Friday, November 20th, 2015

A Green Solution to a Billion-Pound Problem

When you see a big red “STOP” sign, your first thought is “STOP!” But have you ever wondered what the sign is made out of? Or how the contents may affect you? Take a second and think about how many “STOP,” “YIELD,” “DEAD END” and countless other varieties of small, pole-mounted road signs you see on your daily commute; almost all of these are made of aluminum, though that might not be the case for much longer.

A stop sign in Pennsylvania made using EcoStrate.

A stop sign in Pennsylvania made using EcoStrate.

EcoStrate SFS, Inc., an SPI member that successfully created a substrate material sourced from 100-percent post-consumer recycled material, landed a $1-million grant from California DOT CalRecycle (sharing half of it with Reliance Carpet Cushion) to manufacture road signs made from materials such as carpet, computer carcasses and carpet padding, textile waste and other waste products. In addition to road signs, the material will also be used to build indoor/outdoor Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant signage and flooring.

For EcoStrate, the grant is the culmination of a lengthy process of developing the material and then identifying applications where it could be used. Ron Sherga, the founder and CEO of the company, identified an opportunity to take a billion-pound waste issue and create a substrate that is green in both process and solution. He then brought on Ron Simonetti as the company’s chief operations officer and they began developing the technology.

“We primarily work with three large waste streams at this point,” Simonetti said, referring specifically to the two different plastic waste streams and another stream of waste carpet that are ground and blended to eventually become the material that EcoStrate uses in its indoor and outdoor signage. “One plastics stream is electronic waste. There’s a whole industry around collecting and sorting e-waste, and primarily those guys are after the metal in those electronic products,” he said. “Currently what’s happening is that the plastics in those products are being baled and sent to China and Asia, or reused into low-end plastic products. Now we can use the waste domestically to make EcoStrate products.”

Simonetti said the situation is much the same for the appliance plastics stream as well; instead of being recycled or reused, the plastics from appliances are often baled and shipped to Asia as scrap. So, in addition to presenting a more sustainable, eco-friendly option to aluminum, the EcoStrate model also benefits recyclers by giving them another option besides baling and exporting these types of plastics. “A lot of those guys are facing green fence issues and inconsistent demand,” Simonetti said. “We are working with them to create a more consistent outlet with our product to be used in the marketplace here, domestically.” Moreover, EcoStrate engages its partners who grind up the plastic e-waste and appliance waste so that it can be used in EcoStrate’s substrate. This process too gives grinding companies a consistent outlet for business. “We’re solving problems for those industries,” Simonetti added.

And, of course, the best part about EcoStrate is that it means waste materials destined for the landfill are now being put to good use in the market, all because a company saw something that most of us never think twice about, and asked “why can’t that be made with plastic?”EcoStrateLogo

The grant from CalRecycle has boosted EcoStrate’s outlook but the work continues, on testing and on clearing their material for use across the country. “We have partners like DuPont, which has helped us to support R&D, and the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) too,” Simonetti said, noting that the market for aluminum signage in the U.S. is around 500 million square feet of material per year. “We’ve applied in all 50 states to get our product approved for use in pole-mounted signs,” Simonetti said, meaning consumers can expect to see more of EcoStrate’s materials on their commutes moving forward, whether they know it or not.

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

The Ultimate 9 Quick Tips to Recycle More Plastics

A guest post from Plastics Make it Possible. Please share on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn using the links above!


According to EPA, recycling can help conserve natural resources, reduce waste, prevent pollution, save energy, create jobs—and sustain the environment for future generations.

Recycling also makes economic sense. For example, Americans generated an estimated $730 million in recycled plastic bottles in 2014! Recycling helps generate local revenue, support local recycling jobs, and enable us to continue to benefit from valuable resources.

Some tips to help you recycle more plastics:

ALL plastic bottles

Tip #1: That’s right: every single plastic bottle—meaning a container with a neck smaller than its body—goes in the recycling bin.

Did you know? You once again broke the record—Americans recycled more pounds of plastic bottles in 2014 than ever and reached a recycling rate of nearly 32%. Keep it up!


