Why food safe HDPE plastic replaced glass as the go-to milk container.
Many of you, should you be older than 60, may remember the “Milk Man”. This delivery service from decades ago, was a most common way of transporting milk to the consumer. Back then, suppliers used glass bottles, delivered by this milk man, right to your front door.
HDPE is Food Safe
When looking at alternatives, the milk processing industry found a use and benefit from replacing the glass with a plastic called High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). But what is HDPE, and what are the benefits of using it?
Glass is heavy, HDPE plastic is light
One of the characteristics of this thermoplastic is the weight of the material. The reason this is so beneficial brings us back to the milk jug. Old style glass milk containers could hold 32 oz., with the empty glass weighing 1.25 lbs. An empty gallon water or milk jug (128 oz.) weighs in at only 0.25 lbs, and holds 4 times more volume. When full, the milk jug can hold more volume than the glass bottle without compromising the strength, especially when being transported. This lowers the overall transport time and significantly reduces the cost of shipping.
This drop in weight and large increase in capacity is why the industry made the switch. The attribute of high durability in plastic materials like HDPE is known as the “strength to weight ratio”. As already mentioned, this was a huge benefit from switching to HDPE containers – the impact it has on transport costs. The high impact resistance of the material allows for easy transport. The HDPE jugs can withstand the jarring and bumping that is a natural part of mass transit, with almost zero wear or breakage to the product. Compared to the glass bottle, too hard of a turn or a pothole in the road could lead to the disheartening sound of shattering glass… not an ideal result for the distributing company. The HDPE impact resistance still holds true through out the supply chain, and even when the containers enter a store or home. If a HDPE milk jug should fall, the plastic container may spill, but it won’t cause the harm or damage that glass would. Broken glass poses a hazard and a risk, whereas plastic in this case can be easily cleaned, recycled, and used again.
When discussing this topic, the argument of recycling and sustainability sets its sights on plastics. In reality, the carbon footprint of plastics is much smaller than that of glass. The amount of heat necessary to heat up plastic for recycling is dramatically lower than that of glass, making it more sustainable in the long run. Yes, both are 100% recyclable, but the amount of fuel necessary plays a big factor. The temperature needed for melting and processing HDPE is between 248 and 356°F depending on grade. Whereas glass requires a minimum temperature of 2,600°F, according to SeattlePI. As you can see, these temperatures are very different, and shows why the life cycle of plastic is more eco-friendly and a better option to preserve our environment.
Immensely versatile HDPE applications
HDPE has many more uses, like in structural tanks, FDA approved cutting boards and industrial piping systems. This material outweighs most alternatives in benefits due to it’s cost and performance, and is produced in sheet and rod by many major manufacturers in the USA. HDPE plastics are FDA and NSF approved for food applications, making HDPE a food safe product for most food processing and packing applications. For more details on HDPE and it’s benefits see Industrial Plastic Supply or call 866-832-9315
What other applications could benefit from newer and improved materials to make our world safer, cleaner and more efficient?
The quick answer is: the opposite of single use plastic.
Performance plastics are a wide range of materials that are designed for use in mechanical, engineering, aerospace, food processing, and many other applications. These performance plastic materials generally have superior physical properties, and frequently are used to replace other materials like metals, wood and glass.
Most performance plastic sheets and rods are machinable, and can be used to replace other substrates that can not stand up to the same demanding applications that these performance plastics can. Performance plastics are the natural choice when considering replacement for traditional materials, such as bronze, stainless steel, glass, wood and copper, for not just one reason but rather a combination of features and benefits.
Nearly all Performance Plastic grades can be recycled.
Because of their cost-effectiveness as well as their reliability, durability, and special characteristics like resistance to chemicals and corrosion the high performance plastic materials are steadily replacing metals in the oil and gas industry. The constant development of new and better high performance plastics is therefore closely linked to the development and economic production of the range of available performance plastic materials. High performance plastics can be divided in amorphous and semi-crystalline polymers, just like all polymers.
Performance Plastics properties
Single Use Plastic properties
Long life – up to 50 years of service
Very short, often instant throw away
Little to no physical properties
High Heat Resistance
Very low melting point
Very light weight
Can be Very UV Resistant
Very Long Life
Extremely short life
Tough and Durable
Very High Impact Strength
Flimsy, low value
Why use a Performance Plastic?
