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Get Ready for the Extrusion '15 Conference

By: James Callari 21. November 2014

If you are involved in extrusion as either a processor or supplier, it’s not too early to mark your calendar for Nov. 2-3, 2015. That’s when Plastics Technology will host the first-ever conference devoted to extrusion. The Extrusion 2015 Conference will take place on those dates in North Carolina at The Omni Charlotte Hotel. 

 

Of course, many other types of extrusion-related conferences have been held over the years. In fact, we at Plastics Technology have worked on quite a few. But these have been specific, focusing, for instance, on film/sheet; medical tubing; compounding; and biopolymers, to name a few.

 

There is a certain logic to organizing a conference along the boundaries of a very specific extrusion process, as there are pronounced differences among them. However, there are quite a few common elements as well. The objective of The Extrusion 2015 Conference is to combine the “specific” aspects of extrusion with the “general” ones.

 

Here’s how. The morning sessions on each day of this two-day event will be devoted to technical and business issues of interest to any type of extrusion processor. So there will be presentations on topics such as materials; additives; screw design; high-speed processing; energy efficiency; sustainability; filtration, blending, drying and conveying; process simulation; training; size reduction; recycling; resin characterization; foaming; and more.

 

On each afternoon, there will be concurrent breakout sessions devoted to three specific types of extrusion processes in which your business likely falls: Film/Sheet; Pipe, Profile, Tubing; and Compounding. In these sessions, presentations will dig deeper into topics such as barrier film; thin-gauge sheet; multi-lumen tubing; high-speed compounding; and more.

 

The plan is for The Extrusion 2015 Conferenced to be a yearly event modeled after the Molding Conference our parent company, Gardner Business Media, purchased last year from Executive Conference Management. Next year will mark the Molding conference’s 25-year anniversary.

 

We recognize you’re likely more pressed for time now than ever. We also know you have a lot of outside events competing for that time. And on top of that, next year is an NPE year. But our intention is to organize The Extrusion 2015 Conference in such a way so that it’s the only conference you’ll need to attend next year—and beyond—if your business is pumping hot polymer through a die to form a part.

 

In the months ahead, please be on the lookout in our magazine, this website, and in your own inbox for more information on this groundbreaking event. Or feel free to email me at jcallari@ptonline.com

Three Entities Awarded For Plastics Recycling Innovations

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 19. November 2014

Last Friday, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) announced the winners of the 2014 Innovation in Plastics Recycling Awards, which aim to highlight innovations in the plastics recycling industry by recognizing companies and individuals who have brought to fruition new technologies, products and initiatives to the marketplace.

 

This year’s winners include two leading recycling companies and a nonprofit with the mission to equip businesses with the science and resources to make products more sustainable. “Their innovations will help expand the ongoing growth in plastics recycling and make more recycled plastics available to manufacturers,” said ACC’s v.p. of plastics Steve Russell.

 

Geo-Tech Polymers LLC, Westerville, Ohio, has developed a patented process for removing coatings such as ink, chrome, paint, films, and labels from used plastics prior to reprocessing. If not removed, these coatings can impact the value or utility of recycled plastics. Independent analysis also demonstrates that the new process leaves no residual chemicals. Geo-Tech claims its process is decreasing the amount of plastics going to landfill while also increasing the number of applications available for recycled plastics.

 

QRS Recycling, Louisville, Kentucky, has established Plastics Container Recovery Facilities (PRFs) to collect plastics that local Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) do not recycle for various reasons. The company established PRFs within close proximity to numerous MRFs and equips them with sophisticated, sorting, washing, and grinding equipment to recover individual polymers. These PRFs provide a domestic market for plastics that previously were most often exported, and they capture plastics that could otherwise require significant processing or sorting equipment. PRFs divert more plastics from the waste stream and provide manufacturers with high-quality, post-consumer recycled resins, including PET, PE and PP. The company is engaged in ongoing efforts to capture PVC and PS as well.

