How to think about plastics in 2020: Page 2 of 2

The European Packaging and Film Association (PAFA) says that the average spoilage of food between harvest and table is 3% in the developed world, compared to 50% in developing countries where plastic pallets, crates, trays, film and bags are not as commonly available. This data point shows us that plastics play an integral role in the preservation of food. In a world where many go hungry, it is advantageous to continue to support an industry that helps to keep food on tables and families fed, while reducing food waste.

Plastics and cars

Turning our attention to plastics’ relationship with the automotive industry, let's start with safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that today’s seat belts, which are made with industrial-strength plastics, have the potential to reduce auto fatalities by as much as 45% and serious injury by 50%, compared with not being buckled in.

Beyond the seat belt and other accessories, modern plastics can be made to be resilient and flexible, soft and cushioned, or tough and shatter-resistant. This allows them to contribute to vehicle safety in a substantial way.

Car manufacturers rely on plastic to make lightweight materials that reduce the weight of automobiles so they can meet the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard, which is set to increase to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. I predict that the use of plastics to minimize the weight of cars will be an integral part of car manufacturers’ efforts to meet these new standards. Therefore, the plastics industry will be contributing in improvements to fuel efficiency that will ultimately reduce the environmental footprint of vehicles.

Plastics and healthcare

Did you know that plastic materials increase the efficiency and hygiene of your physician’s office? Plastic syringes and tubing are disposable to reduce disease transmission. Plastic intravenous (IV) bags and tubing that store and deliver blood, fluid, and medicine let healthcare workers more easily view dosages and replacement needs. Plastic heart valves and knee and hip joints save lives and make patients’ lives more comfortable. Plastic prostheses help amputees regain function and improve their quality of life.

Plastics and jobs

Consider a world in which the plastics industry in America suddenly came to an end. While some would celebrate this, I imagine that the cheers from those who are “anti-plastic” would very quickly be drowned out by the 989,000 individuals in the United States who collect their paychecks and support their families thanks to job opportunities within the plastics industry. 

In 2020, the argument to remove plastics from our way of life entirely is not a feasible option. Plastics’ contribution to the health of our environment, the safety and durability of our healthcare products, the fuel efficiency on our roads and the growth of the economy—and so much more—tells us that it is worth putting our best efforts toward understanding this debate further.

About the author

Alex Hoffer is Vice President of Sales and Operations at Hoffer Plastics Corp., a leading global supplier of tight-tolerance, custom injection molded parts. He leads the company’s sales growth strategy across a diverse set of markets, including flexible and rigid packaging, automotive, appliances and consumer industrial. Alex Hoffer’s leadership in developing the Trust-T-Lok product line for spouted pouches has helped to supply more than one billion Trust-T-Lok fitments to the international marketplace. Today, his focus is on launching a fully recyclable pouch, and utilizing spouted pouch technology to address food waste and other human impact challenges.

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