Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Walmart Exec at NPE2015 Invites Plastics Industry to Work with Company to Help Meet $250-Billion U.S. Sourcing Goal

Walmart Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing Cindi Marsiglio discussed her company’s 2013 pledge to source an additional $250 billion in products from American manufacturers today at NPE2015, during the SPI and IHS Key Market Breakfast Briefing. Marsiglio noted that Walmart is working to accomplish its ambitious goal in three ways: 1) buying more from the suppliers Walmart already buys from in the U.S., 2) finding new products made in the U.S. to sell on Walmart shelves and 3) reshoring the manufacturing of goods Walmart currently buys by facilitating these efforts among its suppliers.

BillAndCindi_Walmart

SPI President and CEO William Carteaux and Walmart Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing Cindi Marsiglio at the SPI-IHS Key Market Breakfast Briefing, hosted at NPE2015.

“Reshoring, onshoring, right-shoring, whatever you want to call it,” Marsiglio said, Walmart is “working with our suppliers to devote some resources to assisting them, where it makes economic sense, to bring production to the U.S. from other locations across the globe,” she added.

Innovation in manufacturing, Marsiglio noted, will be key to the “economic sense” aspect of reshoring.  SPI has always supported reshoring and aims to support it in the plastics industry. Walmart is using its retail might to do the same, by supporting innovation, directly and indirectly, in order to make U.S. production more profitable. Hitting the $250 billion target, Marsiglio said, is “going to take some innovation and some changes in some of those core manufacturing processes. Some things have to be made differently to make it cost-effective here.”

To support this innovation, Marsiglio discussed a $10 million innovation fund Walmart created in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors that continues to give out grants for companies working to make all sorts of manufacturing processes more efficient and cost effective. Some specific areas that are ripe for innovation include those that are “primarily focused on textiles—changes to cutting and sewing, weaving, dyeing, printing—small motor assembly, advancements in the assembly of small motors and many of those products, so think home appliances, floor care, hair dryers. We sell a lot of that type of product at Walmart. And the third piece was plastic injection molding and tooling or costs associated with that.”

In addition to supporting reshoring by working to spur innovation in the manufacturing industry, Marsiglio also noted that Walmart facilitates connections between potential suppliers of U.S.-made products and Walmart’s purchasing team through their Open Call series of conferences, the second of which will take place July 7-8 in Bentonville, Ark. At these meetings, manufacturers can work directly with Walmart buyers to pitch their products to the company and, ideally, get them into stores.

“If you’ve got finished products you want to come and pitch to us, we will welcome you. Please share that news with your networks of people as well as your companies that you’re representing today,” Marsiglio said. “We’ll continue to offer those state resources, finance resources, workforce development resources, all of those things Walmart can bring to the table to accelerate our suppliers doing the math to increase their manufacturing here in the U.S. so that we can meet our commitment to purchase more products and bring them to our customers in stores.”

Manufacturers interested in learning more about the Open Call event can find out more here: www.walmart-jump.com. NPE continues in Orlando, Fla.

Friday, March 20th, 2015

A Deep Dive: Prince Charles Promotes Recycling, Behavioral Change to Combat Marine Debris during Washington Visit

“Stimulating a second life for plastics is…essential; they are too valuable to be thrown away,” said the Prince of Wales in his comments as prepared for delivery in a speech at the Hay Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C.

FriendlyTurtle_AnimatedWebDuring his visit to Washington, D.C. this week Prince Charles delivered a speech on the threat posed by ocean litter and debris and made recommendations for how the world should address the problem. Among those solutions were recycling, recovering or reusing plastics, and for both consumers and the plastics industry to take strides to give every plastic product a second life.

“A truly integrated, systemic solution to this challenge will need to go beyond simply containing the flow of waste and will require a critical examination of how waste is created within our supply chains and economies in the first place,” the Prince of Wales said in his address as prepared for delivery and published on the Prince of Wales’ official website, outlining three specific long-term solutions to the challenge of eliminating plastic waste from the world’s oceans and waterways. “First of all, improving waste management, so that all plastic waste is collected and then either recycled or used for energy production, is a key factor in decreasing the problem of litter,” he said. “Secondly, governments around the world need to integrate the issue of marine littering into their national waste management strategies. Countries with advanced waste management systems and landfill restrictions have demonstrated that even though this path can be more complex and time-consuming, there is no alternative to achieving a long-lasting behavioral change.”

