Can A Circular Economy Increase Plastics Recycling Rates?

By: Heather Caliendo 30. June 2015

The European Union (EU) has set a goal to recycle 60% of plastic packaging by 2025. But in order to reach this rate, more facilities and jobs need to be added, according to Plastics Recyclers Europe, a trade group for the European plastics recycling industry. The group’s newly released study, Increased EU Plastics Recycling Targets Environmental, Economic and Social Assessment, argues that as many as 250 new sorting facilities as well as 300 new recycling plants are needed in Europe if the target is to be implemented. These investments will create more than 120,000 of jobs across the EU. With the unemployment rate for the EU currently sitting at 9.6%, 120,000 new jobs would be a big help.


But it’s not simply a matter of deciding on a recycling target and crossing fingers that it all works out. Real work and change must be implemented to reach it. This is one reason why the EU recently released a call for the public to help develop a ‘circular economy’ and opened a public consultation to collect views on the main policy options for developing this ambitious new approach. Plastics Recyclers Europe believes this new circular economy package will be a boost to plastics recycling.


The EU’s First Vice President Frans Timmermans said: "Europe's future economic development must be part of a sustainable long-term agenda. We need to use our resources more intelligently, design our products with a view to their reuse and recycling and set ambitious targets for waste reduction and recycling."


The policy options for developing a competitive circular economy in Europe will look at waste policy and beyond and address the full product lifecycle, taking into account the situation in all Member States. It will include actions on intelligent product design, reuse and repair of products, recycling, sustainable consumption, waste policy, recycling levels, smart use of raw materials, stronger markets for secondary raw materials and specific sectorial measures.


The EU states that moving toward a more circular economy can promote competitiveness and innovation by stimulating new business models and technologies as well as facilitating social innovation.


“We want to set the conditions for the creation of more jobs without using and wasting the amount of resources we do today,” the EU stated. “This will contribute to a stronger and fairer Europe and decrease pressures on the supply of raw materials and the environment.”


“We estimate that—not just plastic—but waste prevention, eco-design, reuse, recycling and similar measures could bring net savings of 600 billion euro, or 8% of the annual turnover for businesses in the EU,”said Karmenu Vella, the European commissioner for the environment.


If a circular economy is implemented properly, it could help the EU get to a 'true' recycling economy. 




Research from McKinsey and Co., a global consulting firm, suggests that the global savings in materials alone could exceed $1 trillion a year by 2025 and that, under the right conditions, a circular economy could become a tangible driver of global industrial innovation, job creation and growth for the 21st century.


A circular economy replaces one assumption—disposability—with another: restoration, the group stated. At the core, it aims to move away from the “take, make, and dispose” system by designing and optimizing products for multiple cycles of disassembly and reuse. This effort starts with materials, which are viewed as valuable stock to be used again, not as elements that flow through the economy once. For a sense of the scale involved, consider the fast-moving consumer-goods industry: about 80% of the $3.2 trillion worth of materials it uses each year is not recovered. The circular economy aims to eradicate waste—not just from manufacturing processes, as lean management aspires to do, but systematically, throughout the various lifecycles and uses of products and their components.


Recently, Project MainStream, part of the World Economic Forum’s Circular Economy initiative, has released a new project outline containing three programs to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. One of the programs focuses on plastic packaging, which aims to close the gap between the design of packaging and the design of municipal waste management systems. Currently, a majority of packaging is made from virgin materials, and it is used just once. The organization said that this will be resolved by working with leading companies and cities to create an authoritative global plastic packaging roadmap, which aims to enable a 20-year transition to effective packaging solutions based predominantly on reuse and recycling of plastic, the group stated.


For example, annual material demand for PET and polyester totals about 54 million tons, of which roughly 86% leaks out of the system, according to the group. If Project MainStream can optimize these flows of plastics, it is estimated that nearly $4 billion in value could be created from the better use of PET alone, the group stated.


What are your thoughts about a circular economy? Do you see it gaining traction in the U.S.?

First Ocean-Cleaning System Set to Deploy in 2016

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 30. June 2015



For any of you that have attended conferences on plastics recycling over the last few years, I’m certain you have noticed the presentations on the issue of plastics in our oceans…oftentimes accompanied by some very sobering slide shows showing the debri and its devastation on wildlife.

Now, what is certainly the world’s first ocean cleaning-system, is fast approaching its deployment. Invented by Boyan Slat, the 20-year old founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, this system involves a static platform that passively corrals plastics as wind and ocean current push debris through 2000-meter booms.  

Says Slat, “Taking care of the world’s ocean garbage problem is one of the largest environmental challenges mankind faces today. Not only will this first cleanup array contribute to cleaner waters and coasts but it simultaneously is an essential step towards our goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This deployment will enable us to study the system’s efficiency and durability over time.”

