U.S.-based injection molder Evco Plastics Inc. is looking into the future of sustainability by contributing $100,000 to the plastics program at University of Wisconsin-Stout. The donation will focus on sustainability research. To further support the university, Evco staff will provide technical support to the Stout researchers throughout the year.
"The program in general is designed to leave students with an understanding of the physical processing [of plastics] and material analysis," said Cole Amborn, project engineer.
Evco has been supporting Stout's plastics engineering program for about 10 years now, but this is the first year that the company has funded a specific topic. Evco chose to target sustainability to help offer solutions to customers.
"This is the first big-scale donation that's going towards something really specific," said Anna Bartz, marketing director. "So, providing those working on those projects with the right equipment that they need to get materials they need to get there."
There are three projects that Evco is campaigning alongside the students. The first is a development of novel highway sound barriers using post-consumer material. This project is aimed to be optimizing the design of this component and build it in a scale-type environment and be able to test it. They will focus on what needs to be done to assemble the barriers and then learn what can be replaced with recycled plastics.
The second project Evco is supporting is a reverse cross-linking of a green thermosetting resin. This project will allow the development of materials with new properties but maintain the same reverse cross-linking ability in the end product. The result would be for the previously nonrecyclable polymers to become recyclable.
The third example of the guidance Evco is providing is helping with the characterization and processing of virgin and post-consumer materials. This will be to examine the molding process in physical, thermal, mechanical and rhetorical ways. Then the virgin and post-consumer materials will be compared.
"Those are just three of the examples that are of commercially important to us, and I think the findings can help inform some solutions that we offer to customers," Bartz said.
With this research happening, Evco is looking into its future and seeing what opportunities can come from the post-consumer materials and the connection it can make with creating a more circular economy.
"Our hands are kind of tied from a material standpoint a lot of times," Bartz said. "But we want to get to a point to where we're making this part, here's the material that you came to us with, here's a PCR [post-consumer] alternative."
Along with the donation, Evco recently launched a sustainability council, which focuses on both internal and external sustainability solutions. Evco plans to share the findings of this council with customers.
Evco currently has operations in Wisconsin, Georgia, Mexico and China.