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Can Paper Materials Reduce Pollution And Carbon?

Views: 60     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2022-12-17      Origin: Site

Plastic has been criticized for its extensive pollution and its chemical composition, and has even been considered the worst invention of the 20th century. In the process of moving towards a green, low-carbon, and circular society, the advantages of plastic materials are gradually being lost compared with other materials. There is a growing call to develop alternative materials to plastics through technological innovation. In this context, custom plastic container manufacturers are also trying to replace plastic materials with paper materials to reduce pollution and carbon emissions. However, our current understanding of plastics still cannot curb people's rapidly growing demand for plastic products.

paper tubes

Global plastic production has doubled in the past 20 years, with more than half of all plastic produced since 2004. This also reflects the extensive use of plastics from the side. Does the production and use of plastic products necessarily bring pollution? Or will the development of alternative materials for plastics be able to reduce pollution and carbon? the answer is negative. We believe that plastics not only play an important role in everyday life, but also have great potential for improving resource efficiency and reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The problem of plastic pollution is fundamentally caused by the imperfection of the current recycling system, including the low economic efficiency of recycling. This requires us to take measures to increase the recycling of plastics, avoid or reduce the environmental leakage of plastics, and continuously improve the environmental performance of plastic products.

The packaging industry is the main application field of plastics

The application of plastics is mainly concentrated in the packaging industry, which is also the area where plastics cause the greatest environmental impact.

From an international point of view, plastic packaging materials come from resins, mainly including five main resins including PP, PE, PVC, ABS and PS, accounting for about 67-75% of the total plastic output.

Since the 1950s, two sectors worldwide have accounted for more than 60% of plastic manufacturing and use: the packaging industry and the construction industry, of which plastic packaging alone accounts for 44.8% of the total plastic consumption. In the consumption of plastic packaging, food plastic packaging is the largest industry, accounting for about 70% of plastic packaging, followed by custom plastic bottle packaging used in beverage, medical and other industries.

Although the main application area of plastics is in the packaging industry, paper tube packaging still dominates the entire packaging industry. Packaging products are divided by material, usually including five categories of paper, plastic, metal, glass and cork packaging. At present, paper packaging is the largest category in the packaging industry. It has become the most widely used packaging in the market due to its advantages such as easy processing, low cost, suitable for printing, light weight, foldable, non-toxic, tasteless, and pollution-free. materials, followed by plastic packaging materials.

Paper packaging materials may not be lower-carbon and more environmentally friendly than plastic packaging materials

Plastic pollution has become a growing, global environmental problem and threat. Across the globe, from deserts to farmlands, from mountaintops to the deep sea, from tropical landfills to Arctic and Antarctic snowfalls, plastic pollution is found in even the most remote parts of the world. Plastic is also a source of greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from plastics were estimated at 1.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2015 and will account for 17% of global carbon emissions in 2050.

In view of the global and "notorious" plastic pollution, there is a tendency in the industry to replace plastic packaging with paper packaging to reduce pollution and carbon. An implicit premise is that the environmental impact of paper packaging materials is lower than that of plastic packaging. In fact, traditional paper packaging is not as low-carbon and environmentally friendly as people imagine, and it is also a high energy consumption and high pollution product.

The main reasons are as follows:

First of all, the paper industry is a high-energy, high-pollution, high-emission industry. Fossil energy accounts for more than 80% of the fuel it uses, and its carbon emissions account for nearly 2% of China's total carbon emissions (1.67% in 2015), second only to electricity, petrochemicals, chemicals, building materials, steel, and non-ferrous metals. And other high energy-consuming industries, thus becoming one of the first eight industries included in my country's carbon trading. Moreover, the paper industry also produces and discharges a large amount of pollutants, polluting water and air.

Secondly, custom paper packaging is easy to aggravate the pressure and contradiction between supply and demand of resources. Paper comes from natural resources, especially forest resources. China is a country that is not rich in forest resources. With the increase of demand for paper products, the supply pressure of resources is increasing. In 2020, the national paper and cardboard production volume has reached 113 million tons, and the consumption volume has reached 118 million tons. It is expected that the output and consumption of paper and paperboard will continue to grow in the coming period. At the same time, the production and consumption of paper products in my country are increasingly dependent on the international market. Since 2003, my country's pulp imports have been ranked first in the world, and the demand is increasing. Among them, the import volume of wood pulp has reached 30.64 million tons in 2020, accounting for 72.8% of my country's total wood pulp consumption, which has also led to a large contradiction between supply and demand in the entire market. By improving the recycling of waste paper and developing alternative ways to make pulp with some fast-growing plants such as straw and bamboo, it will help alleviate the contradiction between supply and demand in the market. However, in the long run, with the promulgation of the waste ban and the increasingly fierce market competition for recycled waste paper, opportunities and challenges coexist in the paper industry. Under the double-carbon target, the requirements for energy saving and carbon reduction in the paper industry are increasing, which not only promotes the transformation and upgrading of the paper industry, but also makes paper companies pay more and more attention to pulp production, chemical recycling, bleaching, waste heat recovery, waste paper utilization, Research and development of energy-saving and low-carbon technologies and the use of low-carbon clean materials in production processes such as cogeneration of heat and power.

Where is the way out for reducing emissions from plastic packaging materials?

Based on the above analysis, the identification of the environmental and climate impact of plastics requires a full life cycle analysis, which cannot be limited to a certain link or stage. To deal with the environmental impact of plastics, it is fundamental to strengthen the recycling of plastics and increase the recycling rate of plastics, rather than simply replacing them with paper materials. Of these there is huge potential to be tapped, as 90.5% have not been recovered to date. On the other hand, it is necessary to promote clean energy transformation in the plastic production process. If 100% renewable energy is used in the plastic production process, it can reduce emissions by 51%.

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