PE Prices Bottom Out? PP Prices Move Up!

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 3. March 2015

So, here we are, at the beginning of the ‘Ides of March’, and perhaps that says it all, but most likely not when it comes to commodity resin pricing and particularly polyolefins!


Polyethylene prices dropped 5ȼ/lb in February, bringing the total decline in prices within a five-month period to 16ȼ/lb.  This movement and, in fact, the global PE price movement has been linked to crude oil prices in terms of key drivers affecting pricing for the last four years, says Mike Burns, v.p. for PE at Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi). “The delta between global and domestic PE prices has shrunk…for example, China’s PE prices dropped by 20 ȼ/lb within a two-month period last year and domestic prices took longer to follow but are now sort of ‘good enough’… though another decline is possible in March, depending on crude oil price movement.”


In general, Burns sees PE resin prices as maybe having bottomed out. Globally, prices have started to rebound a bit and domestic secondary markets are showing the same trend. Burns, for one, expects to see the PE exports market start to pick up within second and third quarters—with 2015 potentially emulating 2014’s same time frame in terms of demand and pricing stability. Burns points out that last year, demand appeared to be up during the first quarter primarily due to pre-buying in anticipation of price increases that were implemented and driven by several production capacity issues affecting nearly every PE resin. In contrast, this year, processors have been buying ‘as needed’ in anticipation since end of 2014, of further price relief. In addition, PE supplier inventory levels are at their highest within the last six years, reflecting the loss of exports. 


At the Plastics Recycling conference held last week in Dallas, Joel Morales, director of polyolefins for IHS noted that the key to lower domestic PE prices is the return of the exports market. (By the way, it’s interesting to note that one supplier—Dow Chemical,  issued a 5ȼ/lb price increase, effective March 15..a move that has not been supported thus far.)


Meanwhile, PP prices appear to have moved up on average a total of 2ȼ/lb within the last two months, as PP suppliers succeeded in achieving margin expansions of 1ȼ/lb beyond the cost of propylene monomer. Tight supplies, driven by unplanned plant production disruptions at three suppliers—Ineos, Phillips 66 and Lyondell Basell, are one driving force, along with rising demand. The latter is being met to a small degree by imported PP available at competitive prices, according to CEO Michael Greenberg of The Plastics Exchange.


IHS’s Morales sees domestic PP pricing power as shifting to PP suppliers due to lack of new PP resin capacity… in essence, mirroring PE pricing trends of a few years ago. “While PP prices have declined in step with crude oil prices, planned and unplanned outages continue to be an issue. Also, PP suppliers have aimed to decouple resin prices from monomer, in order to expand margins..similarly to steps taken by PE suppliers with regard to ethylene monomer prices over the last four years.” Stay tuned…



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




DuPont Experts And Partners To Address Recycling, Lightweighting, Optimal Material Selection

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 3. March 2015


DuPont will talk about new ways that plastics can be used in various markets, including automotive. In a recent program, as seen here, Zytel HTN PPA was used to make a coolant cross-over component that weighs one pound less thatn its brazed metal predecessor. 


Among the several major plastics materials companies that will have presence at NPE2015—either through a booth exhibit or through a specific conference room designation, is DuPont. Nearly all these suppliers have announced where they will be located and briefly described the materials and/or applications on which they intend to focus.


I found DuPont’s announcement of how they have structured their time there as a particularly helpful approach both for existing and potential customers and trade press alike. So, here is a rundown of their program of seminars, to be held at the Orange County Convention Center—Room W207A:


• Monday, March 23 at noon. “Material Selection Based On Feel—A Methodology For Technical Evaluation.” Presenters: DuPont technical specialists Eric Larson and Mark Schuchardt. These experienced DuPont Performance Polymers designers will talk about how the senses, such as feel, sight and hearing, can be engaged in the earliest stages of product development and material selection to bring new innovative ideas to light.


• Tuesday, March 24 at 10 a.m.  “DuPont Zytel Plus Nylon—Material Solutions For Long-Term Use At High Temperatures.” Presenter: DuPont scientist Rodica-Sinziana Himmeldirk. This session will address how this new advanced material can support the automotive industry’s drive to increase vehicle fuel efficiency by reducing weight.


