The UK makes approximately 1.7million tonnes of raw plastics every year. Some of the biggest polymer, plastic manufacturing companies in the UK are Ineos, Basell Polyolefins, Inovyn and Lotte Chemicals. The UK plastic processors consume more than 3.3 millions tonnes of material every year. As you can see from these two figures, the UK processes more polymer than it consumes and so is heavily reliant on imports of raw material. This reliance has proven problematic for the past 18 months due to the global pandemic, global shipping issues and global production plant issues.
Plastics can be bio-based or synthetic. Biobased as the name suggests are derived from renewable sources of hydrocarbons such as starch or fats and synthetic plastics are derived from fossil fuels. The vast majority of plastics manufactures are synthetic as it is easier to process crude oil and it is usually easier to recycle synthetic polymers. In Europe less than 5% of oil and gas reserves goes towards the production of plastic.
The basic production process follows the same steps. The extraction of the raw materials to produce the monomers, which are then processed to produce polymers. Within this process it is possible to vary different aspects to create plastics of different chemical and physical properties which allows different plastics to be created for different applications. These additives can include pigments (can be heavily loaded with pigment known as masterbatch) anti-microbials, fragrances, antioxidants, antistatic agents, blowing agents, flame retardants, heat stabilisers, impact modifiers, plasticisers - including biodegradable plasticisers, and process aids.
There are many different plastic processing processes. These include: blow moulding, compression moulding, dip moulding, extrusion, rim moulding, roto moulding and vacuum forming. The British Plastics Federation is the plastics industry trade association and has more than 450 member companies that span the entire supply chain. The BPF also has over 40 member companies that are involved in plastic recycling from which the output is then used by the processors again.
Rutland Plastics are experts in injection moulding and we have experience of working with almost all thermoplastics and additives available. To find out more about the different thermoplastics available and their properties and applications we have produced a table which gives brief details - please contact us to find out more.