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Study Urges Companies To Disclose Data On Plastic

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 16. July 2014

A new report, Valuing plastic; the business case for measuring, managing and disclosing plastic use in the consumer good industry, reportedly represents the first-ever assessment of the environmental costs of plastic in business. It calculates the amount to plastic used by stock exchange listed companies in sixteen consumer good sectors and assesses levels of corporate disclosure on plastic. It aim is to help companies understand the risks and opportunities of plastic and build a business case for improving its management.

 

Prepared by natural capital analyst Trucost, it was commissioned by the Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP) and the United Nation’s Environmental Program (UNEP). Trucost calculates the total natural capital cost of plastic in the consumer good industry to be more than $75 billion/yr. The cost comes from a range of environmental impacts including the harm done by plastic litter to wildlife in the ocean and the loss of valuable resources when plastics waste is sent to the landfill rather than being recycled.

 

The consumer goods sectors assessed are: athletic goods, automobiles, clothing and accessories, consumer electronics, durable household goods, food, footwear, furniture, medical and pharmaceutical products, non-durable household goods, personal products, retail, restaurants and bars, tobacco, toys and soft drinks.

 

When I attended the Plasticity Forum 2014 last month, Trucost CEO Richard Mattison gave this overview:

 

• The analysis identifies a range of risks and opportunities facing companies that are intensive users of plastic, as well as investors.

• The toy, athletic goods and durable household goods sectors use the most plastic in products per $1 million revenue.

• The retail, restaurant and tobacco sectors use the most plastic per $1 million revenue in their supply chains.

• Food companies are by far the largest contributor to the total natural capital cost of plastic used in the consumer goods industry—over $75 bn/yr, responsible for 23% of the total.

• The toy sector has by far the highest natural capital intensity, at 3.0% of revenue.

• Companies in the food, soft drinks and non-durable household goods sectors have the largest natural capital costs in absolute terms.

• Companies in the toy, athletic goods and footwear sectors have the highest natural capital intensity.

• Over 30% of the natural capital costs come from greenhouse gas emissions released upstream in the supply chain.

• The impacts of plastic vary around the world, based on background conditions and management practices.

• Levels of disclosure on plastic are poor. Only around half of the 100 companies assessed reported at least one item of quantitative data on plastic.

• Currently, there is no correlation between a sector’s disclosure rate and its plastic intensity or absolute natural capital cost due to plastic.

 

Mattison explained that in order to provide a sense of scale, the report sets out to quantify the physical impacts of plastic use translated into monetary terms. This metric can be seen as the current value-at-risk to a company, should these external impacts be realized internally through mechanisms like strengthened regulation, loss of market share, or increased price of raw materials and energy. This metric can also be used to understand the magnitude of the tangible benefits to stakeholders, including shareholders, of using plastic in an environmentally sustainable way.

 

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

 

Western Companies Step Up Patrols of Their Intellectual Property In China

By: Tony Deligio 16. July 2014

“The greatest transfer of wealth in history.”

 

That’s how General Keith Alexander, Commander of the United States Cyber Command and Director of the National Security Agency, describes the theft of intellectual property, according to a May 22 report from Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property.

 

Thus far in 2014, it seems that chemical and plastics companies, for one, are saying “enough,” particularly when it comes to IP theft by China, a country they’re increasingly partnering with as a means of gaining access to the massive local market.

 

This week, polyester manufacturer, INVISTA, announced that it had resolved a lawsuit against a Chinese engineer for what it called “misappropriation and infringement of trade secrets” relating to its purified terephthalic acid (PTA) technology, PTA being a key ingredient to PET, among other things.

 

INVISTA said that an employee of a Chinese engineering design company “misappropriated some of INVISTA’s proprietary information,” during one of INVISTA’s technology projects for a Chinese licensee. INVISTA in turn filed a lawsuit through the Beijing Intermediate People’s Court against the individual. The Wichita-based company won a number of concessions from the alleged IP thief, including that person:

 

  • Agreeing not to work in any job or activity in which he could use or disclose his knowledge of INVISTA’s PTA technology,”
  • Immediately and permanently ceasing any use or disclosure of INVISTA’s PTA technology
  • Returning INVISTA’s trade secret materials and disclosing all sources for the materials

 

INVISTA is not alone in accusing Chinese firms of stealing intellectual property, nor is it alone in pursuing legal recourse. On March 21, INEOS sued several Sinopec subsidiaries for what it called “misuse of trade secrets” relating to its acrylonitrile business.