 

GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Charlottesville, Virginia, as developed a recycling label for packaging that clearly communicates recycling instructions to consumers. The Coalition created the How2Recycle Label in response to variations in recycling programs, unclear labeling, and inaccurate recyclability claims that impeded recycling. As one example, PE bags, films, and wraps can carry the Store Drop-off Label to inform consumers to recycle them at nearby drop-off locations instead of curbside. Major companies and brand owners such as Sealed Air, Target, Kimberly Clark, Clorox, and several others use the Store Drop-off Label on their products, which could significantly increase plastic film recycling.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

 

Left-to-Right: Craig Jung, Brokerage, QRS Recycling; Kelly Lahvic, Project Associate, GreenBlue; Gordon Jones, Director of Manufacturing, Geo-Tech Polymers; Ronald Whaley, CEO, Geo-Tech Polymers.

Two New Alliances in Microcellular Foams

By: Matthew H. Naitove 19. November 2014

Trexel, Inc., Wilmington, Mass., recently announced two new partnerships with Milacron and Lubrizol. One agreement allows Milacron LLC, Batavia, Ohio, to incorporate Trexel’s MuCell microcellular foam technology in its injection and blow molding equipment under the Milacron, Ferromatik, Uniloy, and Mold-Masters brands, while transferring the operating rights under Trexel’s patents to the machine buyer without any added fees or costs.

 

Trexel had a previous license agreement with Milacron back in 1999, allowing Milacron to provide MuCell-compatible screws and barrels on its injection machines, but it had become dormant in subsequent years. This revival of the relationship allows Milacron to supply turnkey MuCell systems, including MuCell gas dosing equipment.

 

Meanwhile, in partnership with Lubrizol Engineered Polymers, Wickliffe, Ohio, Trexel helped develop BounCell-X, a new high-performance TPU foam technology utilizing Lubrizol’s Estane TPUs. This plasticizer-free, low-density thermoplastic foam has a thin solid skin for durability and ability to utilize regrind or post-consumer recycle due to the absence of crosslinking agents or chemical blowing agents. BounCell-X can achieve a broad range of hardness and energy absorption/return for use in sports and recreation applications.

 

In addition, Trexel revealed that it has been working with Boston-based New Balance Athletic shoe, Inc. for more than four years, during which New Balance has used MuCell technology to provide shock absorption in running-shoe components (photo). Today, New Balance uses MuCell-molded mid-sole and heel components in over 1 million pairs of running shoes annually.

One Step In 'Right' Direction: Nova Chem. Drops PE Contract Prices

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 18. November 2014

With an effective date of Nov. 1, polyethylene supplier Nova Chemicals, Calgary, Alberta (U.S. office in Moon Township, Penn.), has reduced November PE contract prices of prime resin by 3ȼ/lb, effectively marking the first move in two years to reduce North American PE prices.  Since the Nov. 2012, 2ȼ/lb decrease, PE prices moved up 21ȼ/lb—a period during which PE suppliers have enjoyed hefty profit margins.

 

Whether we’ll see other major PE suppliers take similar actions remains to be seen but some industry pros venture that something different needs to take place, as North American PE suppliers are outpricing themselves from world markets.  Michael Greenberg, CEO of The Plastics Exchange, reported recently that weakness in global energy, feedstock and resin prices are contributing factors to the “negative sentiment” gripping the domestic polyolefin market. Moreover, spot PE prices have moved lower—about 4-5 ȼ/lb below this season’s highs--as there are now ample supplies of most PE grades. “Sellers continue to offer material aggressively, seeking to quickly flip railcars rather than take on additional resin for future sale. However, processors—many of whom already have ample supplies, were ambivalent to the cheaper offers as they feel the market is trending lower,” Greenberg reported on Nov. 14.

 

For the last two years, Mike Burns, v.p. for PE at Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi) has consistently driven the point that while the price of oil has nothing to do with the cost to make a pellet in North America, it has everything to do with the price of pellets. He recently stressed that the quickly changed PE market dynamics have surfaced from the unexpected drop in oil and naphtha prices. Burns also noted that regardless of the still relatively tight supplies, North American PE suppliers will need to address the global price that is set by the price of oil and make downward adjustments.

 

Burns cited two market changes that would force domestic PE suppliers to respond to today’s PE price level: an escalation of imported finished goods such as stretch film and can liners; and, the build-up of supplier inventories outpacing demand. He also saw two choices for North American PE suppliers: a proactive move whereby they gradually decrease prices regardless of still tight inventories; or, a reactive one, whereby suppliers wait until their inventories build up without an export market, supply outpaces demand, and sales are lost to Asia PE manufacturing.

