When we opened our doors back in 1967, the Beatles were singing about Sgt. Pepper, movie tickets cost $1.25 and the world’s first heart transplant operation was performed. While much has changed since during the last 50 years, our commitment to crafting the highest quality plastic packaging has remained the same. In honor of our 50th anniversary, we’d like to share 50 facts about plastic, plastic packaging and our services.
1. The First Manmade Plastics Were Bio-Based
We’ve been using natural plastics and rubber for hundreds of years, but the first official manmade plastic was introduced in the 1860s. Known as Parkesine and named for its inventor Alexander Parkes, this plastic was made from cellulose, a natural material.
2. Polyethylene Terephthalate Is The Most Widely Used Plastic
Polyethylene Terephthalate is a mouthful, so we just call it PET and this type of plastic is perhaps the most widely used thermoform plastic. You can create many types of plastic packaging with PET, and it is the source for most of the plastic water bottles we use.
3. PET Can Be A Fabric
While PET is an excellent option for many types of plastic packaging, it also is used to make fabric. We don’t call this fabric, PET fabric, it’s better known by the name polyester.
4. Each Plastic Has A Code
If you look on plastic packaging or plastic, you may see a triangle of arrows with a number inside. These numbers are known as resin identification codes, and they are put on packaging and bottles so that recycling centers can sort these materials. Currently, there are seven different resin codes for thermoform plastics.
5. PET Is Easy To Recycle
Of all the different thermoform plastics available, PET is one of the easiest for consumers to recycle. Its resin identification code is 1, and virtually all curbside recycling programs in the United States accept PET.
6. High-Density Polyethylene Is Easy To Recycle
Along with PET, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is also one of the easiest plastic materials to recycle. HDPE features a resin code of 2, and most recycling programs also accept HDPE as well as PET.
7. Clamshells Are Blisters
You might read that statement several times and have no idea what we are talking about. Blisters are a common type of plastic packaging that we create, and these often have paperboard backings. However, a blister pack can be folded onto itself with a hinge at one end. When we do this, we call this package a clamshell.
8. Plastics Can Save Lives
Plastic stents are used during heart surgery to open up blockages in coronary arteries. In fact, some of these stents actually dissolve over time, helping improve the condition of a heart and then just disappearing.
9. Tennis Balls Are Plastic
It might surprise you to learn that tennis balls are made of PET, and often recycled PET that was once used for water bottles and milk jugs.
10. Golf Balls Are Plastic, Too
Plastic is stronger than you might think, and golf balls are certainly proof of that fact. These plastic balls can withstand the punishment of irons and woods repeatedly, with very little damage.
11. Thermoform Plastics & Thermoset Plastics
While these two “thermos” words might sound similar, they are quite different. Both are formed by heating up plastic, but thermoform plastics can be reused and recycled. Thermoset plastics cannot be recycled, but are useful for making car parts, computers and many other items.
12. Plastic Is Used As A Slang Term
The word plastic is commonly used in place of the words credit card or money, but it also can be used to describe a person who is shallow. The “shallow” usage sprang up during the 1960s, and was often used by the hippie and beatnik crowds.
13. PET Can Be Transformed Into Helpful Items
When PET is recycled, this thermoform plastic can be transformed into many helpful items, including upholstery, clothing, stuffed animals, toys, carpet and much more.
14. HDPE Also Can Be Transformed
As we stated before, PET and HDPE are accepted by most curbside recycling programs. When recycled, HDPE can be used to make plastic lumber, benches, liners for truck cargo bins and more.
15. PVC Was An Accident
Many substances were discovered accidently. PVC, which stands for polyvinyl chloride was discovered once in 1835 and then again in 1872, although neither of the chemists that discovered PVC utilized their discovery. It wasn’t until the 1920s that PVC became a commonly used plastic.
16. PVC Is Used For More Than Pipes
Most of us think about PVC as a material used to make water pipes, and this certainly is one application. However, it also can be used to make tents and tarps and different types of clothing.
17. You Can Visit “Plastic City”
Every city, no matter how large or small, tends to boast a nickname or two. Here in Portland, we are known as the City of Roses, and people visit here every year to enjoy the blooms at the International Rose Test Garden. However, if you were hoping to visit an official Plastic City, then you’d want to go a bit further east to Leominster, Massachusetts, which was well-known for its plastic industry.
18. There Once Was A Museum Dedicated To Plastic
If you wished to visit the National Plastics Hall of Fame, we are sorry to inform you that you have missed your chance. This hall of fame was an exhibit at the National Plastics Center & Museum located, not surprisingly, in Leominster, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, this fascinating museum closed its doors in 2008, but we can always hope for a reopening.