Plans for the array’s deployment is currently for second quarter of 2016. The feasibility of deployment, off the coast of Tsushima, an island located in the waters between Japan and South Korea is currently being researched.

The system will span 2000 meters, which will make it the longest floating structure ever deployed in the ocean—beating the current record of 1000 meters held by the Tokyo Mega-Float airplane runway. It will be operational for at least two years, catching plastic pollution before it reaches the shores of the proposed Tsushima Island deployment location. Tsushima Island is evaluating whether the plastic can be used as an alternative energy source.

This initial deployment will represent an important milestone in The Ocean Cleanup’s mission to remove plastic pollution from the world’s oceans. Within five years, after a series of deployments of increasing scale, The Ocean Cleanup plans to deploy a 100km-long system to clean up about half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California.

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




PE Market Film Analysis: Converter Film

By: James Callari 29. June 2015


Last year, approximately 1. 073.1 billion lb of PE resins were consumed in the production of sheet and tubing film, also referred to as converter film. With an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 3.6%, PE resin consumption for the production of sheet and tubing film should reach 1.194 billion lb by 2017.


Several processing companies are periodically involved in the sheet and tubing market,manufacturing sheet and tubing on an “as needed basis” to fill capacity during slower periods of demand for other traditional PE film products. Other PE film extrusion companies reported manufacturing sheet and tubing intermittently according to specifications by film converters or end-use customers. Some participants in this market extrude film only, while others extrude film and also convert film into various packaging products.


These are among the conclusions of the most recent study of the PE Film market conducted by Mastio & Co., St. Joseph, Mo.


According to Mastio research, during 2014, the six largest sheet and tubing processors that participated in the company’s study were market were: Sigma Plastics Group; Apollo Management, L.P. (Berry Plastics Corp. Div.); Next Generation Films, Inc.; Emballages Polystar (Polystar Packaging Canada, Inc. Div.); Inteplast Group Ltd. (IBS Div.; Lone Star Plastics, Inc. Div.; Niaflex Corp. Div. & Trinity Plastics, Inc. Div.) and Inteplast Group Ltd. (P&O Packaging, L.L.C. Div.). Collectively, those processors gobbled up close to 50% of the material consumed in this market.




Overall consumption of LLDPE-butene, LLDPE-hexene, LLDPE-super hexene, LLDPE-octene, and mLLDPE resins have outpaced overall consumption of LDPE resin for the sheet and tubing market, according to Mastio research. LLDPE resins yield greater impact strength and puncture resistance in lower gauges than LDPE resin. High-clarity grades of LLDPE resin allows manufacturers to produce films with high optical properties in thinner gauges than was previously possible with LDPE/LLDPE resin blends. This has further eroded LDPE resin’s dominance in this market.


LDPE resins were the second most utilized material of choice for the production of sheet and tubing, either utilized alone, in blends, or in multi-layer film coextrusion. LDPE resin’s characteristics of high clarity, ease of processing, low relative costs, and adaptability of blending with other PE resins are some of the reasons for its greater use. LDPE-copolymers, such as LDPE-ethylene vinyl acetate copolymer (LDPE-EVA copolymer), LDPE-ethylene methyl acrylate copolymer (LDPE-EMA copolymer), and LDPE-ethylene acrylic acid copolymer (LDPE-EAA copolymer) resins will continue to be utilized in blends or in multi-layer film coextrusion with other PE resins.


Medium molecular weight-HDPE (MMW-HDPE) and high molecular weight-HDPE (HMW-HDPE) resins are extruded solely, in blends, or in film coextrusion with LDPE and LLDPE resins. HDPE resins allow even further downgauging, while providing even greater film strength than LLDPE resins. HDPE resin is also utilized as an additive in blends with LDPE or LLDPE resins, or as a processing aid to add stiffness and increase bubble stability in blown film extrusion. This is especially helpful in bubble diameters greater than 80 in. Additional benefits of utilizing HDPE resin are added barrier properties, excellent environmental stress crack resistance (ESCR), and greater ease for converting the film into finished bags or sacks. However, when implementing HDPE resin, some film clarity is sacrificed.


Other resins reported in the market during 2014 included the following: medium density PE (MDPE), polypropylene (PP), nylon, and ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer.




During 2014, the 99.7% of film for the sheet and tubing market was produced utilizing the blown film process, accounting for 1,069.6 MM lbs. (99.7%) of resin consumption, states Mastio.  Cast film accounted for the rest. Monolayer sheet accounted for about 60.3% of PE resin consumption, with coextruded sheet representing the rest.


Improvements in both film coextrusion and PE resin technologies have greatly increased the sophistication of PE films. A greater variety of film characteristics are now possible, such as a three-layer form, fill and seal sheeting with different levels of coefficient of friction (COF). The film can have outside high cling, inside high slip, and a sandwiched layer of linear low density PE (LLDPE) resin manufactured using the metallocene single-site catalyst process (mLLDPE). The high cling side helps prevent the packaged product from shifting or slipping after being stacked. The one side high slip allows greater ease of inserting the product into the package. The inner layer of mLLDPE resin allows faster production rates by affording greater hot tack strength than conventionally produced PE resins.