 

In that case, INEOS, which claims its acrylonitrile business is No. 1 globally with a value of $3 billion and 5,000 employees worldwide, accused the perpetrators of “prolific building of Acrylonitrile copy plants in China,” an action it claimed “will destroy its business.”
 

INEOS says that Sinopec Ningbo Engineering Company has broken a long established technology agreement which, together with trade secret misuse by other Sinopec companies, has enabled development of a series of new world scale Acrylonitrile plants without INEOS agreement or consent.  

 

This case garnered press attention at the time because SINOPEC is a state-owned business, and INEOS’ action could have been taken as in indirect indictment of the Chinese government.

 

INEOS, however, quickly noted that it enjoyed “otherwise excellent relationships with Sinopec and with China,” and that it had “every confidence  that China has now developed an excellent system to protect intellectual property consistent with the fact that China now files more patents than any other count.”

 

It’s easy to appreciate the business pickle INEOS found itself in. On the company’s web site, the press release announcing the lawsuit against SINOPEC was sandwiched between two other releases detailing new partnerships with the state-owned company.

 

On March 5, Bloomberg reported on the case of Walter Liew, a consultant working with DuPont found guilty of selling titanium dioxide secrets to a Chinese chemical manufacturer:

 

Walter Liew, 56, a consultant who rose from a farm in Malaysia to earn $28 million from contracts with a Chinese company, was found guilty by federal jurors in San Francisco of 22 counts of economic espionage, trade secret theft, witness tampering and making false statements. He sold the secrets to China’s Pangang Group Co., a Chengdu-based chemical company building a 100,000 metric-ton-per-year plant to produce titanium dioxide, a white pigment with a global annual sales of $14 billion, prosecutors said.

 

These are not isolated examples.

 

China does not have a monopoly on IP theft, but, as the IP Commission report states, it has created an environment highly conducive to the practice, with not only the tacit acceptance of the government, who in theory would police that matter, but at times, its participation:

 

National industrial policy goals in China encourage IP theft, and an extraordinary number of Chinese in business and government entities are engaged in this practice. There are also weaknesses and biases in the legal and patent systems that lessen the protection of foreign IP. In addition, other policies weaken IPR, from mandating technology standards that favor domestic suppliers to leveraging access to the Chinese market for foreign companies’ technologies.

 

At times, the litigiousness of Western society, and in particular, the U.S., is lamented, but more legal actions in these cases in China, and a pursuit of justice by the Chinese courts, would be a good thing here. For Western companies to take the chance on investing in China, they’ll need to feel the rule of law applies to all parties, even ones with direct or indirect ties to the Chinese government. 

First Business Accelerator For Solutions To Plastic Pollution

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 12. July 2014

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the third annual Plasticity Forum at NYC’s Tribeca Rooftop which aims to share the wealth of knowledge from the leading edge of those who are facilitating a world where plastic is used, but without the footprint.

 

According to Douglas Woodring, founder of Plasticity Forum, Ocean Recovery Alliance, this means all of the benefits of lightweighting, durability, flexibility, and color, without the “hangover”, referring to plastics pollution.  As in the first two forums held in Rio and Hong Kong, Plasticity brings together the leaders in innovation, design, packaging, materials, recycling, and solutions—all needed in a resource-constrained world, says Woodring. 

 

One of several interesting presentations was made by Destin Layne, a founding partner and COO of Think Beyond Plastic Accelerator, Inc., reportedly the world’s first business accelerator for solutions to plastic pollution through innovation and entrepreneurship. It was first launched at U.S. Secretary of State Kerry’s Conference on the Oceans and at Plasticity 2014. 

 

Described as a public benefit corporation, it was created to inspire and incubate entrepreneurship; to accelerate early- and mid-stage businesses with a proven business model, a solid management team and an innovative solution to plastic pollution, and to provide pre-qualified opportunities for investors and brands—all with a focus on sustainable, non-toxic and healthy alternatives to the current disposable plastic products. Think Beyond Plastic’s executive team has a blended experience in innovation, entrepreneurship, science, sustainability, major brand management and repositioning, and early stage business finance. The initial group of businesses in the Accelerator portfolio—each with “groundbreaking technologies” reducing plastic pollution-- include Plastipure, PulpWorks, Aspenware, and NewGen Surgical.

