Kickstart: Plastics help casinos adapt to pandemic

Plastics are showing up in unusual applications these days, as businesses reopen but need products to protect employees and customers from the coronavirus.

Two unusual examples popped up yesterday.

First, in an application near to my heart, the Atlantis became the first casino in Reno, Nev., to reopen its buffet restaurant.

The Reno Gazette Journal reported how the buffet is using plastic barriers to separate hungry patrons from the food, while still having the ability to fill up their plates.

There’s a two-hour time limit on grazing, according to the story, which seems reasonable. If you can’t fill up on lo mein, baked fish, fried shrimp and tacos, you’re not trying.

The second story comes from nearby Las Vegas, where the Venetian Resort (although they capitalize “The,” like that school in Columbus, Ohio) has set up what it calls a first-in-the-nation program in the hospitality industry to recycle surgical face masks.

The casino is working with TerraCycle Inc. to collect and send used masks to a recycling facility. They’ll eventually end up as composite lumber, used for products like decking. TerraCycle’s expertise is finding ways to handle difficult-to-recycle material streams, like juice pouches and cigarette butts.

My column in the July 27 issue touched on a few topics related to sustainability. Rich Williams, our talented editorial cartoonist, perfectly captured my item on a three-year project called the Beyond the Bag Initiative, a push to “reinvent single-use plastic bags.”

I wrote in the column that it may be too late to save the T-shirt bag. And if we can’t recycle T-shirt bags, what hope is there to recycle other flexible packaging?

Artists can do amazing things with plastics. I remember when I first joined Plastics News, a good friend of mine in Virginia who was an artist was really excited to show me some of his experimental work in plastic. It gave me a taste for the wide variety of plastic materials that I’d soon be writing about, and the incredible diversity of polymer properties.

Staff reporter Sarah Kominek just discovered a plastics/art connection that I’d never seen before, with her story about artist Ioan Florea’s work with 3D printed plastics. We learned about Florea because he recently made thousands of face shields for hospitals in Illinois and New York.

My favorite part of the story: Florea’s description of how polylactic acid resin smells different from conventional plastic during the 3D printing process. “It has a pleasant smell when it’s melted,” he said, “like pancakes.”

OK, who else is hungry right now?

Rhoda Miel is taking some well-deserved days off, so today’s Kickstart is by Plastics News Editor Don Loepp. Follow me on Twitter @donloepp.

This post appeared first on Plastics News.