Printpak Spearheads Local Effort to Recycle Rigid Plastics

By: James Callari 1. May 2014


At a time when plastics are being challenged on a regular basis by governments, James City County in Virginia along with three other and Virginia municipalities have joined the ranks of more-progressive lawmakers by making accommodations for their residents to include rigid plastics in their curbside pickup for recycling.


Starting in July 2014, residents in these areas will be able to include plastics like yogurt cups and grocery store clam shells, among other plastic containers in their recycling bins.


The initiative was driven by Printpack Rigid, and Jamie Clark, its v.p. and GM.  One of Printpack’s U.S.- based rigid plastics processing plants, which produces sheet rollstock and a variety of barrier PET-based cups for applesauce, pudding, tuna and a variety of other applications, is located within James City County, where Clark also calls home.  As an officer of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) and the chairman of the SPI’s Rigid Plastics Packaging Group (RPPG), Clark helped support a study on rigid plastics recovery within the county.


The Virginia Public Service Authority (VPPSA),  which manages curbside collection for the four municipalities, led the initiative with support from Printpack and RPPG.  The study showed when households were asked to recycle all of their rigid plastics, the entire quantity of recyclables went up by 20% with polypropylene and non-bottle PET making up the majority of the increase. Even PET bottles, which are already included in the program, saw a substantial bump. 


National recycling statistics show a trend in improvements in the recovery stream for rigid plastics.  Non-bottle rigid plastic recovery has increased threefold since 2007 to 2011 from about 325 million lb to 934 million lb.  In addition, the ratio of materials staying in Canada and the U.S. as opposed to shipping to other countries has increased from 37% to 61%, which is higher than aluminum and paper.


Initially, the VPPSA was reluctant when collection of all rigid plastics for recovery had originally been put on the table for discussion, Clark recalls. The market for mixed plastic seemed to be centered overseas, and VPPSA wanted assurances that if it were collected, it would actually be recycled.  Traditionally, the only plastic material they accepted was PET bottles and HDPE jugs with necks.


As the project progressed, VPPSA put their contract for collection out to bid.  But they did not include all rigid plastics in the RFQ because they were concerned that there wasn’t enough economic incentive to collect the material. VPPSA was also concerned that they might even see cost increases if they included all rigids.


After extensive research on this matter, Jamie Clark ensured them that the domestic market was developing to handle this type of recovery. “The expanded recycling won’t cost the localities more nor require a change in the regional contract.  There is enough market for the materials that contractors seem to be looking for more of this mixed plastic to buy,”  Clark states. He adds, “The scale of manufacturing in China shows the level of polypropylene consumed is three to four times of that in the U.S.  We should not be surprised that Asia has high demand for this raw material. This is a good thing.”




This past January, Printpack executives and representatives from the SPI, the Southeast Recycling Development Council, County Waste, the MRF (the company that won the bid), and James City County’s Economic Development and General Services Departments met to work out the program’s details. “The meeting was targeted to roll up our sleeves and figure out how to expand plastics recycling locally,” said Clark.  County Waste came in with the attitude of, ‘we’re ready to do it, we’re already doing it elsewhere, so let’s roll.’ County Waste clearly understood that maximizing collection and recycling of all rigid plastics was profitable.


James City County Economic Development Group was instrumental in aligning the parties and moving this initiative forward.  Clark added, “There is good reason that Forbes Magazine ranked Virginia the best state for Business in 2013.”


Citizens of the county can expect a simple procedure of simply separating out their plastics in a separate bin to be picked up with regular waste disposal.  With local industries and citizens at large aligned, this no cost solution to aid in the recovery of plastics is projected to be a hit in this community.

Step Up and Support Manufacturing Day

By: James Callari 16. April 2014

The third annual Manufacturing Day is coming up Oct. 3. Far away, you might think, but close enough that you maybe start planning if you intend to participate.


Manufacturing Day, for those who don't know, is an important day for any company that makes things to show off their businesses, technology and the products they make to students, parents, teachers, and job seekers who are interested in learning about manufacturing and the skills and training needed to start a career in the field. To strut their stuff, as it were.


I believe plastics processors need to take this event more seriously.