Performance plastics are designed for repeated or multi-use applications and generate a smaller carbon footprint than glass, steel, or wood. High performance plastics are plastics that can perform well under extreme environments. Because most performance plastics are considered ‘self lubricating’, these materials can be made into parts that replace metals, and don’t require the continual maintenance and lubrication that metals require.
Over the past few decades Mechanical Plastics have increasingly replaced metals due to their strength-to-weight ratios, and resistance to wear have surpassed aluminum and steel, respectively. When certain additives are blended with thermoplastic polymers, this performance plastic can meet code and compliance requirements for smoke, flammability, and even toxic gas release. Several high end performance plastics can meet the stringent FM-4910 flame and smoke rating.
Performance Plastic materials are not ‘cheap’
As opposed to ‘single use’ plastics, the performance plastic materials are not inexpensive or ‘throw away’. Rather these high performance materials are designed for specific applications, and out perform most other substrates. Other characteristics of high performance plastics can be extraordinary resistance to wear and tear, high purity or particular electrical insulation. High performance plastics are plastics that can perform well under extreme circumstances. High performance plastics are best known for their temperature, chemical and wear resistance.
Performance Plastics offers high performance plastics for high performance applications, at economical prices, made by quality American made engineering plastics manufacturers. High-performance plastics are formulated to operate under extreme chemical, high temperature and heavy load applications or any combination of these. Most performance plastics are used where the highest demands are placed on thermal or chemical resistance, product mechanics, or on the self-lubrication of products.
In the performance plastic market, one size does not fit all. With over 50 high performance plastics, each with its own physical properties, several materials may be proper choices for your performance plastic requirement. Please feel free to call one of our certified and trained customer service personnel for assistance in choosing the best performance plastic for your application.
The history of metals is thought to have begun with the use of copper about 11,000 years ago. Gold, silver, iron, lead, and even some brass began to be used before the first known appearance of bronze in the 5th millennium BCE
Artifacts made of smelted iron have been found dating from about 3000 BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia. In those times, iron was a ceremonial metal; it was far too expensive to be used in everyday life. Metals are commonly very stiff, tough and strong. However, they are also generally quite heavy. Also, the cost to heat metal to production temperatures is extremely high, over 5 times that of Performance Plastic materials. When metals corrode they get smaller, and many can decompose to yield rust.
In comparison, plastics only were first made in the early 1900’s. The world’s first known fully synthetic plastic was bakelite (now days considered Phenolic), and was invented in New York in 1907 by Leo Baekeland who coined the term ‘plastics’. Since this date, thousands of chemists and material scientists have synthesized dozens of plastic base materials. Plastic materials are currently available in over 80 types, and each of these are molded or processed at slightly different temperatures. The wide range of performance plastic materials will allow you to choose the perfect material for your next application.
Some of The Advantages of New Performance Plastic Materials
New Higher Temperature Performance Plastic Materials
New Performance Plastic materials like Victrex 450g PEEK and Sabic Ultem 1000 have much higher use temperatures over previous performance plastic materials. The Ultem 1000 unfilled has a continual use temperature above 400 degrees F, while the newer Victrex 450g PEEK materials work well at 480 degrees F on a continuous basis. In addition to the higher temperatures, they are still food grade materials.
Most plastic materials can typically be molded in a temperature range of 400 to 600 degree F. While steel starts to melt at 2,500 degrees F. This is five times the temperature, meaning it takes 5 times the energy to convert steel instead of plastic. Lower temperatures equates to lower costs of production.
New Lower Weight Materials
The average plastic weighs just 20% of the average metal product. Many plastics have exceptional weight to strength ratios, meaning that for the weight of the product they are very strong. This low weight means much less raw materials and less impact on the environment if using plastics over metals. This results in lower cost to manufacture parts from plastics over metal.
For instance, new UV grades of HDPE or High Density Polyethylene are very light, with a density of just .96, so light it floats in water. And yet, this new UV grade of HDPE is a workhorse in the plastic market, and is used to replace wood and metals in outdoor furniture.
New Detectable Materials For Food Contact Approved
Most Performance Plastic materials were engineered to be food contact compliant, and in most cases FDA approved for food contact. With the increase in food recalls, finding the proper materials to ensure that our foods are safe is imperative. Materials like Acetal Copolymer, Acetal Homopolymer, Nylon, Ultem 1000 and Victrex 450g PEEK are all FDA approved for direct food contact.
