(Nov. 14, 2008) — Adam Bell of Rotuba Extruders Inc. recently wrote a Plastics News Perspective [Sustainability isn't just a fad, Oct. 13, Page 6] in which he implies that only bio-based polymers for food and drink containers are bisphenol A- and phthalate-free.
While this may be a catchy marketing pitch, it is highly misleading. You really don't have to be a chemist to know that polypropylene, polyethylene and PET contain neither BPA nor phthalates and are more widely used for food packaging than either polycarbonate or PVC, which are alleged to contain these two questionable materials.
It does not do our industry any good to be throwing stones at perfectly legitimate products with such loose assertions.
As for the term sustainability, it has so many unsaid assumptions built into it that it could stand for almost anything. If it is being used to refer only to oil- and gas-derived materials, then people should say so directly and not dance all around the term with vague statements.
One must remember that virtually almost any current hydrocarbon polymer could also be made from biological materials but at much higher costs.
The first plastic materials were cellulosics; later, our industry switched to oil- and gas-based polymers because these raw materials and the processes to make polymers from them were cheaper and generated far less waste. Bio-based polymers have yet to show conclusively that they have a smaller total carbon footprint than present conventional polyolefins and polyesters.
Marketing is one thing, science is another. Plastics is an industry that cannot be divorced from science, nor should it be. We should not contribute to the present public confusion by using hype in preference to scientific accuracy. Doing so is a disservice to both the public and our industry.
Roger F. Jones
Franklin International LLC