 

IHS analysts, and other industry experts, all concede that processors are not likely to directly benefit from shale gas development lower energy and feedstock costs until new PE capacity comes on stream—most likely in the 2017-1208 time frame. At the same time, they forecast a 4.4%/yr increase in demand (1.2 times that of GDP) and roughly flat PE prices for the remainder of this year and through 2015.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastics Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

 

 

 

Bag Bans Embolden Activists

By: Tony Deligio 18. November 2014

“Activists don't like plastics, period,” Michael Westerfield said. “They don’t like quick-service restaurants, and they certainly don't like packaging or anything single use. They'll pick us off one at a time. They were targeting plastic bags first, now they'll go after foam.”

 

Westerfield, corporate director of recycling programs, at packaging and food-service product manufacturer Dart Container Corp., shared his first-hand insights into the emboldened activists zeal for new bans at SPI’s recent Equipment and Moldmakers Leadership Summit (Oct. 26-28; Tucson).

 

Dart manufactures a number of items that are increasingly in the regulatory cross hairs, including cups made from coated paperboard, foam, HIPS (they acquired the iconic Solo brand), and PET, as well as portion containers and PS clamshells.

 

Westerfield recounted a recent conversation with a representative of a non-governmental organization seeking to restrict plastics use who stated plainly that a ban on foam the group was now pursuing, much like the plastic bag ban it had already helped push through, was “largely symbolic but a good fundraiser.”

 

In a slide, Westerfield shared an e-mail promotion he had recently received, which read “The Bag is Banned—What Should We Tackle Next?”—reinforcing the search for a new plastics public enemy No. 1.

 

Dart, like many manufacturers of EPS foam, has been proactive in its response to calls for bans, stepping up its recycling efforts [read about ACH Foam’s EPS recycling initiative]. “For us, recycling is key to the long-term viability of foam,” Westerfield said, “so we’ve invested heavily in it.”

 

Since foam is 95% air, the first step in reclaiming it is densification, reducing the volume it takes up as it’s repurposed. Dart is working with machinery suppliers on improving densification technologies, and Westerfield acknowledged that more work will be required at municipal recycling facilities (MRFs), many of which were built to sort aluminum, paper, and glass and struggle with foam and other plastics.

 

Post-Ban Perspective
Westerfield was followed by Mark Daniels, senior vice president of sustainability and environmental policy, at bag manufacturer Hilex Poly. Daniels and his company provided a post-ban perspective.

 

As background, Daniels laid out the numerous steps Hilex Poly has taken to reduce the impact of its product. In 2005, the company opened what Daniels called the first and largest cradle-to-cradle recycling facility for reprocessing bags and wraps. The company recently doubled the capacity of that recycling to more than 25 million lb/year.

 

Hilex has delivered approximately 34,000 recycling containers to retailers, collecting more than 1 billion lb of post-consumer bags. Daniels pointed out that studies show that around 75% of bags are reused, with an additional 10% recycled, adding up to a diversion rate of 85%.  

 

Hilex Poly has 22 manufacturing facilities throughout U.S., Canada, and Mexico, running 340 extruders 24/7, while the broader bag-making sector boasts 380 facilities throughout the U.S., with more than 30,000 employees. According to Daniels, that figure has grown as leading retailers like Wal-Mart and Walgreens reshore some bag making to secure bags with recycled content.

 

A Not-So-Green Replacement
Recyclable PE “t-shirt” bags made by U.S.-based companies like Hilex Poly are increasingly being replaced with non-recyclable woven PP bags imported from countries including China. According to Daniels, more than 2 billion woven PP bags have been imported over the past few years as bans and fees took hold, resulting in enough bags for each family in the U.S. to have more than 20 each.

 

All this to displace a product that Daniels points out takes up 4 tenths of 1 percent of the municipal solid waste stream, is derived from suddenly abundant and domestically sourced natural gas and can carry 17-18 lb while only weighing 5g.

 

During his presentation, Daniels alluded to a new referendum seeking to overturn the bag ban, which at the time had 100,000 of the 500,000 signatures required. Whether or not that effort is successful, it seems the plastics industry will be fighting a multi-front war going forward.




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