• Tuesday, March 24 at noon.  “Not Your Average Recycling Talk.” Co-Hosts from DuPont Industrial Polymers: Shane Campbell, N.A. Industrial & Consumer Director and David Dean, Research & Development Director. DuPont and partner companies (see below) will talk about shifting mindsets about recycling, the latest advances in recycling machinery, and out-of-the-box success stories of recycled materials used in everyday items such as packaging, carpeting and decking.


Partner panelists: Kim Holmes, senior director, SPI’s Recycling and Diversion; Manfred Hackle, CEO, Erema Engineering; Frank Endrenyl, PET project leader, Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE); Darcy Meyers, global marketing director, packaging,PolyOne Corp.; and, Neville Browne, president and director, CarbonLife Industries.


• Wednesday, March 25 at 10 a.m. “Collaboration As The Catalyst For Innovation: Driving Differentiation.” Long-time DuPont collaborator John Winzeler, president of Winzeler Gears, will talk about how collaboration borne from deep relationship speeds development and excites innovation.


• Wednesday, March 25 at noon. “How Plastics Can Do More To Drive Automotive Lightweighting.” Presenter: Jeffrey A. Sternberg, Dupont’s global automotive technology director. Taking weight out of vehicle systems and components tops the automotive industry’s list of strategies to lower emissions and improve fuel efficiency and DuPont Performance Polymers shares a strategy to find new opportunities.


• Wednesday, March 25 at 2 p.m. “Engineering Polymer Solutions To Support Design And Innovation In Drug Delivery Devices.”  Presenter: William L. Hassink, global marketing manager for DuPont’s Medical Healthcare div.  DuPont Performance Polymers’ technical experts lend navigation to what can appear to be a bewildering range of materials to choose from when designing discrete drug delivery devices.


• Thursday, March 26 at 10 a.m.  “So What’s So Special About Surlyn Specialty Ionomer?” Co-hosts from DuPont Industrial Polymers will be Shane Campbell, NA industrial & consumer director and David Dean, research & development director. Presenters include other researchers and technical fellows. If you're not attenting ANTEC, but still want insights into cutting-edge advances in to the unique Surlyn capabilities, stop by for this interactive panel discussion. DuPont scientists will discuss the latest advances which help improve puncture resistance in packaging, bounce strength and anti-aging, and nylon modification. 


• Thursday, March 26 at noon. “The Possibilities Of Packaging & Industrial Polymers.”  Presenter is Timothy Libert, application development programs manager, and other DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers technical Experts. These polymer scientists in the field of packaging and industrial polymers will address some of the industry’s toughest challenges and invite attendees to bring their toughest issues to this panel discussion.


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



Study Shows Many Additives Designed to Biodegrade PE, PET Don't Work

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 23. February 2015

A recently-released study from Michigan State University indicates that many additives that claim to break down PE (i.e., plastic bags) and PET (i.e., soda bottles) simply do not work in common disposal situations such as landfills or composting.


            Featured in the current issue of Environmental Science and Technology, are a culmination of a three-year study that focused on five additives and three categories of biodegradation, which cover the majority of methods available on the market today. The team studied biodegradation with oxygen, such as composting; biodegradation without oxygen, such as anaerobic digester or a landfill; and simply burying plastics.

            “There was no difference between the plastics mixed with the additives we tested and the ones without. The claim is that, with the additives, the plastics will break down to a level in which microorganisms can use the decomposed material as good. That simply did not happen,” says Rafael Auras, co-author and MSU packaging professor.


            William Rathje, the late Arizona paleontologist and founder of the Tuscon Garbage Project, revealed that even after years underground, chicken bones still has meat on them, grass was still green, and that even carrots still maintained their orange color. Since organic materials take so long to decompose, it’s not surprising then that plastics, even with the aid of additives, would take decades or longer to break down, if at all. So, if the additives don’t work, what’s the solution? Says Susan Selke, co-author of the study and MSU packaging professor, “The solution is not to make claims that are untrue. The proper management of waste plastics is the proper management of waste plastics.” And, for now, that means not using any of the disposal methods or additives included in the study as feasible option, she adds.


            The study was funded by MSU’s Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability. Noted Selke, “Package-use companies funded this study because they wanted to know if the additives that are being marketed to them work. They wanted scientific proof to evaluate the products and disposal approaches that are available to them to break down plastic.”