Which Performance Plastic Will Work The Best
Here are some new performance plastic material grades that include additives to make these materials detectable during food processing. These newly released detectable products include Tecaform AH UD (copolymer acetal base), Tecapeek UD Blue (PEEK based) and Hydex 4101 UD Blue PBT – Polyester base). Each of these new performance plastic materials comes in Blue color to be detected by color sensors during food processing. The “UD” portion allows these materials to be detected by X-Ray and Metal Detection scanners in food processing production lines. Using these new detectable performance plastic materials in food processing plants can help to eliminate food contamination issues and massive food recalls.
Recent Rising Costs Of Transportation
Changes in transportation rules and regulations since 2018 have made shipping raw materials significantly more expensive. Weight, size restrictions and surcharges for longer packages have more than doubled in the last year.
This has made one of the most expensive components of materials reaching the marketplace is transportation costs, and over the last several years the costs of moving materials across the country has skyrocketed. Metals are heavy, and this weight makes many items very expensive to transport.
Each step in the production of a finished good generally involves shipping to the next step. Raw material converted into base material, then base material converted into usable shape. Later this shape is turned into a component or part. Each time there is a conversion, there normally is shipping to the next processor. Metal weight can limit the amount of metal that can be moved at one time, where plastics can ship up to five times more product per truckload.
With performance plastics, often the conversion in small factories that can be located near final assembly of components limits the amount of shipping of plastic parts. Also, due to the light weight of plastics, trucks can hold up to five times the amount of plastic over metals for shipping. Many plastic parts are made very close to where they will be consumed, cutting logistics fees. This five times the weight also translates to five times higher cost to ship metals. This reduction of transportation costs moves more profit to the bottom line.
New Performance Plastic Materials Eliminate Need For Lubrication
Often, on large metal parts or assemblies, grease ports are added to make lubricating the metal parts easy. Metal on metal parts will wear out very quickly, and therefore require regular service and lubrication.
Newly released performance plastic materials have made lubrication obsolete. One such material is a new compounded Nylon material, called Nylatech PVM has FDA approved oil additives. This new Cast Nylon material runs well for extended periods without external lubrication. This material runs quieter and smoother than previously used metal parts due to a much lower coefficient of friction, and requires no regular maintenance.
Another new grade of Performance Plastic material that is rated as ‘self-lubricating’, and have excellent wear resistance is Lub-X UHMW, which now makes curves in bottling plants move smoother, quieter and require no lubrication. These long wearing and high strength materials outperform most other substrate for low cost, high performance, low weight and self lubrication.
Each of these plastic advantages yield cost savings and long product life. Along with these new areas of advantage, Performance Plastics are 100% recyclable, and can be reprocessed into high strength parts again and again. The plastic recycling industry is still in its infancy, and as it becomes more adept at recycling and reusing valuable plastic materials, our planet and our pocket books will benefit.
During the last year, the number and size of food recalls has been staggering. With several major food processors, specifically in the poultry market, recalling massive amounts of product due to contamination, perhaps a change in material is in order, simply changing to a Metal or X-ray detectable plastic material may end recalls for contamination. The cost to change to a metal detectable plastic or x-ray detectable plastic is extremely small in comparison to the cost of these recalls.
What is a detectable Plastic
There are numerous quality high performance plastic materials that are available in Blue, X-ray and Metal detectable versions. These materials are designed with food safety in mind. These materials can assist the food industry and the food processing supply chain in keeping our foods safe. Identifying contaminates in the processing of foods can be made significantly easier with these detectable materials. Food safety should be the priority within the food processing industry. By changing to metal detectable plastic and X-ray detectable plastics, this can become a reality.
Metal Detectable Plastic and X-Ray Detectable Plastics
Here is a recent Press Release detailing the recalls and a rather straight forward and easy solution using detectable plastic.
(Newswire.net — October 10, 2016) Anaheim, CA – Can ‘Blue’ fix food recalls? –The year 2016 has seen some staggering food recalls by large food processors. Massive recalls of chicken specifically seem to have happened multiple times. The part that is the most amazing is that the root cause of many of these kinds of recalls is preventable. The specific recalls listed below are all for possible plastic contamination in the food product.