19. Tupperware Transformed The World
Well, maybe not the world, but definitely the ease of food storage. Tupperware was introduced shortly after World War II, providing housewives with an opportunity to store food safely and easily, as well as a great excuse to have a party. In fact, Tupperware is still mainly sold via Tupperware parties or through consultants.
20. Bubble Wrap Isn’t Just For Fun
We all know that Bubble Wrap wasn’t invented simply to provide children with hours of fun, the original purpose was to serve as packaging for some of the first computers way back in the early 1960s. Bubble Wrap is actually a brand name, but much like Kleenex and Band Aid, we tend to use the name generically, even though it is a trademarked term.
21. Plastic Flamingoes Are An Official Bird
Many cities and all of our states feature an official bird. In Portland, our official bird is the Great Blue Heron. In Madison, Wisconsin, the official city bird is the plastic flamingo. Apparently, this distinction derives from an incident that occurred in 1979, when a group of pranksters placed more than 1,000 of these plastic birds in front of the Dean’s Office at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
22. Teflon Was An Accident
Roy Plunkett was a legendary American chemist. During his time at DuPont, one of his tasks was to create a new type of Freon, which is a gas used for refrigeration. As he experimenting with various compounds, he accidently hit upon the formula for Teflon. This was not the first time, or the last, when a chemist searching for solutions to one problem, ended up finding solutions for another problem.
23. Plastics Protect Our Police & Soldiers
Kevlar, another item developed by the chemists at DuPont, was first used in the tires of racecars. However, it later was found to be an excellent synthetic fiber for the construction of body armor. Kevlar is used to create helmets and vests for soldiers and police as well as other protective clothing.
24. Recycling Saves Energy
Did you know that recycling just one plastic water bottle saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for more than five hours? While almost all of the materials we use are recyclable, our clients also can opt to use recycled materials for their thermoform plastic packaging.
25. We Use Many Types Of Plastic
At Indepak, we have a wide variety of thermoforming equipment which allows use to use many different types of thermoform plastics. Some of the plastics we use include HDPE, PET and PVC, which were mentioned earlier in this article. We also can use PP, ABS, HIPS, OPS and more.
26. We Use ABS Every Day
You could say that about a wide range of thermoform plastics, but if you work in an office and use a keyboard daily, chances are your keyboard is crafted from ABS, otherwise known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.
27. Many Kids Use ABS Every Day, Too
ABS is used for keyboards as well as those face plates we place over wall sockets. However, the younger set uses colorful ABS blocks, better known as LEGOs, to build all manners of structures.
28. Polystyrene & Styrofoam
We use polystyrene for many plastic packaging applications, and this thermoform plastic is sometimes confused with Styrofoam, due to the similarity of the name. Styrofoam is a trademarked name for polystyrene foam, and while we do produce products using foam materials, there are other “varieties” of polystyrene that don’t have a foamy texture.
29. HIPS Is A Versatile Type Of Polystyrene
We use HIPS (high impact polystyrene) to make a number of items every year. This particular variety of polystyrene has many advantages. For instance, it is FDA compliant, which makes it an option for food packaging. It offers good impact resistance, so it is highly protective. It also is quite affordable, and that’s always a good thing.
30. Understanding The “Poly” In Thermoform Plastics
All of these chemical names can be a bit confusing, and the word root “poly” shows up a great deal. A few examples include high density polyethylene, low density polyethylene and polystyrene and polypropylene and on and on. Poly is a root that means “many” and from a chemistry perspective, it has to do with polymers, which are substances formed by many long chains of molecules.
31. Yogurt, Margarine & The Polypropylene Connection
If you enjoy eating yogurt for breakfast or spreading margarine on a slice of toast, chances are you have come into contact with polypropylene. This thermoform plastic, also known as PP, is used to make many types of plastic packaging, especially for the food and pharmaceutical industries.
32. There Are Plastic Organizations
If you love plastics as much as we do, you might be interested to learn that there are quite a few organizations out there for those of us in the plastics trade. For instance, the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) is an international group that was founded in 1942. The Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP) is another organization. These are just two of the many organizations that benefit those of us in the plastics industry.
33. There Are Periodicals About Plastic
Just about any industry has its shares of handy periodicals, such as magazines, and the plastics industry is no exception. For instance, Plastics Technology is a monthly magazine that provides technical information about thermoforming, injection molding and other plastics processing. This is just one of several periodicals that might be helpful and informative to someone in our industry.
34. Vinyl Records Are Plastic
The very first vinyl record made its debut in 1946, and these new records were crafted from polyvinyl chloride or PVC. Prior to that, records were made from shellac, which is a natural resin secreted by a type of bug.
