemp grows quicker than other agricultural materials. 
  • Hemp is 60-80% lighter than mineral additives like talc, glass, and calcium carbonate.

It has many useful properties that make it desirable in industrial applications, and its non-toxic nature makes it ideal for use in food packaging or storing foods.

There are many other reasons to choose hemp as:

  • it is very environmentally friendly
  • it does not require the same amount of energy to process as traditional materials
  • it is an easy crop to grow

Hemp products are seeing widespread adoption in the marketplace as consumers are becoming more aware of its benefits.

The Future of Bio-Based Plastic Additives

It’s difficult to predict what the future will bring, but one thing is for sure, our planet is moving toward a more sustainable future. 

Bio-based plastic additives are an easy transition point for manufacturers that have relied on traditional plastic additives for decades.

As our population continues to grow, so does the need for protecting our environment. In order to continue providing for people without destroying the planet, organizations need to work on new ways of production. One of the easiest steps toward a more sustainable future is the integration of bio-based plastic additives.

With these products, people will be able to make durable goods like toys, building materials, car parts, and food containers that have a lower carbon footprint.

With ever increasing competition for land, oil, and other natural resources, there is a need to find new ways of making things. This is where sustainable manufacturing, and more specifically, bio-based materials come in. 

The world’s population is increasing at an exponential rate. Bio-based plastic additives will reduce our carbon footprint while helping raw material suppliers hit the demand gap for goods around the globe.

When used in plastics, these additives can help to reduce the carbon footprint of the end product. The adoption of bio-based plastic additives in mass manufacturing is the beginning of our transition toward a sustainable future. 

Join us in making a world out of hemp.

Heartland Team