When we reflect on many of the modern conveniences that much of the world enjoys, it is very likely that in one way or another, plastic is involved. Plastics are inexpensive, light-weight, and have a variety of applications, from bicycle helmets, to electronic devices, to medical equipment, to packaging and beyond. They make vehicles lighter, reducing transportation emissions, and can extend the shelf-life and hygiene of food and beverages that helps limit food waste. While plastics have enabled countless components of our modern lives, there is a growing concern for the impact plastic waste is having on the environment. In 2017, more than 348 million tonnes of plastic was produced worldwide, with around 40 per cent being used for plastic packaging . After first use, a staggering 95 per cent of plastic packaging material value is lost – never to be used again. This represents $120 billion in material loss each year.
Recycling rates vary considerably from country to country. Within Europe, less than 30 per cent of plastic waste is collected for recycling. In the United States, it’s estimated that only around 8 per cent of plastic waste is recycled. Within developing countries that have little or no waste management infrastructure, this figure is closer to 0. Herein lies the problem. Without a sufficient, widespread end-of-life option, the economic benefits of a more ‘circular’ approach to plastic waste materials are lost and often end up in the environment. It is estimated that globally, 5-13 million tonnes of plastics enter our oceans every year. This leakage accounts for between 1.5 to 4 per cent of global plastics production.
Growing concern for our oceans and natural environment has spurred consumers, companies, and governments around the world into action. This has led to two main courses of action – creating sustainable alternatives to single – use products, or where this is not possible, building up infrastructure to create a more circular economy. On both of these fronts, Dispensers are able to offer solutions to customers. For some, refillable dispensers using permanent plastic, stainless steel, aluminum or glass materials offer a sustainable alternative to more wasteful systems. In certain markets, where hygiene or tamper-proof design is the priority, closed/disposable systems can be designed/optimized for recyclability and made with post-consumer recycled plastics, which supports the creation of a circular economy. Successful implementation of either strategy will provide both a boost to the economy, while reducing waste.
Plastics in a Circular Economy
Plastic resins are typically derived from crude oil and are refined into monomers, then polymers, and ultimately into plastic pellets that are used in the manufacture of plastic products. Material choice is dependent on the final application, with polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and polypropylene (PP) as popular choices for packaging material.
Where sufficient infrastructure and facilities exist, many plastic types, such as PE, PET, and PP, can be collected, sorted, cleaned, and reprocessed from curbside collection systems into high-quality plastic pellets that can be used to create new plastic products. These plastic materials are known as post-consumer-recycled (PCR) materials. PCR plastic materials present a more sustainable and economically beneficial feedstock option as they allow us to close material loops while at the same time maintaining natural resources and reducing carbon emissions. Life-cycle assessments (LCAs) on end-of-life management options for plastics demonstrate that recycling plastics has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than other end-of-life options including landfilling or incineration.  According to some estimates, if we were able to recycle all plastic waste on a global scale, the potential annual energy savings would be equivalent to approximately 3.5 billion barrels of oil each year.
Sustainable Plastics with Longevity in Mind
While the integration of PCR plastics is a more sustainable alternative to virgin plastic material, product longevity is also a key consideration for those interested in opting for more sustainable solutions.
California recently announced a state-wide ban on mini shampoo bottles in hotel rooms, to take effect for hotel establishments with more than 50 rooms in 2023, and for hotel establishments with fewer than 50 rooms by 2024. The ban will effectively prevent millions of these small single-use bottles from being discarded every year. As an alternative, many hotel chains are opting for mounted dispenser units that contain the brand name soap and personal care products that consumers want, but with significantly less waste.
Long-lasting and PCR Dispensers
In an effort to ease the transition, and provide a more sustainable alternative to mini amenities bottles, OPHARDT Hygiene has been developing a stylish and versatile hotel amenities dispenser. The dispenser will enable hotels to forgo the landfill without sacrificing quality of experience. As an added environmental benefit, dispenser components can be manufactured using PCR or bio-based plastics.
OPHARDT also offers sustainable alternatives to plastic dispensers, with the SanTRAL and ingo-man dispenser series. SanTRAL, made of Stainless Steel, is a refillable washroom series made to be vandalism proof. The aluminum or stainless steel ingo-man series is designed for healthcare environments, and offers autoclavable stainless steel pumps. Both have a 5-year warranty.
To learn more about this dispenser and other OPHARDT products and sustainability efforts, please visit ophardt.com