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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.

 

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

 

 

Washington Penn To Buy ExxonMobil's PP Compounding Business

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 8. July 2014

Leading polyolefin compounder Washington Penn Plastic Company (WPP) has reached an agreement with ExxonMobil Chemical (EMC) to purchase and license assets of EMC’s North American specialty compounded PP business.

 

The move followed EMC’s earlier announcement to cease production of these products at its Specialty Compounding Center in Baton Rouge, La.  The 88-million lb/yr plant went into operation in 2008. Noting that the agreement will facilitate the transition of the impacted customers to Washington Penn, Martin Devine, president of WPP and COO of parent company Audia International says, “The product technologies are very complimentary, and offer some exciting new opportunities for our customers.”

 

This marks the second specialty PP compounding business changing hands this year. Last month, Ferro Corp. announced that it was selling its business of PP compounds and alloys/blends to A. Schulman.  Both acquisitions are expected to be completed before year’s end.

 

Meanwhile, “The Global Market for PP Compounds”, a study from U.K.’ AMI Consulting released just last month, is interestingly timed in view of the rate of structural change in the industry. AMI consultants cite the sale of these two North American specialty PP compounding businesses and also the fast change occurring in the Chinese market where the level of investment is running at high levels. This study segments the markets into NAFTA, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Middle East/Africa, by product family and by application. Within the automotive segment--the largest market for PP compounds, applications are split into interiors, exteriors and underhood. The 140-page report also shows the current global growth trends for PP compounds, with Asia leading at 45%, Europe with 30% and the Americas with 25%.

 

                                   The Global Market for PP Compounds

Global Market for PP Compounds

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

 

Aachen Center, Shuler Form Alliance To Develop Lightweight Automotive, Aerospace Components

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 7. July 2014

Germany’s Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will begin manufacturing composite components on a new composite press from Shuler by year’s end.

 

A collaboration in the field of lightweight production is underway between Germany’s Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) and metal and plastic forming equipment supplier Schuler. A new upstroke composite press with a force of 1800 m.t.  from Shuler will serve as a joint R&D development platform for the large-scale testing of new dies, lines, components or automation technologies. The tests will be conducted under production conditions and ensure that equipment is ready for start-up.

 

“We are very much looking forward to a long-term cooperation with Schuler…As a premium partner, Shuler will be able to use our holistic expertise and complete portfolio of services, as well as our international partner network which are constantly expanding,” says AZL’s CEI Dr. Michael Emonts.

 

Shuler’s CTO Joachim Beyer says this collaboration will help the company enhance its press technology and production processes for modern lightweight materials, noting that AZL’ significant expertise in production technology and materials science will take the company a major step forward.  For the further development of its press equipment, Schuler is focusing in particular on the areas of high-speed RTM, wet pressing and the processing of thermoplastics Academic and practical feedback from the AZL network is expected to help Shuler optimize its customer solutions.

For the mass production of lightweight components, such as in automotive and aerospace sectors, the main focus is on increasing productivity: cycle times of 2-3 min for the RTM process , or even less than 1 min for thermoplastic processing, help meet the requirements of OEMs—especially with regard to reducing CO2 emissions and improving their ecological footprint.

 

 

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

 




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