The second annual Manufacturing Day was held last Oct. 4. On that day, more than 825 manufacturers in 48 states opened their doors to in excess of 35,000 guests to show what manufacturing is all about.  “Manufacturing Day 2013 was a success because hundreds of manufacturers invited their communities—including students, educators and legislators—to visit their operations and see first-hand the value of the work they do”, states Ed Youdell, president and CEO of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association.  


Youdell added: “By focusing the events of so many manufacturers around a single day, participants collectively delivered the message that manufacturers are of significant importance to the U.S. economy, are well-managed companies that can compete globally, and offer family-supporting careers to students who follow technical and community college paths as well as four-year degree programs.”


Manufacturing Day gives companies a chance to inform the general public about the issues they face, such as a shortage of skilled labor. During the events they hosted, many manufacturers reported how this shortage affects them on a day-to-day basis, as well as the solutions they are developing to tackle it. That message was delivered not just to the 35,000 visitors at local events, but to more than 80 million viewers of the website and social media postings.


“At The Manufacturing Institute, we are working to help manufacturers attract quality talent and develop the workforce pipeline,” noted Jennifer McNelly, president of the group . “When we all work together, manufacturing is stronger, and when manufacturing is stronger, the U.S. is stronger.”


“The robust response and participation in Manufacturing Day from across America shows manufacturers’ commitment to developing the talent needed for a 21st-century workforce,” added Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. “By opening shop floors to young and curious minds around the country, we are able to show that modern manufacturing is a technology-driven industry that offers secure, good-paying jobs and the ability to develop products that will change the world.”


But of the 800+ manufacturers that opened their doors to interested people last October, only a handful—fewer than 10—were processors. That’s a disappointing number at any point, particularly when this industry, like many others, is having enormous challenges finding young talent.


One processor that took part in the 2013 festivities was Plastic Molding Technology (PMT), El Paso, Tex. "The goal of the Manufacturing Day event at PMT was to draw greater attention to the outstanding opportunities a career in manufacturing can provide, and to promote the pursuit of skills leading to a long-term career for qualified candidates," said Charles A. Sholtis, owner and CEO of the company. “Manufacturing is coming back to the U.S.,” Sholtis added. “The role of manufacturing in the supply chain has become increasingly important to end markets. Hopefully, by opening up shop floors around the country to students and other businesses, we were able to show modern manufacturing for what it is—a sleek, safe, technology-driven industry that offers secure, good-paying jobs.”



Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of the Society of the Plastics Industry, put it this way: “A high-quality manufacturing sector is vital to our nation’s ability to thrive within a global economy. It’s important that we invest financial and human resources into expanding manufacturing so that we can continue to create American jobs and grow our economy. Companies that participate in Manufacturing Day help secure the future of the plastics industry by promoting its innovative technologies and opportunities.”


PMT plans on participating again this year, and expects a bigger turnout at its plant than last year. Why don’t you give it some consideration? Log on to to learn how to get involved.

Visiting university students watch in amazement as Baxter the robot demonstrates the future of automation in manufacturing during Plastic Molding Technology Inc.’s plant tour for Manufacturing Day 2013. Baxter was supplied by Shepard Controls. Photo: Plastic Molding Technology Inc.

Time to Get Drying Right

By: James Callari 7. April 2014

It’s one of the most nettlesome of issues…resin drying. Even the most grizzled of molders is often vexed by it. Well coming in the May issue there might be a solution to your resin-drying problems.


You’ll be receiving your May issue with a supplement—as in another publication.  We’re calling this supplemental publication Drying Done Right. It will contain materials tips from our noted Materials Know How columnist Mike Sepe; equipment tips from injection molding wizard John Bozzelli, frequent author of our Injection Molding Know How column; and an article highlighting molders and extrusion processors who are on top of their game when it comes to drying hygroscopic materials and were willing to share their secrets about it with us.


So look for this supplement with the regular May issue of Plastics Technology. Both publications will come at the same time in a polybag.


Meantime, check out our Drying Knowledge Center and Drying Zone for more insights on this critical topic.

Photo of dryer desiccant bed courtesy of Dri-Air Industries

Are You Ready to Export Your Film?

By: James Callari 4. March 2014

I’ve blogged about shale gas before. I’ve also written an editorial about it. And my colleague Lilli Sherman wrote a comprehensive piece on the subject in our November issue. We pay so much attention to this topic because it has the potential to revolutionize plastics processing in North America.


