| ||organisation: Sony|
product: vegetable-based plastic walkman
who: Sony is studying many ways to reduce the environmental impact of its products. Leading this drive is the Center for Environmental Technologies, which is part of the head office’s Frontier Science Laboratories, and the Production Technology Center. This work is also being conducted on a global scale. The Environmental Center Europe (ECE) was established in the summer of 1998 for this purpose.
what: one of the most advanced examples of the environmental commitment of the company is the WM-FX202 Walkman stereo. Launched in November 2002 in Japan, this new product uses vegetable-based plastic for approximately 90% of its casing by weight. Sony estimates that this plastic uses only 45% of the oil-derived resources of conventional plastics, leading to an approximately 20% reduction in CO2 emissions. Sony has been developing a method to improve the physical properties of polylactic acid, working with Mitsubishi Plastic, Inc. and Sanpo Kasei K.K. These efforts have succeeded in giving the material sufficient durability, heat and shock resistance, and mouldability.
the new material: vegetable-based plastics are derived from vegetable starches. Sony has developed new technology for their use in packaging and product casing applications. Use of such vegetable-based plastics can help reduce CO2 emission volumes because vegetable materials are more renewable and contribute to the conservation of fossil fuel resources. Vegetable-based plastics are more environmentally conscious than conventional plastics made from petrochemicals for a number of reasons, summarised below:
The life cycle of vegetable-based plastics involves a substantial absorption of atmospheric CO2 due to photosynthesis. Even if they were disposed of by incineration, these plastics would still contribute to a net reduction in CO2 emissions relative to oil-derived plastics.
- consumption of non-renewable oil-derived resources is reduced;
- plant starches can be cropped annually. Also, since these raw materials are a result of photosynthesis, their production itself helps to absorb atmospheric CO2;
- the plastics can also be broken down at composting facilities used in manure production;
- expectations are high for a chemical process that may prove capable of recycling the plastic into lactic acid.