35. Is It Nylon Or Duparooh?
Nylon, is a synthetic polymer that is used for everything from hosiery to toothbrushes. This was one of the many plastics invented by the chemists of DuPont, who tossed around quite a few names for this polymer before settling on nylon. One of the options was Duparooh, which, sadly, stood for “DuPont pulled a rabbit out of a hat.” In the end, we are certain that they made the right choice as Duparooh stockings just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
36. Silly Putty – A Toy With Military Applications?
During World War II, rubber was in such high demand, that this substance was rationed. Rubber was needed for tires for military trucks and aircraft as well as for boots for soldiers. The government paid for chemists and scientists to discover new types of synthetic rubber. It was out of these experiments that Silly Putty was discovered. While it wasn’t quite what was needed to replace natural rubber, it became a beloved children’s novelty that is still enjoyed today.
37. Is Plastic Greek?
If you’ve ever watched “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” then you know the main character’s father was fond of showcasing that every word has its roots in the Greek language. Plastic is no exception, as this word comes from the Greek word plastikos, which basically means something that can be molded or shape. We certainly do mold and shape large amounts of thermoform plastic every day here at Indepak.
38. We Use Special Machines Known As Thermoformers
Our thermoformers can accomplish amazing things. Each machine can take a thin sheet of plastic and transform it into perfectly shaped plastic packaging. You can watch some cool Kiefel thermoforming machines in action on YouTube videos, and we highly recommend taking a look.
39. Bioplastics Are A Sustainable Option
If you are searching for sustainable plastic packaging, we have many options for your consideration. Bioplastics are becoming all the rage and these plastics are created from renewable resources, typically some source of plant-based starch. There are also bio-based plastics which contain both renewable resources and synthetic plastics.
40. Plastic Resists Mold
One great reason to consider using thermoform plastics is that many of these materials are resistant to mold and fungi. You can preserve food from spoiling and protect products from damage using these certain types of mold-resistant plastic.
41. Plastic Is Collectible
As stated earlier in this article, there are thermoset plastics and thermoform plastics. One of the first thermoset plastics was known as Bakelite, and was used to create plates, radios, jewelry and toys among other things. Today, Bakelite items are highly collectible bits of memorabilia, and most Bakelite items were created from the 1920s to the 1940s.
42. Plastics Are Used For 3D Printing
The filaments that you use to create projects with 3D printers are all thermoform plastics. The most common materials used to make filaments are polylactic acid (PLA) and ABS (the plastic that is used for LEGOs).
43. Glue Is Now Horse-Free, But Not Plastic-Free
In the past, the connective tissues of animals such as horses, was an ingredient in school glue. Today, we use manmade polymers to create glue, specifically polyvinyl acetate. So, these days, no horses were harmed to make your second grader’s delightful art projects.
44. Portland Is A Leader In Recycling
Our fair city of Portland has long been a leader of environmentalism, and we take recycling very seriously. In fact, more than 70% of all recyclable materials in Portland are recycled and kept out of landfills. Only San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Jose have higher recycling rates. At Indepak, we are a low waste organization and we recycle everything we possibly can recycle.
45. Recycling Can Help You Earn Cash
Every time you purchase a plastic water bottle, you pay a deposit fee. This fee, usually five cents, is a small incentive to get you to recycle that bottle. While recycling one or two bottles might not seem like a great way to make money, if you collect all your bottles and cans and turn them into a recycling center, you can collect a good amount of money. In fact, one boy in Southern California has recycled more than 200,000 bottles and cans, raising more than $1,600 for charity.
46. There Are Packaging Awards
If you design plastic packaging, you can win awards for these designs. DuPont, for example, presents awards each year for manufacturers who have created especially innovative packaging designs. Everything from soda bottles to milk cartons to toothpaste containers can be judged and possibly win an award.
47. There Are Plastics On The Moon
During the course of space exploration, both Russia and United States left a variety of artificial objects on our moon. For instance, the lunar module for the Apollo 11 space mission used plastic film coated with aluminum to insulate the spacecraft. This lunar module, plastic and all, still rests peacefully in the Sea of Tranquility.
48. We Create Plastic Packaging & Products For Many Industries
Our long list of customers includes companies from the specialty food industry, the medical & pharmaceutical industry, the agricultural industry, the electronics industry and retail manufacturers just to name a few.
49. We Can Create All Types Of Plastic Packaging
The team at Indepak can create virtually any type of thermoform plastic packaging that you might need. This includes clamshells, blisters, multi-folds and thermoform trays for a wide range of industries.
50. Plastic Packaging With A Total Solution
In addition to designing and producing all types of plastic packaging, trays and other products using thermoform plastics, we also offer several additional services to provide each of our clients with a total solution. We can help you with sealing, fulfilment, inventory management and shipping. At Indepak, we’ve been creating quality plastic packaging for 50 years, and are looking forward to another 50 years (and beyond) of creating packaging for our clients.