Procter & Gamble has developed a new process to mold plastic that it claims is thinner, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the current industry standard and could save the company $1 billion a year by using less plastic and different raw materials.
The company says it plans to use the material for its own products and its patent applications and may also sell it to other marketers from non-competitive package-goods players to automotive giants.
Imflux, a P&G subsidiary based in Cincinnati, Ohio, is developing the technology. An Imflux plant will make molds for the proprietary P&G "high-velocity injection molding" system to be deployed in other plants, including those of other companies. P&G's packaging plants generally are run by outside suppliers and located close to its production facilities, with the nearest big P&G factory in Lima, Ohio, about 100 miles away.
P&G's patent applications say its manufacturing system can make packages with material as much as 75 percent thinner than existing ones. The technology also makes it easier to use recycled resins or plant-based alternatives to petrochemicals and will help P&G make packages more recyclable because it allows caps and closures to be made from the same material as the rest of the package.
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The applications also outline how the Imflux technology can be applied to products themselves, including toothbrushes, mascara brushes and tampon applicators, allowing them to be made thinner or, in the case of brushes, in a single piece rather than by joining bristles to handles.
Covering possibilities well beyond consumer packaged goods, the applications also include medical devices, toys and parts for the transportation industry. Automakers are already among the biggest users of injection-molded plastics and always on the lookout for ways to make vehicles lighter to meet rising federal fuel-economy targets.
Earlier this year, P&G announced that it recycles, repurposes or converts 100 percent of the waste at 45 manufacturing sites around the world and claims less than one percent of raw materials currently leave its plants as waste.