And MOST plastic containers

Tip #2: More and more communities collect plastic containers for products such as yogurt, sour cream, and condiments, plus “clamshell” packaging. (See below for a tip on learning which containers to recycle.)

Did you know? You’re also doing a great job recycling plastic containers—Americans recycled more than a billion pounds in 2013, triple the amount since 2007.

 Smiling women eating healthy lifestyle yogurt food

Twist on the caps

Tip #3: Recyclers want your plastic bottle caps and container lids. Twist on the bottle capsbefore tossing them in the bin to make it easier for recyclers.

Did you know? Bottle caps typically are made from polypropylene plastic—it can be recycled into auto parts, bike racks, storage bins, shipping pallets, and more.



Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Semper Fi – and Thank a Veteran Today

After serving for more than 20 years in the Marines, Major David Palmer temporary shelved his uniform in 2014 and joined SPI as the Director of Industry Affairs for the Equipment Council. His extensive military training and experience prepared him for daily life at a Washington-based trade association.

Major David Palmer

Major David Palmer

Palmer proudly points out that he “didn’t join the military – he joined the Marines” because he wanted to be a member of the world’s finest fighting force, which celebrated its 240th birthday yesterday.

As an 18-year-old enlistee in 1986, Palmer earned a highly-coveted position as a plane captain assigned to a Marine fighter-attack squadron. “Aside from being a pilot, this is the best job in Marine aviation,” he said, adding that the role required him to serve as a jet engine mechanic and the lead crewmember charged with overseeing aircraft function checks, and directing the control and movement of the “bird” when it’s on the ground.

Palmer later became an intelligence officer after earning his commission, and subsequently progressed to the role of Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF, pronounced “MAG-TAFF”) intelligence officer.

Serving in the Marines afforded Palmer opportunities and life lessons that cannot be found in a book, on a college campus or on the Internet. The true value in his experience came from “being part of something really special, helping people who needed help – and defeating those who threaten Americans and the life we love,” he said.

Along with the camaraderie and patriotism so deeply steeped in the military, men and women who join the U.S. armed forces gain an understanding and appreciation of true, effective leadership. Palmer said every Marine ­­­– regardless of rank or position – is considered a leader and is expected to lead when called upon.

“My greatest professional achievements are tied to my service as a U.S. Marine,” said Palmer. “Marines are faithful to the mission, to each other, to the Corps and country – no matter what. On Veterans Day, I ask you to thank a veteran for the sacrifices, dedication and service that secures our freedom.”

Palmer, a husband and father, continues to serve in the Marine Reserves.

Semper Fidelis and Happy Veterans Day!

Friday, October 30th, 2015

From 4D Printing to Walmart’s “Made in America” Campaign, GPS 2015 Hits a Homerun in Chicago

Economists Discuss the Impact of China Across the U.S. and World Markets

ChicagoSkylineChina is still the elephant in the room. Whether the topic is labor, supply and demand or economic growth, it seems like the China-effect is at the center of conversation.  In opening remarks at the Global Plastics Summit 2015 (GPS), IHS Chief Economist Nariman Behravesh helped attendees put China in perspective; less than 1 percent of the U.S. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is exported to China. Therefore China doesn’t have the same impact on the U.S. economy as it does on the rest of the world.

The big hemorrhage in China is its mining and heavy manufacturing sectors, said Behravesh, indicating that the two sectors are experiencing a recession compared to China’s booming service sector.  But, China’s Achilles Heel is not unlike ours, or many other countries – a dwindling workforce. And while China announced its decision to relax its one child policy, Behravesh said the damage is done and China will not be able to sustain growth.

Dwindling WorkForce

A common theme throughout GPS was the looming threat of few skilled workers to take positions being vacated by Baby Boomers. Every society needs a healthy workforce not only to create goods and services, but also to consume them, said demographic expert Ken Gronbach.

So for China and other industrialized countries, a solution requires more than procreation. The next generation needs to be taught that innovative plastic products are necessary and that they are safe.

