Non-Ortho-Phthalates Gain Ground in Flexible PVC

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 17. August 2016

Conversion to non-ortho-phthalate plasticizers expected to steadily continue.


“Health, Environmental Concerns Give Non-Phthalate Plasticizers a Push”, our August cover story, discusses how workhorse ortho-phthalate plasticizers DOP/DEHP and DINP in flexible PVC will continue to steadily be replaced by non-phthalate alternatives.


In my coverage of the broad category of non-phthalate alternatives that are getting the most play, I included DOTP (diethylehexyl terephthalate, aka DEHT). It is more accurate to say they are non-ortho-phthalates.


Our long-time industry colleague Allan Griff, consulting engineer and plastics extrusion pro, told me that there is still some unresolved confusion around ortho- and tere-phthalates, and he will be addressing this in his presentation at the upcoming SPE Vinyltec in Woodbridge, N.J. on Sept. 21. An email from Allan prompted me to blog about this both for the sake of my article’s accuracy and the fun but instructive chemistry lesson he offered as follows:


• A phthalate is based on phthalic acid, which is like a person with two hands (forget the feet right now). The type of phthalate depends on what he’s holding. If he holds two oranges, it’s “orange” phthalate. If he has two fish, it’s “fish” phthalate. And, if he has two-8-carbon chains, it’s diOctyl phthalate (di = 2, octyl = 8 like octopus) = DOP, the most common plasticizer, which can soften PVC resin for use in flexible applications. (He can in principle have different things in right and left hands, but that doesn’t happen in the real world of plasticizers.)


• Now, there are two important classes of phthalates. If the hands are close to each other, like clapping or praying, they can hold onto things together. Those are ortho-phthalates, which are the ones accused of harmful effects. However, and this is critical, if the arms stick straight out to both sides, like a welcoming gesture, they don’t work together at all. That’s a tere-phthalate, and they haven’t been considered dangerous (yet) because they don’t react like ortho-phthalates can.


Allan is referring particularly to DOTP which was first offered by Eastman Chemical as a ‘non-phthalate’ plasticizer (Eastman 168), with 168 SG (sensitive grade) version launched in 2013, a high-purity grade for medical and children products. Also that year, seeing the value of DOTP, BASF launched Palatinol DOTP, and is starting North American production of this plasticizer next year at dedicated facilities in Pasadena, Texas. It happens that this non-ortho-phthalate has experienced a nine-fold increase in consumption in North America and Europe combined, according to recent industry reports from Houston-based IHS Chemical and others. Allan makes the point that while these DOTP products are significantly different than the ortho-phthalates, they are phthalates nonetheless.


Moreover, he points to two other important connections: PET and BPA (bisphenol-A). “No-one has seriously accused this plastic (PET) of harm, other than waste of resources.” He says this might be because no-one wants to go up against the beverage industry, but also because there is a big difference: PET is a terephthalate—the kind with the arms sticking out and joining with other phthalate molecules to form a chain.  Adds Allan, “In other words, it’s the plastic itself, not an additive like DOP in PVC! Here we see the difference between a building block (monomer), which loses its identity (and reactability) as a component of a polymer chain, versus, an additive, which remains unreacted in the finished product.”


He then points out that this is where BPA fits in. “The public confuses polymer with additive. They talk about plastics with BPA ‘in it,’ but that is only PC, which is too expensive anyway for mass usage. However, the BPA anxiety has spread to other clear plastics, including PET, which chemically has nothing to do with BPA. If there is residual BPA in the PC, that is what needs to be talked about, and maybe limits even set much as the vinyl industry set limits for the carcinogenic vinyl chloride monomer back in the 70s.” 

Key Composting Standard to be Revised

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 16. August 2016

ASTM is updating standard as more and more products become certified as compostable.


The composting standard ASTM D6868, widely used by third-party certifiers and laboratories to help manufacturers make verifiable claims about their products, will be revised, according to the ASTM International Committee on Plastics (D20), W.Conshohoken, Penn.


The D6868 specification establishes the requirements for labeling of materials and products including packaging, whereby a biodegradable plastic film or coating is attached to paper or other compostable substrates—either through lamination or extrusion, and the entire product or package is designed to be composted in municipal and industrial aerobic composting facilities.