More recently,  I received a press release last week from Applied Market Information, which was promoting the release of a multi-client study it conducted last year, Polyethylene Film Products: The Global Market.


Whenever I get studies like this the first thing I start to wonder about is whether the cost reductions that suppliers realize as a result of shale-gas developments will trickle down to the processor, our audience. The consensus is, not right away, if at all. Noted AMI’s John Campin: “I don't think there will be any dramatic shift in relative cost base in North America until after 2018: quite a lot will depend on how many of the proposed PE installations will go ahead.”


But then I started to wonder if I was asking the right question in the first place. In a way, yes…price is important to buyers of PE because many of them purchase it in large quantities. A swing of a penny a pound either way makes a huge difference. And, yes, there will be tremendous amounts of material produced by polyolefin suppliers from lower-cost feedstocks over the next few years. Should not these cost savings trickle down to processors? I mean,  in some extrusion operations material accounts for 60-70% of their total  manufacturing expenses. Not chump change. 


Then I started to think  "big picture." Relatively speaking, because shale gas is being generated across North America, the price for polyolefins paid by processors in this continent stand to be very competitive with those paid by processors located most everywhere else. So there’s an unprecedented opportunity for well-positioned processors to expand their business outside North America. According to the study, “It is highly probable that North America will have a polymer cost base on a par with that  in the Middle East, leading to PE film exports from North America overtaking those of the Middle East. Looking beyond 2018, this projected cost advantage, when combined with the technological expertise of U.S. polyethylene film producers, will ensure North American PE film producers become truly global players.”


Where specific film applications are concerned, the study says the highest growth rate is forecast for stretch films. Demand for bags and sacks is also forecast to grow, as is growth of technical films, agricultural films, heavy duty sacks and shrink films.


While all of that is exciting and looks great on paper, it won't come to pass without effort on the part of processors. One thing film processors in particular must reevaluate is equipment. One industry source estimates that more than 70% of the 20 billion lb/yr of blown film is currently processed on equipment that’s 10 years old or older. As I see it, film producers will still be leaving money and opportunities on the table if they continue to run it through equipment that doesn’t offer the latest capabilities in throughput, gauge control and quality. Another issue North American processors must do is begin to establish overseas channels, either through sales representation or regional offices. Take note: European film producers are already starting to gain a foothold in North America.


So the shale gas opportunity is there. It’s not too early to start planning.


Contact John Campin for more details on this study.


Six Inducted Posthumously to Plastics Hall of Fame

By: James Callari 24. February 2014


The SPI and The Plastics Academy announced six nominees to be posthumously inducted into the 2014 Plastics Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will take place on Sunday April 27 during ANTEC 2014 in Las Vegas.


"The Plastics Hall of Fame inductees recognizes individuals who have a strong record of consistent dedication and extraordinary accomplishments, and who contributed to the stature and growth of the plastics industry," said Jay Gardiner, president of The Plastics Academy and president of Gardiner Plastics, Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.


 The 2014 posthumous inductees are:


  • Dr. Robert L. Banks and Dr. John P. Hogan: Hogan and Banks’ groundbreaking discovery of crystalline polypropylene on June 5, 1951, led to the development of a new catalytic process for making a high density polyethylene and launched a new family of polyolefin plastics that included both the polypropylenes and polyethylenes.


  • Dr. Earnest C. Bernhardt: Bernhardt was a plastics engineer who devoted his life’s work to the development of process applications for the injection molding and extrusion of engineering materials. Bernhardt contributed to a number of globally known companies including BASF and DuPont.  Bernhardt also wrote and contributed to a number of publications on the advancement of the plastics industry. 


  • Frederick N. Biesecker: Biesecker was one of the early pioneers in the plastic bottle industry and a visionary entrepreneur who, along with his wife, enabled the growth of Drug Plastics and Glass Company from humble beginnings to a world-recognized healthcare company.


  • Willi Müller: Müller devoted more than 60 years to the plastics industry beginning as a tool and die maker.  Müller started W. Müller KG where he developed industry changing extrusion heads that revolutionized the blow molding industry.


  • Hans Reifenhäuser: Reifenhäuser, with his entrepreneurial spirit, helped refine and develop the modern-day extruder for use in a multitude of processes, bringing his company into the forefront of extrusion machinery manufacturers.



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