 

I had the pleasure of talking with Rob Chase, president of California-based NewGen Surgical on their newly launched NGS35W Skin Stapler, which appears to be the most environmentally sustainable option in the current market of single-use skin staplers.

 

Other skin staplers on the market are typically made with, for example, Cycoloy PC/ABS from Sabic Innovative plastics. Using its Smart Sustainable Design, NewGen Surgical developed the new device with 69% plant-based material. More specifically, the body of the device (handle/lever) is made of bagasse, the fibrous matter that remains after sugarcane or sorghum stalks are crushed to extract their juice. Chase notes, “By resourcing bagasse, we have achieved a 67% reduction in energy used for production of the skin stapler’s material compared to the same product made of 100% plastic.”

 

Chase shares that the product is made using a wet thermoforming process. The material, which comes in a slurry form, is placed into the mold where the water is pressed out, then air dried into its rigid shape. “We use the medical grade PC/ABS in the part of the skin stapler that delivers the surgical stainless-steel staples. Physicians can expect the same clinical performance as the all-plastic  skin staplers, as well as ergonomic design, tactile feedback when the firing cycle is complete, an alignment indicator for accurate staple placements, and an easy-to-see staple remaining indicator.

 

NewGen Surgical’s sustainability efforts also extended to the use of single-plastic packaging for the device—HDPE makes up both the tray and lid of the package. The company is now focusing on similar sustainable solutions for other medical single-use devices that are not reprocessed, but end up in landfills or incineration.

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

 

Want To Know More About The Broad Options For Plastics Decoration and Surface Treatment?

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 10. July 2014

Whether you are making plastic parts or products for automotive, consumer electronics or packaging, you are quite aware of how molded thermoplastics are increasingly achieving new heights in decorative appearance and quality.

 

Many striking aesthetic effects are now possible by employing new polymer blends coupled with a diverse range of decoration and surface treatment technologies. They can product 3D and tactile finishes, high-definition images, flawless high gloss and metallic surfaces, as well as effects ranging from imitation materials, interferential colors, color gradients, color change and travel, gloss and matte combinations, and even acoustic or olfactory effects.

 

Manufacturing processes to achieve these effects include several types of in-mold film, coating or decorating technique, relatively recent technologies to improve surface quality, as well as traditional separate decorating or coating processes such as dry offset, flexographic; inkjet; pad and screen printing; foil transfer; labelling; laser marking; plating; spray coating; and vacuum deposition. The new publication, “Innovation Trends in Plastics Decoration and Surface Treatment”, from UK’s Smithers Rapra analyzes and compares recent trends in each of over 20 types of mainstream manufacturing processes and 10 classes of sensory effects they can produce.

 

According to author and consultant Ed Crutchley the book covers well over 1000 different innovations. Raw materials covered include: color or reflectivity change materials and additives; effect and other special color materials; films, foils and labels; inks, paints, coatings; and substrate polymer resins, blends and additives. In-mold processes addressed include: coloration, co-injection, multilayer molding, multiple material molding; in-mold coating, on-mold painting; in-mold film techniques; in-mold printing, marking, or use of engraved cavities; and, in-mold surface improvement.

The sixteen stand-alone or in-line processes discussed range from atmospheric plasma deposition or thermal spray and foil transfer processes to laser and irradiative marking and liquid coating techniques and pigment orientation techniques to sublimation printing and vacuum deposition. The $140 book can be ordered at www.polymer-books.com

 

 

Custom Molders: How Do Your Hourly Press Rates Compare?

By: Matthew H. Naitove 9. July 2014

 

The only place you can find an answer is right here—at ptonline.com—and in Plastics Technology magazine. If you’re one of our injection molding readers, you’re probably familiar with our twice-yearly Custom Injection Molding Hourly Rates Survey. It’s the only source I know of data on average machine-hour rates for different press sizes—with and without operator, with and without profit included—in five regions of the country. I’ve talked to a number of molders who use it to benchmark their own rates versus the competition.

 

Where do you come in? Right now we’re gathering data for our midyear survey of hourly rates. We need your data to make this survey accurately representative of molders throughout the country. Your answers are submitted anonymously, so they’re 100% confidential. Please go to this address and take 5 minutes to fill out a brief online questionnaire. (Some of you may already have received an email asking you to do so.) So please contribute! Your responses to my blog requesting your help a few months ago were essential to making our 2013 end-of-year survey possible. We need enough of you to respond now so we can get the midyear data in print and online without delay. Thanks!




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