PT Blog

The year’s last quarter started with signals that prices of PE, PP, PS, PVC, and possibly PET, despite suppliers’ price increase attempts, would drop or remain flat. Among the main drivers are ample supplies, falling global prices, and in some cases off demand. PET could be the exception as there are market projections for higher prices for its key feedstocks.

Here’s a recent takeaway at how our industry colleagues with pricing expertise view things for each of the five major commodity volume resins. They include purchasing consultants from Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi), Fort Worth, Texas, senior editors from Houston-based PetroChemWire; and CEO Michael Greenberg of the Plastics Exchange in Chicago.

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It was my first time attending the 2019 Additive Manufacturing Conference (August 27-29) in Austin, TX, which is presented by our sister publication, Additive Manufacturing, and polymer AM was definitely a focus. 

For instance, Bonnie Meyer, application engineer at Evolve Additive Solutions, discussed the company’s Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process (STEP), which combines an existing 2D printing technology with its own proprietary STEP platform. In May, Evonik and Evolve Additive Solutions announced a joint development agreement where the companies will work together to formulate Evonik’s thermoplastic materials to be used in Evolve's (STEP) technology. Meyer said that “system is built from the ground up for production parts and will be targeting mid to low volume parts.” Evolve’s STEP technology will sit alongside traditional manufacturing processes, such as injection molding on the manufacturing floor. The selective thermoplastic electrophotographic process from Evolve is still in the alpha development stage and is expected to be commercial in late-2020.

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Poor waste management infrastructure is a big contributor to the global plastic pollution problem. This is a reason why Dow is working on several different projects to relieve some on the burden on global recycling infrastructures. In July, I reported on Dow’s work to build schools out of hard-to-recycle plastic waste in Colombia. And I recently talked with Dow to learn more about its new initiative, Project MASARO, which has created a replicable blueprint for zero-waste economies that enables communities to convert their waste into valuable resources.

Indonesia is the world’s second largest plastic waste producer; disposing 3.2 million tons of plastic waste each year. Dow partnered with the Bandung Institute of Technology (IBT) to develop Project MASARO, which was launched through a pilot showcase located at a boarding school in the village of Babakan. The pilot project introduces the concept and technology of the system through a series of training workshops that highlight the importance of waste separation to the overall system. 

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I recently reported that new market studies show that the growth of stand-up pouches for a variety of packaged products—ranging from dry, frozen and liquid foods, to non-food product—is expected to continue to grow at a strong pace. I also noted that the all-PE (mono-material) structures have been gaining a lead due to their recyclability advantage, and we have a feature article slated for our November issue on this topic.

Yet another trend that is also gaining commercial attention is the emergence of stand-up pouches with post-consumer recycled (PCR) content derived from mechanical recycling. Take the latest introduction from Cincinnati-based flexible packaging provider ProAmpac. Last year, the company launched its QuadFlex all-PE pouch (a fully recyclable HDPE blend) with a How2Recycle logo with instructions to consumers for packaging a variety of products ranging from pet food to lawn & garden, cereal and salty snacks.

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A few days ago, I reported on a meeting hosted by UFlex Ltd., India’s largest flexible packaging producer, with production facilities in six countries, including the U.S. For me, the main takeaway from that meeting was the unusual—probably unique—level of concrete, proactive efforts toward establishing a “circular economy” by a company whose production of BOPET, BOPP and multilayer films and packaging is presumably one source of the plastic waste that fouls rivers and oceans. Since then, I’ve learned that there’s even more to the story.

The spokesman for this effort was Anantshree Chaturvedi, vice-chairman and CEO of FlexFilms International, a unit of UFlex. “We believe that plastic is a problem that can be solved,” he said. “Corporate choices and citizen behavior are part of the solution.” He presented Project Plastic Fix as the company’s four-pronged program “designed to clean up plastic waste and convert it into products that have an economic value. In essence, ‘waste becomes wealth.’”

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