Polycarbonate – A sustainable material for Signage
You may have seen our Environmental credentials, but we want to go into more detail into how we select components for our signage that meet our strict environmental criteria.
This week it’s the turn of Polycarbonate. Here we look at its strong environmental credentials, and why as a result, it’s a great sustainable product for us to use in signmaking.
In a world increasingly focused on environmental sustainability, but in a sector (ie Signage and Lighting) that it’s fair to say has been behind the game in this regard, recycling has become a crucial component in minimising waste and preserving natural resources.
Polycarbonate, a versatile and widely used thermoplastic, has gained prominence in various industries for its exceptional strength, transparency, and heat resistance. Fortunately, recycling polycarbonate has become a relatively straightforward process, contributing to the broader goal of creating a circular economy and reducing the environmental impact of plastic waste.
Polycarbonate is a type of plastic that belongs to the polyester family. Known for its toughness and optical clarity, it is commonly used in the production of eyewear lenses, DVDs, medical devices, and numerous other applications. Despite its widespread use, the environmental implications of polycarbonate have raised concerns due to its non-biodegradable nature. That’s why re-use and recycling is paramount. and there’s good news on this front.
Fig.1 – Hundreds of everyday household items are produced from polycarbonate
The Polycarbonate Recycling Process
Recycling polycarbonate involves a series of steps that can be efficiently executed, making it a viable option for sustainable waste management. The process typically includes collection, sorting, cleaning, shredding, melting, and finally, the creation of recycled polycarbonate pellets.
- Collection – The first step involves gathering polycarbonate waste from various sources, such as manufacturing plants, consumer products, and post-consumer recycling programs. It is crucial to ensure that the collected materials are free from contaminants to maintain the quality of the recycled product.
- Sorting – Once collected, the polycarbonate waste is sorted to separate it from other types of plastics. Automated sorting systems equipped with advanced technologies, such as near-infrared spectroscopy, help streamline the process, making it both efficient and accurate.
- Cleaning – To maintain the integrity of the recycled material, the sorted polycarbonate is thoroughly cleaned to remove any impurities or residual substances. This step is vital for producing high-quality recycled polycarbonate
- Shredding – The cleaned polycarbonate is then mechanically shredded into smaller pieces, facilitating the subsequent melting process. Shredding increases the surface area of the material, making it easier to handle during the recycling process
- Melting – The shredded polycarbonate is melted down to form a molten mass. This molten material can be shaped into pellets or moulded into new products. The melting temperature of polycarbonate is relatively low compared to other plastics, which makes the process energy-efficient
- Pelletisation – The molten polycarbonate is extruded into small pellets, which can be used as raw material for various manufacturing processes. These recycled polycarbonate pellets possess similar properties to virgin polycarbonate, ensuring that they can be used in a wide range of applications.
Benefits of Recycling Polycarbonate
Conservation of Resources – Recycling polycarbonate helps conserve valuable natural resources by reducing the demand for virgin materials. This contributes to the preservation of fossil fuels and other raw materials used in the production of polycarbonate.
Energy Efficiency – The recycling process for polycarbonate requires less energy compared to the production of new plastic from raw materials. This energy efficiency is crucial in the quest for sustainable manufacturing practices.
Waste Reduction – Recycling polycarbonate minimises the amount of plastic waste sent to landfills or incineration, helping to address the growing issue of plastic pollution. By incorporating recycled polycarbonate into new products, manufacturers can contribute to the reduction of environmental harm associated with plastic disposal.
Economic Opportunities – The recycling industry provides economic benefits by creating jobs in collection, sorting, processing, and manufacturing. Additionally, the production of recycled polycarbonate pellets can offer a cost-effective alternative to virgin materials, promoting economic sustainability.
Challenges and Future Developments
While recycling polycarbonate has proven to be a viable solution, challenges still exist. Contamination, lack of standardised collection systems, and limited consumer awareness are among the obstacles that need to be addressed. However, ongoing research and advancements in recycling technologies are paving the way for more efficient processes and increased acceptance of recycled polycarbonate in various industries.
The ease of recycling polycarbonate offers a promising avenue for sustainable waste management and the creation of a circular economy. As global awareness of environmental issues continues to grow, the demand for recycled materials, including polycarbonate, is expected to rise. By embracing recycling as a fundamental practice, we can contribute to a greener future, mitigating the environmental impact of plastic waste and fostering a more sustainable and responsible approach to material use and disposal.
We’re extremely proud of the fact that all of our lighting and signage is made here in Britain, keeping air miles to a minimum. On top of that, our careful selection of high quality environmentally-friendly raw materials is essential for us.