20 Good Things to Come Out of 2020—Part 3
Processors and resin makers step up; biobased/renewable PP makes commercial strides; BOPE makes inroads as monolayer contender; and, performance PP for engineering applications & sustainability 'shines'.
#sustainability #polyolefins #covid-19
Diverse Processors Step-Up for PPE
Through 2020, we saw so very many examples of plastic processors stepping up to meet the need for PPE and other hygienic and medical equipment. In the majority of cases on which we reported, these were not the type of products typically manufactured, and their production nearly always entailed some innovative equipment conversion and also collaboration with other manufacturers. Among my favorites were an automotive parts and packaging manufacturer and a global thermoformer that serves the medical, telecommunications, automotive, and electronic industries.
Resin Makers Do Their Part In Donating Resin
Resin makers faced their own host of challenges through 2020, ranging from labor shortages to unplanned feedstock and resin production shutdowns including weather-related disruptions. On one hand, this translated to higher prices for processors, particularly as we moved into the latter part of the year. On the other, several resins suppliers stepped up their efforts to help meet the need for PPE, and more often than not, this entailed the donation of resin. Among my favorites, was a group of ‘live-in mode’ resin supplier employees for whom their community did drive-bys to show their support! Others included collaborative efforts with manufacturers and industry institutes.
Roadway to Biobased/Renewable Feedstocks and Resins Widens
Just as mechanically and chemically recycled-content resins and compounds are here to stay and advance in quality, so to is the drive toward biobased/renewable feedstocks and resins, albeit more slowly. Some of the news we reported on in 2020 showed significant promise in terms of commercial realization. To me, the highlight was the commercial production of certified renewable polypropylene.
Also encouraging is support for bioplastics such as PHA from the government, and new patented bioplastics from universities looking for commercial partners for tougher more versatile medical implants.
BOPE Grows in Stature as Another Monomaterial Contender for BOPP & BOPET
Biaxially oriented polyethylene film technology (BOPE), whether based on LLDPE or HDPE, is making inroads as a recyclable monomaterial contender with multilayer BOPP or monolayer BOPET films. We first reported on this technology in the latter half of 2019, as we approached the 2019 K show in Düsseldorf. There, SABIC launched a new LLDPE for BOPE, showcasing standup pouched suitable for confectionary and snacks; frozen, fresh and dried fruit and vegetables; and packaging for personal-care products.
In 2020, we reported on a new HDPE for BOPE from Nova Chemicals and its collaboration with several organizations across the supply chain. The company sees HD-BOPE as having greater potential in that it’s more easily recyclable and can enable higher recycling rates for flexible packaging and help brand owners achieve their circular-economy commitments.
PP Moves Forward in Performance & Sustainability
As one materials/additives editor, it is difficult not to have some if not quite a bit of ‘affection’ for polypropylene. We have seen some very noteworthy advances in the PP arena over the years, ranging from clarified PP for packaging and consumer goods to reinforced PP compounds to recycled-content grades and now biobased grades.
So, it was a true pleasure to have some of the prominent players in the business weigh in for our September 2020 feature on how new performance PP is not only tackling ‘engineering’ applications but also the all-crucial sustainability issue.
Lighter weight, lower cost, and greater impact strength, moldability and customization are rapidly driving demand for thermoplastics that help keep electronics, lighting and car engines cool.
New and improved formulations are displacing leading plasticizer DEHP; DINP’s future is also now shakier.
The excitement in the air of the recent Innovation Takes Root conference was a sense of arrival.