“Thirdly, both the consumer and industry need to consider the value of plastics and thus need to pay the real cost (including externalities). Stimulating a second life for plastics is therefore essential; they are too valuable to be thrown away!” Prince Charles added.

SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association agrees, and has worked tirelessly to expand recycling, promote zero waste manufacturing processes and educate the public on the inherent value of plastic materials. SPI promotes the concept of a shift away from a “throw-away” society where items are created, used and then thrown away, advocating for a global transition to what Prince Charles described in his remarks as “a more ‘circular’ economy—that is to say, one in which materials are recovered, recycled and reused.”

More than 20 years ago, SPI helped found Operation Clean Sweep, an industry stewardship program specifically designed to prevent resin pellet loss and help keep plastic materials out of the marine environment. While OCS continues to grow, SPI has more recently made the pursuit of zero waste one of its chief priorities, working with its members and the entire plastics industry to establish practices and policies that make it easier for all plastic materials and products to be recycled and given the second life they deserve, and that our environment so sorely demands.

“SPI is proud to have contributed to these efforts, and continues to promote their use internationally… But we also support the cause of eliminating marine debris by supporting recycling and educating the public about the value of plastic materials,” said SPI President and CEO William Carteaux last month. “SPI works tirelessly to create new markets for recycled plastic materials, and to spur innovation that makes recycling plastic products easier and more widespread for all consumers and for all types of plastics, from polystyrene foams to rigid packaging to plastic bags and everything in between.

“SPI will continue to work and collaborate with other industry organizations to facilitate programs that increase recycling and eliminate the loss of plastic pellets and materials that end up in our oceans and waterways. By working together, we can drive the meaningful recovery of plastics products that will stop marine debris at its source,” Carteaux added.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Strong Fundamentals Yield Strong Plastics Machinery Shipments, Set Stage for Continued Growth

SPI’s Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES) reported this week that shipments of plastics machinery posted a robust rise in the fourth quarter of last year. This makes 2014 the fifth consecutive year of increases in primary plastics equipment, which increased 7.6 percent compared with the annual total from 2013.

PRIMARY PLASTICS EQUIPMENT SHIPMENTS

Q4CESReport_Graph_Web

This is excellent news to hear mere days ahead of NPE2015 but more than that the report notes that the basics that made equipment and machinery sales so strong in 2014 suggest a brighter outlook for plastics and for the economy as a whole. “The economic fundamentals that favor continued investment in capital equipment are expected to persist through 2015 as well,” said Bill Wood, the plastics market economist who analyzes and reports on the plastics machinery market sector for the CES.

The upward trend in plastics machinery data corresponds with long-term trends in the two major data series compiled by the U.S. government that measure overall demand for industrial machinery. One of those data series, published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, found that business investment in industrial equipment escalated by 16 percent (seasonally-adjusted, annualized rate) in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to 2013. It also found that the annual total for investment in 2014 jumped a rigorous 13 percent.

Figures are even more impressive in the other important machinery market indicator, compiled by the Census Bureau, which showed that the total value of new orders of industrial machinery jumped 20 percent when compared with the total from Q4 of 2013. For the year as a whole in 2014 industrial machinery orders were up 30 percent, a major increase that suggests significant market strength.

All in all, this signals another solid year for 2015, in plastics machinery and in the broader American economy as well.

“The short-term problems caused by a stronger dollar and a downsized oil patch notwithstanding, the recovery in the U.S. economy will continue through 2015,” Wood said. “The stock market is still at an all-time high. Corporate profits are still at record levels. And as I have said before, the three main trends that will drive the economy over the coming months are already well-established. They are: low interest rates, low energy prices, and rising wages and household incomes resulting from stronger employment levels.”

Read the full report from the CES here.

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

NPE2015 Preview: Time to Shine for Startups

StartupGarageThe story of how NPE’s Startup Garage came into its current form sounds a lot like how any startup company hopes their story will go: it started off small and humble, but after people found out about it, it really took off and the rest is history.

