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Recycled Plastic Bio-Composites in the Consumer Industry

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Recycled Plastic Bio-Composites in the Consumer Industry

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  • November 29, 2012
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Consumer Industry

The adaptation of natural fiber composites in the consumer industry has not had the same explosive growth as with the transportation or even the construction industry. The benefits of cost savings and weight reduction that can be obtained with natural fiber composites played a significant role for the proliferation into those respective industries. But in the consumer market, stemming from the rise of synthetic fibers starting in the 1940’s, glass fiber and carbon fibers have dominated the market for composites due to their superior mechanical properties. From the 1970’s onward, petroleum-based fibers replaced natural fiber so that, worldwide, the cropping of natural fibers entered into steep decline, causing economic stagnation in the producer regions. In addition to the competition with synthetic fibers, innovation in transport facilities also contributed to the decline of natural fibers, particularly the advent of commodity bulk handling facilities in long distance trade, which eliminated the use of food-grade sacks altogether. Jute has always been the most important natural fiber but it too suffered long decline. In 1990, 2.1 million hectares were planted in jute, which fell to 1.6 million in 2000 and is projected to slump to 1.2 million hectares by 2010, a retraction of about 3% a year. During the same period, production also fell from 3.3 million tons to 2.6 million tons and is projected to diminish to 2.3 million tons by 2010. During this period jute consumed in the developed countries fell by 40% and that consumed in developing countries by 10%.(1) During the past two decades, there has been a renewed interest in development of natural fiber plastic composites for the consumer industry. Two of the most prominent factors that are fueling this resurgence originate from the environmental impact of using these composites and the technological advances that address the disadvantages of fiber composite production and usage. Natural fibers...