These large food processors should be aware of some simple steps that can totally eliminate these kinds of contaminates from getting into their food products.
Penny Wise, Pound Foolish
Keeping Food Processing Safe
While using FDA approved plastic materials for conveyor parts and moving components is a standard practice in most food processing plants, many processors use the cheapest available approved materials. This means that many producers are using a natural (white) HDPE, Acetal or other white approved plastic material. While it is safe to use these plastics, occasionally one of these parts gets jammed, breaks or wears to the point where parts can crack and pieces can get into the food processing line.
It Is Plain To See
The first easy step would be to use the same quality FDA approved material, but to buy the Blue metal detectable plastic version of the same approved material. This minor color change in the material makes any contaminates very easy to see with the naked eye. Since there are no food products in these bright blue colors, as long as there are employees looking at the food line, these broken pieces are easy to detect.
I Can See You
Speaking of detect, the big step up for detection of contaminates is to use a FDA approved plastic that is detectable by the X-ray or metal detection equipment already installed in these food processing lines. While these ‘metal detectable plastics’ cost more, they certainly cost less than one recent 4.5 million pound poultry recall.
The goal here is not to point the finger or call any company a ‘bad processor’, but rather to encourage these great food processors to use the ‘best practice’ types of materials to eliminate these monster food recalls.
In September 2016, Tyson Foods recalled 130,000 pounds of chicken nuggets for foreign materials in the product.
“According to Tyson Foods, the plastic material ranged in size from 21mm in length and 6.5mm in diameter and may have come from a round, hard plastic rod used to connect a plastic transfer belt. The firm said the products pass through a metal detector, but the plastic is not detectable to this technology,” the USDA recall announcement said.
Have You Considered Detectable Blue?
Blue Metal Detectable Plastics From Ensinger
Perhaps they could consider using a metal detectable plastic that is detectable by a standard metal detector. Industrial Plastic Supply has supplied this FDA approved Metal Detectable UHMW rod since early 2010. Currently, there are several FDA approved materials that are available in Blue; UHMW, Acetal, Nylon, Polyester and now PEEK. Some of these materials are also available in a ‘triple detection’ version, where it is detectable because of the vivid Blue color, and it is also Metal detectable and X-Ray detectable. One of these new versions is the Ultra-Detectable Polyester rod made by Ensinger® Plastics called Hydex® 4101 UD Blue (FDA Grade Polyester).
–In April and May of 2016, Pilgrim’s Pride had a recall totaling 5,550,904 pounds (yes 5.5 million pounds) of poultry do to possible foreign matter contamination.
The cost is staggering. To recall this quantity of food takes a small army of people to identify the possibly contaminated batches of food. Then notification is spread to all the possible distribution and wholesalers. The USDA is normally notified as one more step to notify the public.
Simple method to protect the safety of our food chain using detectable plastic materials
What is the cost to change to a more metal detectable plastic?
This depends on the type of plastic, and the detection method.
Let’s assume that the currently used material is an FDA approved grade of 1″ diameter Natural Acetal rod (a popular performance plastic used in food processing). And let’s assume this material would sell for approximately $2.00 – $2.50 per linear foot.
Changing to a Bright Blue FDA approved grade of Acetal Rod would cost about $3.50 – $4.00 per foot.
Upgrading to a Metal and X-ray detectable plastic that is FDA grade and Blue Acetal plastic rod would cost in the range of $8.25 – $9.00 per foot.
A recall of 100,000 pounds of poultry is, of course, significantly more expensive than upgrading the plastic materials in the food processing plant. Consider the upgrade an inexpensive insurance policy against these kinds of monster recalls, with a simple change to metal detectable plastic materials.
Metal Detectable Plastic and X-Ray Detectable Plastics Actually Saves Money
Contact us for more information on these Metal Detectable Plastic and X-Ray detectable plastic products. Blue Sheet and Rod are available in Acetal, Delrin®, Nylon, PBT – Polyester, and more. The special ‘triple detectable’ grades are currently produced in Acetal (Tecaform® UD Blue) and PBT – Polyester (Hydex® 4101 UD Blue). More materials are in final stages of development. Contact us for your special requirements.
Use the best available tools to narrow down the best plastic sheet material for your application.