Though it was originally envisioned as a smaller portion of the NPE2015 show floor, the NPE team had to expand the Startup Garage (twice) to keep up with industry demand. Now it’ll be an important fixture of the West Hall (in Room W203A) and, given its running start, potentially an even greater part of NPEs for years to come. Now, however, the Startup Garage will provide “an unprecedented opportunity for startup companies with connections to the plastics industry,” according to Gerald Elderling, founder of Startup.Directory, a new-venture tracking company with which SPI partnered to create the Startup Garage. “Participants will be meeting hundreds of potential buyers, investors, distributors and strategic partners, all in one location.”

Companies will highlight their innovations in such diverse, cutting-edge fields as bioplastics, recycling, 3D printing, polymerization, resin processing, antimicrobial polymers and even the burgeoning field of graphenes—defined as two-dimensional carbon-atom nanostructures that can be used for formulating plastics composites with dramatically enhanced properties.

Here’s some more detail on all the startups that will be exhibiting in the Startup Garage. Get a closer look at their innovative products by swinging by the West Hall during your trip to Orlando, Fla. for NPE2015:

  • Aguas Pristinas S.A. Patented zero-waste beverage container and packaging system, with products designed to be recovered for re-use in other forms. One example is roofing products derived from bottles.
  • Biobent Polymers. “Bio-composite” polymers with up to 40% renewable content from soy or other renewable agricultural products. www.biobent.com.
  • The Center for Regenerative Design & Collaboration (CRDC) – AGUA Costa Rica. AGUA-Costa Rica is a patented and “state-of-the-art” new zero waste beverage product that regenerates itself into a value-added secondary use as a highly-efficient and durable building tile.
  • cycleWood Solutions Inc. Compostable and sustainable resins produced from lignin in tree byproducts generated during papermaking. LDPE-like film grades are 100% compostable. Injection molding grades are available in either compostable or sustainable (blended with polyolefins) versions. www.cycleWood.com.
  • Garmor Inc. Graphene priced for high-volume plastics applications. The company also has developed methods for incorporating graphene into plastics and shares this information with customers.
    www.garmortech.com.
  • GlowLit. GlowLit’s free website provides an option for previously untapped information providers to receive market intelligence in return for their insight. Anyone can log in and check whether the last purchased they made saved (or cost) money to the shareholders. Not all companies use the same information, pounds and KGs, delivered price vs ex works, railroad order of 4,000 tons or spot orders of 20,000 lbs. We provide the data you are interested in, for your industry, location, and volumes. www.glowlit.com.
  • Graphenics. Engineering services and materials based on a patented process to produce graphene and incorporate it into plastic with minimal disruption of plastics processes and minimal darkening of the composite. www.plusgraphene.com.
  • iQLP LLC. Development of polymer materials and manufacturing processes for polymer suppliers, converters, and end users. Solutions highlighted at NPE2015 will include semiconductor packaging, film and laminate extrusion, and structural polymers. www.iqlp.net.
  • One Moving Part. Digital printers for all types of extrusions. As simple as “0-1-2″: ZERO maintenance, ONE moving part, and TWO–the typical cost of less than $2 per day. Offering a FREE 30-day in-plant trial.
  • Plastic EQ Corp. Web marketplace where companies post offers of and requests for recycled plastics online. The company integrates the full sales cycle, including paperwork, payment / collection, freight management, credit check, etc. www.plastic-eq.com.
  • Productfast Automation. Technology for monitoring a manufacturing operation that replaces the Andon light system with wireless audio and visual effects. www.productfast.com.
  • QTEK. QTEK will bring “Copper-based mineral additive” and “Copper-based antimicrobial plastic masterbatch pellets” to NPE2015. QTEK technology is unique by employing ionic copper as antimicrobial agent. NSF funded research has demonstrated the antimicrobial efficiency (against bacteria and fungi), processability, durability, and environmental safety of the plastic masterbatch pellets. The mineral additive also has fire-retarding activity. http://www.qtekllc.com.
  • Sharklet Technologies, Inc. The company’s core technology, called Sharklet™, is the first no-kill, non-toxic and environmentally-friendly surface texture designed to inhibit bacterial growth. The Sharklet surface is comprised of millions of microscopic diamonds that are arranged into a distinct texture. www.sharklet.com.
  • Smart E2 Solutions, LLC.  System for producing fuel products from non-recyclable plastics. About a gallon of fuel is produced from 8 to 10 lb. of un-washed, un-sorted waste plastic at a cost of less than $1. www.se2sol.com.
  • TiFiber Inc. Anti-microbial polymers that exhibit broad-spectrum activity against bacterial species, including drug-resistant strains such as MRSA. Among potential applications are medical devices and disposables, synthetic textiles, and consumer goods. www.tifiber.com.
  • Zzyzx Polymers. New “mechanochemical” process for compatabilizing, encapsulating, and fully dispersing materials into plastics, with a pilot plant established in Pennsylvania. To be highlighted at NPE2015: graphene conductive polypropylene; high-impact polyethylene; and a polycarbonate-like PP. www.zpolymers.com.

