Air Cargo Products

A shitload of plastics

Being a plastic sheeting supplier to the aviation industry means that we receive more and more often questions about the thickness of our plastic sheeting and (shrink) foils. Airlines and associated ground handling companies are continuously seeking for possibilities to reduce the thickness of their plastic sheeting used for cargo protection. This tendency has resulted in a plastic sheeting thickness decline from 40 to on average 22mu (and in some cases even 18mu!) in recent years.

Frankly speaking, this reducing plastic sheeting thickness trend might sound like a good thing. It seems that purchase departments finally start pushing their suppliers and operations departments to reduce plastic waste. A simple calculation shows that reducing plastic sheeting thickness seems to be an easy way to reduce plastic waste with roughly 30%. This would be brilliant as volumes in our industry are significant. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different.

Although the European Union has set great and ambitious goals to leap frog plastic waste reduction, environmental factors still have no (or very limited) impact on a buyer’s decision. Otherwise, all airlines and ground handling companies were using bioplastic sheeting for already more than 6 years. The technology is there, the products are there (and could even be supplied from stock), but truth is that the vast majority of today’s worldwide plastic sheeting volumes is not made of bioplastics.

To get a bit further in detail, discrepancies in recycled plastic make thin foil blow extrusion impossible. In other words, industry demand for thinner plastic sheeting means blow extrusion can only be done with virgin plastics. As a result, another truth is that the vast majority of today’s worldwide plastic sheeting volumes cannot be made of recycled plastic.

We sincerely hope that leaders in our industry start to realize that we can only disrupt and make true impact if we start at the foundation. By giving P&L departments or subcontracted ground handling companies the right incentives and targets, suppliers will be challenged to adjust production capacity accordingly. A very small change can shift industry development from decline to improvement. Which Airline is going to take the next step to more sustainable operations with us? Every (small) step will help! Let’s share information and disrupt together.

TRIP & CO – Producing products for lighter, easier and safer cargo transport.