What are the best methods to pick the proper plastic sheet material? Use the tools that the professionals use to find the best plastic material for your application.
Where To Begin
The process of picking the proper plastic material starts with determining the ‘must have’ physical properties needed for your application. Designing a part with the minimum performance factors in mind will help to eliminate an overly expensive part.
Critical factors to consider are:
Temperature requirements (short term and long term)
Chemical or Environmental Requirements
UV resistance (Will it be in direct sunlight)
Color or Transparency
Strengths (Impact and Compression)
Compliance Issues (Certification for FDA, NSF, Dairy, etc.)
Review The Plastic Property Comparison Guide
The first tool suggested is a chart produced by the IAPD (International Association of Plastic Distribution – http://iapd.org/) linked in picture below, and listed on this chart are the most common plastic sheet and plastic rod materials that are commonlyavailable. In addition, the chart compares the physical properties of these common plastic materials. Click on picture to access chart.
Included in this chart is a relative cost comparison, which will assist in limiting the materials to proper plastics for a application without over-designing and using an expensive ‘over kill’ material. Some common plastic sheet materials can be very expensive. Materials like PEEK (Polyetheretherketone) can be in the $100 per pound range or more.
Start Search With Temperature Resistance
After looking over the IAPD Physical Properties Chart, now it is time to evaluate specifics for your application. The critical factors listed above are ranked by most important to least important. If your part needs to handle a continuoustemperature of 300 degrees F, this is a critical physical property. Picking a material that softens at 250 degrees is a recipe for disaster. Pick a material that can handle the temperature first.
Will Part Have Chemical Exposure
Next, look at environmental requirements. Parts exposed to chemicals are important to research. Find the chemical make up and the concentration of the chemical to insure the material you pick can handle this solution. Many plasticshave excellent chemical resistance as evidenced by evaluating the container the chemicals are stored in already. Acommon plastic that is chemical resistant is Polypropylene, the same material used for automotive batteries. While Polypropylene and HDPE sheets are excellent in chemical resistance, their temperature range is quite limited. Also,these two plastics can not be easily bonded or glued, and would require heat welding for assembly.
Does Your Part Live In The Sun
Most plastics do not handle long exposure to direct sunlight without an additional UV additive. The one exception is Acrylic, which is the most UV resistant plastic sheet available. Some plastics handle UV well if they have a carbonblack additive, or a extra UV package added at time of production.
How Critical Is The Color
The most common colors in many plastic sheets are Natural (white to tan) and Black. While other colors are available with a special run, this may require a large minimum order. Some plastics, like HDPE are available in many colors andtextures for use in marine, playground and food processing applications. In many plastic applications, a machined partis being made, and the color is the least important factor. If it is an internal part of a machine, no one really cares about the color of the part. Some clients look for materials in a specific color to help ‘brand’ their parts for easy replacementand identification.
How Much Stress Will The Part See
Strength is a wide range of physical properties covering many stresses a part may be exposed to. From impact to compression, expansion to tensile strength, all of these can be critical in designing a plastic part. There are otherfactors in the ‘Strength’ realm, like Notched Izod and water absorption. If your part will be exposed to crushing pressure, pulling apart force or impact, these are critical things to consider prior to picking your plastic part.
PTFE is asoft and slippery plastic, but will ‘cold flow’ under high pressure, and High Pressure Laminates like G-10 FR 4 sheetcan withstand some of the highest pressures. The Notched Izod tests for materials that break easily if a scored mark has been made in the surface. Acrylics break very easily if scored, but UHMW will not break at all under the same test.
What Agency Approval May Be Required
In many applications a part may require approval or testing to meet a third party certification. One such common application is for materials in food processing applications. Common requests included UL ratings, Fire Ratings, Military specifications and many more. Food contact is a popular request, coving material that is either FDA (Foodand Drug Administration) or NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) approved. These agencies insure that materials are rigorously tested and comply with their requirements for safety. Some common materials used in food processing that meet the FDA certification are Acetal Copolymer – Acetal Homopolymer, HDPE, UHMW and Nylon, plus many others. Once these steps have been completed, several materials should present themselves as meeting your criteria andphysical property requirement. Unfortunately there is no one perfect plastic that works in all applications. However, for almost every application, there is a material that will work, and work better than most other substrates.