According to ASTM member Rhodes Yepsen, who serves as executive director of the Biodegradable Products Institute, BPI has tested and certified thousands of products as compostable according to D6868. “As more and more businesses and municipalities collect food scraps for composting, this is a critical standard for determining whether the products included with the food are truly compostable.” BPI is a non-profit professional association of key individuals and groups from government, industry and academia, which promotes the use and recycling of biodegradable polymer materials via composting.


The current specification does not describe the contents of the product or their performance with regards to compostability or biodegradability. In order to compost satisfactorily, the product must demonstrate each of three characteristics:


  • Proper disintegration during composting
  • Adequate levels of inherent biodegradation
  • No adverse impacts on the ability of composts to support plant growth


Currently, there is no known ISO equivalent for this standard.


In addition to businesses and municipalities that collect food scraps for composting, the revised standard is also expected to help regulators and others who specify compostable products.


Diesel Fuel Made from Recycled Plastic Undergoing Trials

By: Heather Caliendo 10. August 2016


Plaxx is the product of polymerizing mixed plastic waste into a substance consisting of hydrocarbon monomers similar to crude oil.


New research will determine if Plaxx, made from residual mixed plastic waste, can be used efficiently in diesel engines which currently use HFO (Heavy Fuel Oil), without increasing engine wear. These engines are in marine vessels such as tankers, ferries, as well as other nautical machinery.


The research, funded by Innovate UK and ESPRC will be led by Associate Professor Farid Dailami, Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), in partnership with Recycling Technologies, developers of Plaxx. The project is also supported by Swindon Borough Council, Crapper and Sons Landfill Ltd., and an international marine insurer.


In addition to the shipping industry, the research is also of interest to waste treatment companies, packaging manufacturers and local waste handling authorities. According to the researchers, its long term application helps create a useable resource from waste that isn’t efficiently recycled mechanically.


The waste source is the plastic entering the commercial, industrial and municipal waste streams that is mixed, laminated, contaminated and otherwise not processable by conventional plastics recycling techniques. Plaxx is the product of the polymerization of plastic and is made up of a mixture of hydrocarbon monomers similar to crude oil. It is reportedly very low in sulphur and other organic and inorganic contaminants. Currently it is a soft wax at room temperature but a low viscosity liquid at 70°C. The researchers say that it can be further refined and could be used as an input to plastics manufacturing.


The research will develop the use of Plaxx by testing engine performance, exhaust emissions and engine wear on different engines over a broad range of test conditions. The research will also develop software tools that will monitor these three aspects to enable engine users to achieve optimum performance from Plaxx.


 “This new fuel could have huge environmental benefits as an alternative to HFO currently used in marine diesel engines and industrial engines,” says Associate Professor Farid Dailami. “Our research will compare the performance of this fuel with standard diesel fuel in order to gain data on how it performs and to ensure it won't damage the engine or cause harmful emissions or gases. The aim is to demonstrate to producers and users of these engines that Plaxx can be a viable alternative to HFO and to pave the way for commercialization of Plaxx.”


The Minco Group Becomes SPI’s First Zero Net Waste Company

By: Heather Caliendo 10. August 2016

The company is projecting a revenue increase of approximately $20,000 for 2017 based on recycling efforts.


Injection molder and moldmaker The Minco Group, Dayton, has become a Zero Net Waste recognized company. SPI launched its Zero Net Waste program to acknowledge companies that have taken steps to eliminate waste in plastics manufacturing throughout the life cycle.


Lead by SPI’s senior director of recycling and diversion Kim Holmes, as well as SPI members, including suppliers, processors and recyclers, the Zero Net Waste program aims to reduce waste at every step in the life cycle. The self-reporting Zero Net Waste program requires companies to meet qualification and verification requirements that demonstrate their goals for pursuing zero waste. Companies are asked to submit information annually for ongoing verification, which allows companies to utilize the Zero Net Waste program logo.


Dan Norris, vice president of The Minco Group, encouraged employee participation in helping SPI to create and implement the Zero Net Waste program.