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

A Different Kind of Conversation: SPI Member Kenrich to Introduce New Compatibilizer at NPE2015 that Gets Mixed Resin Streams “Talking to Each Other”

NPE_logoCompatibilizers: hard to say three times fast, but a remarkably simple concept. These items make two or more typically incompatible substances compatible.

Long used in the prime resin industry to create special blends that give plastic materials desirable properties that any individual polymer would lack on its own, compatibilizers get resins that would not neatly blend together to “talk to each other,” as it were. Companies continue to explore new applications for compatibilizers in the recycling industry, where at least one SPI member is trying to start a similar sort of conversation between mixed recycled resin streams.

At NPE2015, SPI member, and member of the SPI Recycling Committee’s Technology and Equipment Subcommittee, Kenrich Petrochemicals (Booth #S20027) will introduce a new additive that can be used to recycle the mixed resin streams that are increasingly posing challenges to the world’s recyclers. The long name for the compatibilizer is Ken-React® CAPS ® KPR ® 12/LV Pellets, and KPR for short; it regenerates post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic mixtures in the extruder melt and gives them virgin resin-like properties, all while getting dissimilar polymers to talk to one another.

Here’s some more technical information from Kenrich President Salvatore Monte, who invented KPR, about how the additive can be put to good use: “Normally—although polypropylene (PP) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are both considered olefins—HDPE cannot accept more than 5 percent PP without creating incompatibility issues. Add a third polymer and it really gets complicated.” The KPR® additive pellet can help make these issues disappear, which could provide a huge benefit to recyclers who, in an age of widening “single stream” recycling procedures, frequently have to handle various types of plastic materials that may be present in a recycling feedstream, or even in a single product. KPR® aims to change that.

“Conventional discussions on recycled plastic center around equipment that sorts, cleans, demagnetizes, washes, granulates, bales or melt processes recycling—or polymer compatibilizers based on maleic anhydride chemistry or bipolar thermoplastics that have affinity for two select recycle polymer streams,” Monte continued, referring to other additives with fewer potential applications than KPR. “Our new KPR® catalyst causes multiple polymers of divergent chemistry to repolymerize in the melt to form not alloys, but new complex co-polymers having much higher mechanical properties.”

SPI and its Recycling Committee have repeatedly urged plastics manufacturers and brand owners to consider PCR when making their materials decisions, for its sustainability bona fides and contributions to SPI’s goal of helping the industry achieve zero waste in manufacturing, among other things to recommend it. But part of what makes some companies reluctant to use PCR for all their plastic needs is that, in the process of being ZWZlogoWeb2used and recycled, the plastic materials themselves lose some of the properties that make them desirable for use in consumer plastic products. However, compatibilizer manufacturers, like Kenrich, are attempting to offer a unique solution to the problem, by making it easier for recyclers to produce higher-quality materials from lower-quality bales.

“It’s a new way to look at PCR and achieve high loadings of PCR in virgin polymers to meet sustainability mandates in consumer plastic packaging products such as blow-molded soap bottles,” Monte said.

Learn more about Kenrich at NPE2015 and more about new recycling technologies and SPI and its Recycling Committee’s efforts to achieve zero waste at the Zero Waste Zone.