Film downgauging is another advantage of film coextrusion technology, by allowing film processors to combine low density PE (LDPE) resin with stronger LLDPE or high density PE (HDPE) resins. Coextruded sheet and tubing film ranged from two-layer to seven-layer constructions, with the three-layer structure being the most typical.




Converter film is one market where complex film structures will continue to be developed as processors seek a means to distinguish their products from competitive offerings. Today’s three-layer structures will be tomorrow’s five-layer configurations, as suppliers of both materials and extrusion technology continue to push the envelope in product development. Another trend to watch is development of new equipment technologies that help processors switch from one product to another to minimize waste and allow them to more ready deal with lower-volume runs.

Engel Has Grown By 14%; Will Expand Headquarters

By: Heather Caliendo 23. June 2015

The Engel Symposium 2015 was recently held in St. Valentin and Linz, Austria. Every three years, the injection molding machine manufacturer invites its customers, partners and (lucky for us) the media to gorgeous Austria for the in-house exhibition.


If one word could describe the symposium it would be: upbeat. Generally speaking, the company is feeling pretty good about the current state of business. Engel reported a record breaking turnover of 1.07 billion euros ($1.19 billion) in the 2014-2015 financial year that closed the end of March, according to Peter Neumann, CEO of Engel. In comparison to the previous year, the company achieved an increase of 14%. Neumann said that almost all regions have made a contribution to this success. Specifically in North America, Engel is expecting sustained growth as many companies have brought their production back to the U.S. Another reason for growth in the U.S.: the replacement of old machinery.


Still, to remain competitive, companies must attract the best talent and focus on keeping them. Neumann says this is the key factor in how Engel is preparing for future. For the new fiscal year, the company plans to make further investments in its sites worldwide, in the distribution and service structures and also in the apprentice workshop.


One focus for investments in the current 2015-16 fiscal year is on the headquarters in Schwertberg, Austria. In the summer of this year, Engel will already begin with the construction of a new building to the south of the factory site, expanding the Technology Centre that was built in 2009. The development, distribution and customer service departments will all add more personnel. "With that we are laying the foundation to solidify our very strong presence in the European market and to continue to grow in America and Asia," Neumann said. Shanghai experts for the individual business units have also been added.


A larger apprentice workshop will also be located in the new building and furnished with new equipment. The company says it will provide its staff with optimal working conditions already as trainees with "lots of daylight, ergonomic workplaces and an open atmosphere."


Around 150 of the more than 170 Engel trainees worldwide are in Austria and they are given training there for nine technical professions. Those workers are integrated into the assembly of the machines from the very beginning. The machine components that are prepared by the apprentices are used for the on-going production. "For those just starting in the profession, that is a huge motivational factor. We will be intensifying this integration with the newly designed apprentice workshop," Neumann said.


The company says about 98% of the apprentices are retained. Besides Austria, Engel has training programs for technical professions in Germany and in China.

Will BASF's Nylon 66 Force Majeure Impact the Domestic Market?

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 23. June 2015


Last week, BASF declared force majeure at its Seals Sands, UK facility on hexamethylenediamine (HMD), nylon salt, and nylon 66 polymers and compounds supplied here from Europe under the Ultramid A and Capron PA66 brands.


The company cited production problems at its 276-million lb/yr plant for its action, which went into effect June 17. It also noted that it was not in a position to predict how long the force majeure situation is likely to last, but that it would update its customers as soon as possible.


I checked in with Mark Kallman, v.p. of client services for engineering resins, PS, and PVC at Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi), who is a key source for keeping us up to date on resin pricing trends based on major fundamentals such as the balance of supply and demand. Both at the end of first quarter and as we are closing in on the end of the second, Kallman has noted that domestic nylon 66 supply is relatively balanced and that demand has been good, and is already trending to be a bit above 2014.


But, he also clarified that when he describes the market as balanced, he includes the nylon 66 materials imported to the North American market by BASF. As such, Kallman ventures that if the plant’s restart is delayed more than a few weeks, the domestic market will be impacted by supply constraints.


As for pricing, nylon 66 prices dropped a few percent during first quarter, and have been primarily flat with a bit of a downslide in some cases through this quarter. An attempt by suppliers in mid-April to push through a 15ȼ/lb increase following a force majeure action by Invista, failed as it did not affect resin availability. Prior to last week’s BASF force majeure action, Kallman was projecting a largely flat trend in prices to continue into third quarter. This may now change depending on the duration of this latest industry production disruption, along with factors such as the trajectory of feedstock costs.


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


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