Everyone is familiar with single-use plastics — products that are used once and then discarded or recycled. Plastic cups, water bottles, straws, utensils, bags, takeout containers.
Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year worldwide, and half of that is used in single-use items.
But not all plastics are created equal, said Erica Wright, VP of Finger Lakes Extrusion.
The company manufactures performance plastics — plastics that are highly durable, versatile, and made for multi-use applications. Most can be recycled or reused.
Performance plastics play a vital role in many industries. Top markets include aerospace, agriculture, automotive, construction, electrical, food and beverage, medical, security, semiconductor, and transportation.
Performance plastics offer several advantages over other materials like wood, metal, or glass. They are lightweight, corrosion-resistant, long-lasting, and easy to shape.
As a component in a larger product or system, performance plastics help improve efficiencies, reduce fuel and energy consumption, and lower costs.
At one-seventh the weight of some metals, performance plastics used in medical devices, for example, can increase comfort and lessen fatigue for surgeons.
A U.S. Department of Energy study found that reducing a vehicle’s weight by 10% with the help of plastic components could boost fuel economy by 5-7%.
Effective and reliable in varied environments
Finger Lakes Extrusion is a member of the International Association of Plastics Distribution, or IAPD – a professional organization centered on performance plastics. Wright is a member of its Environmental Committee, which is working to help change the perception of plastics and educate people about ways to effectively recycle them.
Plastics have tremendous flexibility — literally and figuratively — to meet nearly any demand.
Finger Lakes Extrusion’s specialty is flexible plastic tubing. Its products are found in ventilation systems that pump oxygen to hospital patients; in the machines farmers use to milk their cows; in the equipment your local restaurant or creamery uses to dispense your favorite beer on tap or soft serve ice cream.
Last month, the company responded to a mine explosion in Alabama, providing long, continuous tubing that was used to test the air inside the mine to make sure it was safe for emergency responders to enter.
Responsible and sustainable
Located in the Finger Lakes region of New York State — renowned for its pristine lakes, bucolic farmland, sprawling vineyards, and abundant wildlife — Finger Lakes Extrusion is committed to environmental sustainability.
The company recycles or reuses any unused materials in its production process. Any excess it cannot reuse is sent to other companies or recyclers that can.
For example, the company produces a braided tubing product with embedded yarn that cannot be separated from the plastic once it’s made. But another manufacturer is able to take that product and repurpose it into garden hoses.
Other excess is remade into post-industrial recycled materials that other manufacturers can use in their processes.
The end result is nearly 100% reusable materials and products.
Making our lives better
Performance plastics are part of our everyday lives and in many ways, help make our lives better — through lifesaving medical devices, energy-efficient homes and buildings, safer consumer products, longer-lasting foods, a healthier environment.
They can help businesses achieve sustainability goals while gaining efficiencies and staying competitive.
“Plastics are a great resource that give us a wonderful quality of life,” said Wright. “Yes, the world needs to do a better job collecting and recycling single-use items. But our lives would be very different without performance plastics.”