Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

The Future of Recycling: A Total Supply Chain Approach!

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As part of America Recycles Day, we have a new guest blog post from Ronald L. Whaley on the future of recycling. Ron is the CEO of Geo-Tech Polymers and chairman of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association (SPI) Recycling Committee.

For the last twenty years nothing much has changed in how plastics are recycled from an overall approach.  The majority of people and companies working in the plastics recycling industry approach it from a single point of view.

 

The waste haulers, the sorting facilities, the brokers and the processors have only been focused on their segment of the business.  Yes, some have tried to position themselves as the complete one stop recycling solution.  To-date, the “one stop solution” has not been anymore successful than the traditional individual focused approach.  The traditional approach has limited the industry’s ability to keep pace with the existing demand for recycled content while also limiting opportunities in new markets.  If the industry ever hopes to meet the ever-growing demand for clean consistent recycled plastics content, things are going to have to change.

 

What needs to change?

The industry needs to change its focus from individual operators into groups working together to address all the needs of the plastics recycling supply chain.  A few organizations such as SPI with their ELV (End of Life Vehicles) Project have started down this road by including participants from all segments of the auto recycling process.  By addressing plastics recycling from a complete supply chain approach, unnecessary costs can be removed and long-term consistent supply can be assured. In addition, materials can be supplied to the growing group of OEM’s, CPG companies and others looking for recycled plastics.  This approach also provides the opportunity for each participant in the supply chain to earn a reasonable and predictable return on its’ own investment.

Sometimes real growth requires a different approach and I believe it is time for the plastics recycling industry to step up and recognize the shortfalls in the current business model.  The industry needs to develop working groups, each containing a representative or representatives from each of the segments of the plastics recycling supply chain, if we ever hope to meet the growing consumer demand for recycled plastics content.

 

Friday, August 19th, 2016

A New Study May Make Conversations about Plastics Easier

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Steve Russell, vice president of the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division

A guest post by Steve Russell, vice president of the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division.

Has this happened to you? You’re at a dinner party or family gathering or neighborhood get-together. Someone asks you what you do. A conversation about plastics ensues. And you struggle to find a really simple way to explain plastics’ many benefits and contributions to sustainability.

I’m guessing we’ve all been there.  And the answer just got easier to explain.

New study

A new study by the environmental consulting firm Trucost uses “natural capital accounting” methods that measure and value environmental impacts, such as consumption of water and emissions to air, land, and water. The authors describe it as the largest natural capital cost study ever conducted for the plastics manufacturing sector.

The results?  “Plastics and Sustainability: A Valuation of Environmental Benefits, Costs, and Opportunities for Continuous Improvement,” finds that the environmental cost of using plastics in consumer goods and packaging is nearly four times less than if plastics were replaced with alternative materials.

Trucost found that replacing plastics with alternatives would increase environmental costs associated with consumer goods from $139 billion to $533 billion annually.

Why is that? Predominantly because strong, lightweight plastics help us do more with less material, which provides environmental benefits throughout the lifecycle of plastic products and packaging. While the environmental costs of alternative materials can be slightly lower per ton of production, they are greater in aggregate due to the much larger quantities of material needed to fulfill the same purposes as plastics.

Think about it. Every day, strong, lightweight plastics allow us to ship more product with less packaging, enable our vehicles to travel further on a gallon of gas, and extend the shelf-life of healthful foods and beverages. And all of these things help reduce energy use, carbon emissions, and waste.

Why do this study?

This new study follows an earlier report called “Valuing Plastics (2014)” that Trucost conducted for the United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP). “Valuing Plastics” was Trucost’s first examination of environmental cost of using plastics. While clearly an important study, it begged the key question: compared to what? After all, consumer goods need to be made out of something.

So ACC’s Plastics Division commissioned Trucost to compare the environmental costs of using plastics to alternative materials, as well as to identify opportunities to help plastics makers lower the environmental costs of using plastics. The expanded study also broadened the scope of the earlier work to include use and transportation, thus providing a more complete picture of the full life cycle of products and packaging.

We see “Plastics and Sustainability” as a contribution to the burgeoning and vital global discussion on sustainability. Like any single study, it doesn’t “prove” that plastics are always better for the environment than alternatives. But it is an important study based on a rigorous and transparent methodology. And it provides a fuller picture of the environmental benefits of using plastics.

“Plastics and Sustainability” provides the plastics value chain with important information on plastics and sustainability so that we all can make better decisions. The entire plastics value chain is engaged in discussions with policymakers, brand owners, retailers, recyclers – and consumers – about how to be good corporate citizens and contribute to sustainability. A better understanding of the life cycle of materials will better inform these discussions and should lead all of us to more sustainable materials management decisions. This study’s findings also will help inform us how to further reduce the environmental cost of plastics.

In other words, making smart choices about what we produce and how we produce it will benefit people and the planet.

New perspective

So in light of this new study, next time you or I struggle for the right words, perhaps let’s try this:

“Did you know that replacing plastics with alternatives would actually increase environmental costs by nearly four times?”

Let me know how it goes.

You can find more information about the Trucost study and some interesting visualizations of the findings here.

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

A Day of Firsts: SPI Does the Iowa Caucus

By Mark Garrison, Senior Vice President, Membership and Business Development, SPI

This is my first blog—ever. There were a lot of firsts for me on the day of the Iowa caucuses. First time in Des Moines, first time to attend a caucus, first time to attend a presidential candidate’s primary after-party, and the first time I rode in a Bentley. More on the Bentley later.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

SPI hosts several regional events throughout the country. All are open (at no cost) to both members and non-members. However, this is one was a little different. Our member host, i2tech, also known as Innovative Injection Technologies, certainly made an event for the ages.  It was unique right from the start. Those of us who were able to come in the night before were treated to a production of “Caucus – The Musical.” Two hours of political fun and hilarity. The actor who played Ronald Blunt (aka Trump), should be nominated for a Tony award.  The funny one-liners came so fast, I honestly can’t remember my favorite one.