The Minco Group demonstrated leadership in landfill diversion and waste reduction through its efforts lead by Andy Brewer, program manager at All Service Plastic Molding (ASPM), a company owned by The Minco Group, to manage the Zero Net Waste program implementation. Under Brewer’s leadership, ASPM organized a Green Team, which leads the Zero Net Waste program at their facility. The team also monitors company progress, which to date has included:


  • Diverting 88 percent of total manufacturing waste from landfill.
  • Organizing a 24-hour sort of ASPM waste and categorizing materials into 26 categories.
  • Decreasing landfill-bound waste weights by 46 percent.
  • Projecting a revenue increase of approximately $20,000 for 2017 based on recycling efforts.


“I’ve been working with Kim Holmes’ Recycling Committee and knew that my company was capable of doing our part to make the industry more sustainable,” Brewer says. “I was able to get buy-in from my colleagues by organizing a 24-hour sort, in which they learned about all of the many recyclable materials we send to the landfill, in error, every day. From there, our Green Team, which manages our recycling efforts, was born. We are thrilled to be recognized by SPI and hope that our work helps make the business case for saving costs while saving the planet.”


SPI believes the Zero Net Waste program offers members the tools and resources to help them achieve their recycling and waste reduction goals. 


Advanced Manufacturing Has Outsized Impact U.S. Economy

By: Tony Deligio 10. August 2016

But overall impact is waning, pointing to need for federal and state-local strategies to boost the sector’s growth and broaden its reach.


Earlier this month, think tank The Brookings Institution released a report with those findings and more entitled “America’s Advanced Industries: New Trends” by Brookings Fellow Mark Muro, former Research Analyst Siddharth Kulkarni, and Nonresident Senior Fellow David Hart.


The report found that the overall sector expanded between 2013 and 2015, despite global headwinds, including China’s slowdown. That growth, however, was concentrated in a sliver of auto manufacturing and “tech” service industries, with three auto industries and four digital services industries taking up more than 60 percent of the nation’s advanced-sector growth during that time.


Forward 50
This report is a follow up on February 2015 paper by Brookings entitled “America’s Advanced Industries: What They Are, Where They Are, and Why They Matter”. In that, Brookings identified 50 industries that constitute the advanced industries sector. Those 50 were further broken down into three primary groups—manufacturing, energy, services—of which manufacturing was the largest with 35 categories.


Of those, many were directly related to plastics, like “resins and synthetic rubbers, fibers, and filaments” with more that touched on segments which rely heavily on polymers like aerospace and motor vehicle parts, medical equipment and household appliances. Resin and rubber was one of only 10 advanced industries that ran a trade surplus, trailing only royalties and aerospace.  


Why Do These Advanced Industries Matter?
These manufacturing-heavy sectors are so important to the U.S. economy because of their outsized influence on it. According to Brookings, the advanced sector conducts 89 percent of the nation’s private-sector R&D and generates more than 80 percent of the nation’s patents.


In terms of overall productivity, the advanced industries sector has grown about 2.7 percent annually since 1980, far faster than has the rest of the economy, which has managed annual productivity growth of just 1.4 percent.


Finally, there is the impact on trade. The advanced industries sector generates 60 percent of U.S. exports despite representing less than 10 percent of the nation’s employment.


Concentrated Growth
Despite slower growth from 2010–2013, advanced manufacturing industries still added more than 132,000 jobs from 2013–2015 period, taking up 20 percent of all advanced-sector employment growth. Roughly 70 percent of that employment growth came in three auto-related industries: motor vehicle parts, motor vehicles, and motor vehicle body and trailers


High-tech service industries were the leading source of advanced-sector growth in the 2013–2015 period, adding 500,000 new jobs over that time or 80 percent of new advanced-sector jobs. Nearly two-thirds of those came in four spaces: computer systems design, web search and internet publishing, software and products, and data processing and hosting.


Energy Bust
The advanced-energy sector has gone from a significant contributor in the 2010–2013 period to a “bust,” according to report author, Muro. “The U.S. ‘fracking” boom led to an oil and gas glut and energy demand stagnated worldwide.”


Going forward, the report sees two immediate issues to be addressed.


“This report speaks to two of the nation’s most pressing economic problems: its serious inclusion crisis and its stubborn productivity slump. On both counts, the vitality and expansion of the advanced-industries sector is crucial because the sector is the main source of the productivity growth and productivity-driving innovations and business models that support higher wages and rising living standards for the average worker.”


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