PT Blog

By: Heather Caliendo 18. December 2018

Plastic Bottle Recycling Declined in 2017

Plastic bottle recycling declined in 2017, slipping 3.6 percent to 2.8 billion pounds, according to figures released jointly by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The 28th annual National Postconsumer Plastic Bottle Recycling Report indicates the overall recycling rate for plastic bottles for the year was 29.3 percent, down 0.4 percentage points from 29.7 percent in 2016. The five-year compounded annual growth rate for plastic bottle recycling was 0.1 percent.

The associations attribute the dip to a variety of industry challenges including changing export markets and a 3.6 percent decline in material collected for recycling. Ongoing increases in single-stream collection also led to increased contamination of recyclables in the near term. In addition, growth in the use of plastic for bottles was offset by continuing progress in lightweighting and increased use of concentrates with smaller, lighter bottles.

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Chemical recycling continues to gain steam as BASF announced it has broke new ground in plastic waste recycling with its ChemCycling project. Chemical recycling provides a new way to reutilize plastic waste that is currently not recycled, such as mixed or uncleaned plastics. Depending on the region, such waste is usually sent to landfill or burned for energy recovery. But chemical recycling offers another alternative: Using thermochemical processes, these plastics can be utilized to produce syngas or oils. The resulting recycled raw materials can be used as inputs in BASF’s production, partially replacing fossil resources.

BASF says it has for the first time manufactured products based on chemically recycled plastic waste. The company is collaborating closely with its customers and partners, which range from waste management companies to technology providers and packaging producers, to build a circular value chain.

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I first reported on Millad NX 8000—a PP clarifier derived from a then ‘new’ class of molecules based on nonitol, developed by Milliken Chemical, Spartanburg, S.C., 11 years ago. Since then, there was more reporting in terms of this clarifier’s performance in an ever-growing number of consumer applications and well-documented energy-saving benefits. Downstream customers, particularly in Asia, have now begun to  leverage the latter to their manufacturing advantage and the resulting UL Environmental Claim Validation (ECV) label to their marketing advantage.

Milliken has collaborated with the China Plastic Housewares Association to help broaden awareness of the energy consumption reductions that can be achieved by using Millad NX 8000 in a transparent PP product. The independent organization UL Environment, a business unit of UL (Underwriters Laboratories), has documented that use of Millad NX 8000 clarifier can result in energy savings of between 8-12% in injection molded, transparent PP products.

“The association is dedicated to helping the entire plastic housewares industry in China become more efficient and eco-friendlier, and thus the UL label means a lot in terms of demonstrating a commitment to energy saving,” said Milliken’s China business leader Kurt Xu, China.  Even though this effort is its early stages, five of the association’s leading member companies have agreed to get the UL label authorization for those plastic parts they produce using Millad NX 8000 as clarifier

Added Milliken’s Asia marketing leader Vincent Wang, “So far, a dozen or so upstream makers of clarified PP resin have adopted the UL label, and a few leading houseware brands in China, Taiwan and Thailand—including Picnic Plast Industrial Co. Ltd. in Thailand and Citylong Group in China—have been authorized to use it. We are seeing more and more international brands showing interests, as well.”

Milliken first earned UL validation for the energy-saving benefits of Millad NX 8000 in 2013. Downstream molders and brand owners now clearly are beginning to embrace the value of the concept.

Millad NX 8000 has been proven to deliver positive environmental- and performance-related benefits to PP. Its step-change to the performance and haze of PP supports the development of high-clarity, high-quality plastic houseware products. Importantly, use of the additive also allows conversion temperatures to be lowered in injection molding. This reduces processors’ energy use and any accompanying CO emissions. Numerous industrial trials indicate that use of Millad NX 8000 can lower required processing temperatures from 235°C to 190°C (455° F to 374° F), resulting in the above-noted energy savings of between 8 and 12%, while also lowering associated CO₂ emissions.

Upon first receiving the certification, Milliken had noted that the UL Environmental Claim Validation provides the assurance of independent confirmation of environmental credentials by a third party in markets deluged by unsubstantiated eco-claims. Milliken stresses it is committed to developing innovations that support more sustainable processing and a reduction in environmental impact for the plastics industry. Having UL Environment verify the positive energy savings of Millad NX 8000 was a major step in that direction.

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‘Sustainability’ in the design of new packaging for a broad range of products, and most prominently in the single-use food and beverage arena, is now a dominant goal. In a recent blog, I reported on the  “Big Ideas” podcast series, hosted by David Clark, v.p. of sustainability at global packaging giant Amcor Ltd., featuring interviews with thought leaders from global consumer-goods companies, sustainability organizations and Amcor itself. The series’ focus: how collaborative innovation is making consumer packaging and the products inside them better for the environment.

We recently heard from cannabis packaging manufacturer STO Responsible, Boulder, Colo. Its founders centered their business around one paramount goal: fixing the cannabis industry’s single-use plastic problem by developing safe, affordable packaging solutions that won’t harm the environment.

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Britain train leasing company Angel Trains has collaborated with engineering consultancy ESG Rail, and 3D printing technology provider Stratasys, to produce four fully approved interior components using 3D printing for the rail industry. The components approved for service include an arm rest, grab handle and seat back table.

All parts have been designed for additive manufacturing using Stratasys’ Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology. In addition, the components have been structurally assessed by ESG Rail for manufacturing using Stratasys 3D printed tooling and the company’s rail-certified thermoplastic materials. The components will soon commence in-service passenger trials, which are expected to last until the summer of 2019 in the UK.

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