3D Printing Filament Engineered From Recycled Plastic

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 20. February 2015

Technology start-up Dimension Polymers, Chicago, has developed what is said to be the first ‘professionally engineered’ 3D printing filament made from recycled plastic. The company envisions that the innovation of a ‘sustainable’ 3D printing filament will have a significant impact on the fast growing additive manufacturing market.

Co-founders Gerald Galazin and Mark Sherman have worked extensively to create a sustainable filament solution that can reduce carbon emissions by 66%. The two have been refining their formula, which is based on recycled ABS, since the June 2014 launch of their firm. Following rounds of beta testing with industry stakeholders and manufacturers, they have refined the product and are ready to bring it to market. The co-founders launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month  that will introduce their proprietary filament to the marketplace. They have already enjoyed brisk interest with 19 backers comprising 10% of their funding goal within the first 12 hours of the campaign.


The company has identified the most consistent and cleanest waste streams while partnering with recycling industry experts to ensure their product is stable and uses material that was already bound for landfills. They had their materials source vetted and certified for recycled content by SCS Global (national leader in sustainable and food product certification), which gave them the ‘green light’ to carry its esteemed Kingfisher Recycled Material Logo. Their U.S. manufacturing partner is reportedly an industry leader in filament for 3D printing, and the co-founders say they have a inked a partnership agreement that provides them with the capacity to manufacture and distribute enough filament to meet demand, as well as plans to expand as demand increases.


Dimension Polymers has also partnered with a local company to source their packaging, which it too is made of 100% recyclable material. In fact, they call it a ‘first-of-its-kind’ spool, it is in that it is made of chip board that it is recyclable in home or office recycle bins, vs. the majority of heavy plastic pools currently in use by major filament makers. The laminate and ink used for the company logo are also ecofriendly. Moreover, these spools are said to be sturdy to withstand heavy use, yet are over 50% lighter than traditional plastic spools, which translates to lower customer shipping costs.


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


Orlando Startup To Showcase 'Green', Affordable Graphene Additive

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 19. February 2015

As noted in a January 19 blog, the NPE2015 Startup Garage, a partnership of SPI and new-venture tracking firm Startup.Directory, will have at least twelve startup firms exhibiting innovations in polymer technology and beyond. Among them is Orlando-based Garmor Inc., which as previously reported will showcase graphene priced for high-volume plastics applications.   


Garmor will display samples of its low-cost graphene oxide and reduced graphene oxide in addition to products made with graphene oxide polymer and fiberglass composites. These composites can be used in a variety of applications ranging from automotive, aerospace, and military to consumer electronics, medical, and construction.


The company will also share the methods developed for the smooth dispersion of graphene into both polar and non-polar plastics. According to v.p. of engineering Sean Christiansen, the company’s partnership with the University of Central Florida (UCF) has played an integral role in perfecting a method to optimize the incorporation of graphene in various polymers, composite materials and coating. Although initial work has been with epoxy-based and other thermoset composites, the company has data on its work with graphene-reinforced thermoplastics such as HDPE and PC, and is actively seeking interested companies in the thermoplastic arena to further its development. Polymers enhanced with Garmor’s graphene oxide show a dramatic increase in mechanical and electrical performance.


The big feat of this startup company is its ability to manufacture low-cost graphene oxide in large volume. This novel as well as ‘green’ manufacturing technology was developed at UCF by Richard Blair, a researcher in the College of Sciences and the Center for Advanced Turbine and Energy Research. It was then licensed to Garmor, which has further enhanced the technology. This is said to be a simple yet effective method of producing edge-functionalized graphene oxide with only water as a by-product. This proprietary achievement eliminates costly hazardous waste disposal and delivers a ‘green’ additive suitable for large-scale production at commodity type prices.


According to Christiansen, Garmor has focused on testing and evaluating the use of graphene in downstream products to facilitate product acceptance. Essentially, it has been devising ‘simple’ recipes that potential customers can use to produce advanced graphene-based materials. The company continues to work with UCG to advance the technology for specific applications including the incorporation of graphene into polymeric materials as well as the development of coatings for anti-corrosion applications.

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