Getting Past the Negatives

But the industry must overcome negativity associated with manufacturing and plastics. Consider that the bulk of GPS’s presentations focused on markets and trends for associated materials like polyethylene, polypropylene and others. After delivering a presentation on materials, Paul Caprio, president of KraussMaffei Corp., gleefully pointed out that “plastics professionals are the only people who appreciate and can get excited about these materials.” Outside of our industry, “plastic is a dirty word and it’s a huge challenge for us to change this,” he said.

Indeed it is, Gronbach cautioned, “If you don’t deal with public opinion, it will deal with you. The largest generation of people ever born are currently 11 to 30 years old and they think all the time and they are coming straight for you.”

So What Do We Do?


Skylar Tibbits

In addition to telling the positive stories about plastic, perhaps one solution is to sell tomorrow’s professionals on cutting-edge technology like 4D printing. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researcher Skylar Tibbits led a lively discussion about the future of plastics noting “we use plastics in almost everything we do.”

Tibbits and his team at MIT have been working to develop the next generation of printing called 4D printing. What’s fascinating about 4D printing is that it results in a transformative product like a robot that has the ability to solve problems. Through the use of 4D printing, future products (think dental and medical devices) will be resilient and change with humans and the environment.

The consensus at GPS is that the U.S. needs advanced manufacturing such as 4D printing.

If It’s Not the China-Effect, It’s the Walmart-Effect

Representing the brand owner angle, Chris Quinn, president and CEO of the Step2 Company, mentioned Walmart’s celebrated move to buy $50 billion in U.S. made products over the next 10 years. “We now have a case to drive more manufacturing back to the U.S.,” he said, indicating that Walmart’s campaign will undoubtedly influence others to make similar declarations.

For the international community, there’s implied quality in U.S.-produced goods. And from the standpoint of the manufacturer, there are multiple benefits to operating in the U.S. such as the protection of intellectual property, internet security benefits, and better control over transportation costs and logistics.

“After all, who wants to be in the footwear business when the port of L.A. shuts down two months before school starts?” Quinn asked. “Not me. Transporting from Odessa to Mobile is better.” (Los Angeles Times, Line of ships waiting off coast grows as ports shut down for holiday, Feb. 16, 2015.)GPSSquare

For additional information or pictures from GPS, contact Kimberly Coghill at

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Five Countries Your Company Should Be Paying More Attention To

In today’s interconnected global economy, there’s no such thing as a growing market that no one’s heard of yet. Information travels fast and export opportunities don’t stay secret for very long, but nonetheless, there are markets “where more attention needs to be paid,” according to IHS Chief Economist Nariman Behravesh. Below are five that he thinks are worth highlighting for companies seeking export-driven growth.

Mumbai's CST (Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus) illuminated at night with streaks of vehicular traffic headlights in foreground and copy space

Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, India

1. India

“India is an economy whose growth rate certainly is holding up fairly well,” Behravesh said, noting that companies might consider placing more emphasis on India and less emphasis on China moving forward. “Sort of a rebalancing of interests, I guess, in favor of India, I would strongly recommend because India is going to be expanding fairly rapidly. It’s a smaller economy than China’s but it’s growing more rapidly.”


Hanoi, Vietnam

2. Vietnam

Similar to India, Vietnam presents another “not as big, but growing nicely” supplement to China’s volatility, according to Behravesh. It currently also happens to be one of the top export growth markets for the U.S. plastics industry, according to SPI.


Dhaka City Center, Bangladesh


Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy, Sri Lanka

3. Bangladesh and 4. Sri Lanka

Economies like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are poor but they’re coming up on the development scale,” Behravesh said. The Asian Development Bank estimated that Bangladesh could see 7.6-percent growth in 2016, while it also noted that in Sri Lanka, a January election resolved some uncertainty for investors and in 2016 the nation could see 7.0-percent growth.

Jakarta, Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia

5. Indonesia

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world. Economically it’s been relatively successful as well. “It’s been growing a fairly steady 4 or 5 percent,” Behravesh said. “That’s another one that I think companies should pay more attention to.”

For more global insights like these, join Behravesh for his presentation at the Global Plastics Summit, Oct. 28-30 in Chicago.