Our event hosts, Bob and Josh Janeczko, planned out a very busy caucus day.  We started with a plant tour of the i2tech facility.  I2tech is a custom injection molder, with 31 molding machines.  The largest being a 3300 ton Milacron. Some of their customers include John Deere, Arctic Cat, Dee Zee and Kongsberg. After the tour, Jennifer Jacobs, chief politics reporter for the Des Moines Register (and also, Bob’s daughter), spoke to our group and brought us up to “political speed” on the events that were about to unfold during the caucuses later that evening.

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Jennifer Jacobs, politics reporter for the Des Moines Register, talking to SPI.

After dinner and some networking, we were off to see a caucus event. Most people are accustomed to pulling a lever behind a closed curtain. I wanted to witness a Democratic caucus because it is the exact opposite. The democrats in Iowa do things in a very public way when they caucus, persuading the undecided voters and competing candidate voters to literally come over to their side of room before the final head count   is taken and votes are final. We heard many impassioned speeches. And most were well thought out. However, my favorite speech of the night actually had very little substance, which is probably why I liked it so much. It was from a Clinton voter trying to convince an undecided voter that he should caucus with them. His exact words were “you need to vote for Hillary because Hillary looks so much better in person than on TV.” I doubt that was the right approach, as I watched that undecided voter get up and head straight over to Bernie Sanders’ side of the room.

With the caucus behind us and the night still young, our group headed downtown to see what candidate after-party we could crash.  As it turns out, crashing one of these parties really isn’t all that hard.  Simply show up, sign in, provide an email address and before you know it, you’re standing in the middle of the Marriott ballroom with several hundred excited supporters waiting for Marco Rubio to show up and give a speech. I guess I was excited to be there as well because I posted on social media what I was up to. Not long after my post, I received a text during the middle of Rubio’s speech. Apparently the back of my head made it on TV when the camera scanned the crowd. I guess I’m famous now.

The end to my evening was a ride back to my hotel in a Bentley. A Bentley! There is no better way to end a great day than a ride in a Bentley. Thanks again Bob and Josh at i2Tech! Can we do it again in four years?

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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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(more…)

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

How to Increase Capacity Without Adding Plants and Equipment

By Glenn Nowak, Vice President of Sales at IQMS

Glenn Nowak, IQMS

Glenn Nowak, IQMS

The theme of this year’s Global Plastics Summit, “On the Brink of New Capacity,” just happens to be a topic that we help our manufacturers solve frequently.  As the economy continues to experience an upturn, more and more manufacturers begin seeking ways to increase capacity without adding floor space, equipment or personnel.

There are two common routes manufacturers take when faced with a surge in demand. The first is to maintain status quo with current business processes and operations, while adding new work centers, employees and square footage to handle the increase. The alternate route is to dial up all existing resources as efficiently as possible first, prior to expanding. With the second option, the ultimate goal would be 100 percent utilization of what you already have, before adding on more.

To have as efficient an operation as possible, you need a shop floor with no downtime or waste – A finely tuned plant that finishes one job and immediately begins the next, with the proper tools, operators and materials prepped and ready to deploy. This is no small order. How can you make the right job, with the right tools and right quantities, all flow together at the right time?

The answer is a comprehensive ERP and MES solution capable of automating your shop floor. Comprehensive is the key word here. While integration of third-party programs into a core ERP system can work, it is fraught with challenges such as duplicate data entry, information delays and silos, interface issues and customization expenses.

The key to increasing capacity is to have an end-to-end solution that covers every aspect of your business, from ERP to MES, MRP, financials, order management, WMS, CRM and more. This single source solution is what makes every aspect of your business visible, traceable and incredibly efficient.

A few of the areas that a comprehensive ERP solution can help you increase capacity include:

  • A process monitoring module that links directly to work centers and high value production equipment at the PLC/sensor level to collect and relay process parameters immediately to an ERP solution for analysis, allowing you to greatly improve efficiency, productivity and accountability
  • Finite scheduling and dispatch list tools that automatically analyze which operators and work centers are the most efficient. By smart loading your work centers based on historical performance data, you ensure that you are optimally using your assets
  • Automated work order tools that create ideal production order batch quantities through minimum and maximum run sizes, multiples of designations and time fences to eliminate unnecessary teardowns and resets and optimize production runs
  • Manufacturing-specific BOMs and routing workflows that offer 30-plus different manufacturing types, with fields and features specific to each process. A software system that also offers multi-level BOMs, displays equipment and labor requirements and contains the flexibility to schedule processes that are work center, assembly line, application based or a combination of many types will also help you increase capacity
  • Intelligent material resource planning (MRP) tools, such as safety stock features that automatically generate purchase orders when common inventory items run low, increase your inventory turns rate and ensure you keep just the minimum quantity on-hand
  • A maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) module can help you avoid costly unscheduled downtime by first automatically gathering usage data and tracking where the tool or equipment is used throughout your shop floor. Then, based on automatic alerts that remind you of upcoming and pending maintenance, generate work orders and schedule labor and materials for planned maintenance when you have the parts and bandwidth to take the machine offline.

A need to increase in capacity is a good problem for any manufacturer to have. But rather than investing in new personnel, machines and floor space to handle the boost, manufacturers should first consider if automating their plants to 100 percent capacity with a comprehensive ERP and MES solution isn’t a less expensive and more flexible approach to adding capacity.