Friday, January 30th, 2015

Atlanta Fashion Students Create Couture from Recycled Plastics

One-of-a-Kind Designs to Take Center Stage at SPI’s NPE2015 Trade Show

By Kimberly Coghill, SPI, Director of Communications

As society becomes more environmentally conscious, the fashion industry – like the plastics manufacturing industry – is rethinking some of its recycling rituals to ensure that Mother Earth doesn’t feel negative effects from its presence. To illustrate some reuses of plastics materials, SPI entered a partnership with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta to create original clothing made from repurposed post-consumer plastic products.

Previously-used plastic shelf paper along with recovered chandelier pieces are the basis for a dress created by a SCAD student.

Previously-used plastic shelf paper along with recovered chandelier pieces are the basis for a dress created by a SCAD student.

“When SPI expanded its mission to include the pursuit of zero waste, the idea was to engage its members in addressing the issues of sustainability and recycling through sound solutions,” said Kim Holmes, SPI’s senior director of recycling and diversion. “The SCAD project is an example of SPI’s commitment to zero waste by giving plastic materials more than one life and challenging people’s thinking about what is possible with recycled materials.”

Holmes and Brad Williams, SPI’s director of trade show marketing and sales, advised the students on the use of appropriate materials while helping them locate products such as bubble wrap, plastic mesh, a parachute, vinyl, yoga mats, drawer liners, plastic foam and acrylic plastic sheets.

The result is a one-of-a-kind collection of high-fashion women’s formal wear and accessories that will premiere at the Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show during the opening ceremony of NPE2015, March 23, 2015 in Orlando, Fla. The outfits will be displayed throughout NPE2015 in SPI’s Zero Waste Zone.

Revelations about Plastic

Working with plastics was a lesson in itself, the SCAD students said, noting that plastic behaves favorably, but different than most fabrics. In its criteria guideline for the project, the group determined that all materials had to be recycled and if fabrics were used, they had to contain at least 25 percent post-consumer plastic.

A few students admitted to entering the project with preconceived notions that weren’t necessarily positive. They described plastics as “manmade, hard/rigid and inexpensive.” But after some research, they realized how integral plastics are to their daily lives. “From potato chip bags to hair accessories to sleeping bags and inflatable beds, it seems plastics are everywhere,” the group’s project report said, noting that as artists, they are advocates for their generation and have an opportunity to effect change. At the end of the project, students talked about their new understanding of plastics, whether recycled or re-used, as a viable material for design, and noted a desire to continue working with plastics in the future.

SPI couldn’t have scripted a better reaction, said Holmes. “SPI is driven to show that plastics are valuable, necessary materials that, if managed properly, have more than one life.”

SCAD 2 Student

Piece by piece, SCAD student Aida Bajramovic begins the process of creating an original design.

Latonya Lark, a SCAD sculpture major who usually works with wood and natural products, said she cringed slightly at the thought of using plastics for the design class. Nevertheless, she forged ahead with an open mind and was pleasantly surprised when she discovered that plastics are flexible, therefore easy to manipulate and mold, and very capable of producing attractive accessories with market appeal. After realizing the design freedom that plastic affords, Lark said she will likely continue to use plastics in her art going forward.

Classmate Aida Bajramovic agreed, using a shower curtain to create a beautiful gown that’s accessorized by acrylic prisms removed from an old chandelier. Meanwhile, Siobhan Mulhern transformed a military parachute manufactured in 1966 into a formal dress that’s lined with a military sleeping bag. She further demonstrated her talent by creating a second design using plastic bubble wrap and sliced playpen balls to make a cape that overlays a light blue bathing suit for a sporty look.

Some materials used for the project were donated by SPI via its members, while others were collected on the SCAD Atlanta campus and in second-hand and online stores.

The handmade garments displayed at NPE2015 will be based on designs selected by SPI from submissions by students at SCAD’s School of Fashion and will include 3D printed plastic accessories. Follow us on Twitter @SPI_4_Plastics and feel free to Tweet/Retweet using #SCADNPE.

 

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

What the Entire Plastics Industry Can Learn from the APBA

apba logo_2012Many of you probably already know the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) as a protector of the plastics industry – and with good reason. The APBA is on the front lines of plastics advocacy, most recently gathering the roughly 505,000 valid signatures required to qualify a California referendum in opposition to SB 270, the nation’s only statewide ban on plastic bags. If this law went into effect, it obviously would set a dangerous precedent.  That’s why the APBA is working to defeat this and other erroneous pieces of legislation.  They do it often, and they do it well. In fact, signature collection is going even better than expected, and SPI and the APBA are confident that the referendum will be on the ballot in November 2016.

But that’s not all the APBA does. As we’ve highlighted here on In the Hopper and on SPI’s website, again and again (and again), the APBA also encourages innovation and promotes environmental progress.  Those efforts often get overshadowed: that is, the APBA spends so much time educating the public and serving as an example of how to proactively address challenges and capitalize on opportunities that its innovation and outreach messages get lost. But the APBA has a great deal more to offer the plastics industry at large.

abagslifelogo2For instance, you may not be aware that the APBA strongly supports A Bag’s Life, a public education campaign that unites non-profits, community and government organizations to support the common goal of promoting the three R’s—reduce, reuse, recycle. A Bag’s Life hosts many school recycling competitions around the country, including an ongoing initiative in Galveston that runs from America Recycles Day 2014 through Earth Day 2015, and which to date has resulted in the collection of roughly 1 million plastic bags and films. That’s just one event of several that is designed to teach kids and their communities how they can make a meaningful impact on the environment by increasing recycling efforts. The A Bag’s Life website also provides resources for visitors looking for locations to drop off their plastic bags and films and information on how to host a recycling event.

Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) tours Novolex's North Vernon plant.

Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) tours Novolex’s North Vernon plant.

The APBA also focuses on encouraging innovation, particularly as it pertains to closing the recycling loop on plastic bags. Recently representatives from the APBA and employees from Novolex were joined on a tour of the North Vernon, IN closed-loop recycling plant, by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN). This tour was an opportunity to show the Congressman just how innovative Novolex’s Bag-2-Bag program is.  This groundbreaking program takes 35 million pounds of recycled bags and films a year, cleans them, processes them and repelletizes them so they can be made into new plastic bags. It’s the definition of closed-loop manufacturing, and it all takes place at a plastic bag plant, putting a new face on the industry and modeling modern, sustainable manufacturing processes.

While the APBA continues to publicly protect the industry, as well as promote environmental progress and encourage innovation, they’d like to do more.  They just need your help to do it. Proactive educational efforts that highlight the plastics industry’s inherent commitment to innovation and environmentalism will help us all. With resources from other plastics partners the APBA could learn from and do more for the industry at large. We hope you’ll visit the APBA at NPE, where the organization will see what they can learn from you and share what you can learn from them.

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Good News from SPI’s 2014 Global Business Trends Report

SPI released its 2014 Global Business Trends report this week, and revealed that, to put it mildly, last year was a good one for plastics.

Earth-NASA-2Worldwide demand for U.S. plastics industry goods hit record levels in 2013, growing by 6.5 percent from $251 billion in 2012, to $267 billion last year, which exceeds the $262.2 billion record set in 2006, before the recession was a twinkle in the global economy’s eye. “Surpassing previous consumption levels confirms that the U.S. plastics manufacturing industry is a major player in the world’s economy,” said SPI President and CEO William Carteaux, noting that “while U.S. exports of raw materials continue to show profitability thanks in part to increase in shale gas supplies, domestic demand holds the key to a wealth of job growth and economic benefits for firms that invest in the nation’s manufacturing renaissance.”

Exports also resumed their growth in 2013, the report noted, notching a 2.7 percent increase across most sectors (resins, plastic products and molds), excluding machinery. Companies in the machinery sector shouldn’t fret too much, however, as sales and exports of machinery typically expand every three years on account of NPE, the premier international plastics showcase put on by SPI, which will occur next in March 23-27, 2015 in Orlando, Fla.8_Bubble-Chandelier-Green-Souda-2

More than just the positive growth in domestic demand along with exports, the 2014 Global Business Trends report also suggests a solid basis for future growth throughout the entire industry, particularly in the U.S., where the manufacturing trade balance improved in this year’s report in part due to “reshoring,” whereby companies return previously “offshored” manufacturing operations to the U.S. Additionally, the U.S.’ flourishing domestic market required more production in order to adequately meet demand, and the ratio of industry exports to domestic shipments fell from 22.2 percent in 2012 to 21.5 percent in 2013, yet another sign of an improving U.S. economy.

Ultimately the U.S. is becoming more and more competitive in manufacturing because of four main characteristics: low wage inflation, a lower-valued dollar, high productivity and increasingly abundant energy resources. Taken together these elements suggest a bright future ahead for the industry and a great deal of opportunity, in the U.S. specifically.

For more insight into SPI’s 2014 Global Business Trends report and to learn what reshoring and increased domestic demand will mean for the U.S. plastics industry, join SPI President and CEO William Carteaux for a free webinar at 2 p.m. (EDT) next Wednesday, Dec. 10. Register today here.

Friday, October 31st, 2014

SPI 2014 Student Video Contest Offers Biggest Prize Package in Contest History

$8,500 in Cash, All-Expense-Paid Trip to NPE2015 Still Up For Grabs

Entrants in the Plastic Industry’s 2014 Student Video Contest, hosted by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association and the Future of Plastics Foundation, aren’t just competing to create the best video that smartly and creatively explores the plastics industry’s bright future. They’re also competing for the largest prize package in contest history.

SPI and the Future of Plastics Foundation, along with the contest’s generous sponsors, will award prizes to the top three submissions. Third place gets $3,500, second place gets $5,000 and, if offering the biggest prize pool in the contest’s history wasn’t a big enough milestone, for the first time ever, the grand prize winner of the Student Video Contest will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Orlando, Fla. for NPE2015, the premier event for the entire plastics industry.NPE_logo

This year’s contest asks students to submit 2-4 minute videos on the theme of “Innovating in the 21st Century,” challenging graduate and undergraduate students, as teams and/or as individuals, to explore the future of plastics in the realms of innovation, design freedom and the economics of plastics. Prior contests have focused on the history of plastics and how the world’s brightest minds have relied on these materials to carry society into the modern era, like 2012’s first and second place winners.

“But the truth is that the story of plastic’s past has already been told; we want students to tell us the story of plastic’s future,” said SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux when this year’s contest launched. “Many of the items that we take for granted today seemed like science fiction even a decade ago, but what innovations in plastic will we be saying that about in 10, 25 or even 50 years from now? That’s the question we want our best and brightest to answer in the 2014 Student Video Contest and its theme of ‘Innovating in the 21st Century.’”

Entries will be accepted until Nov. 30. If you’re a full-time undergraduate or graduate student in a plastics program, and want a shot at $3,500, $5,000 or an all-expenses-paid trip to the world’s largest plastics trade show and conference, click over to SPI’s Student Video Contest website for details, and let us know what you think the future holds in store for the plastics industry.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

At NPE2012 the South/North Hall Is Filling Fast

On Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, SPI’s Senior VP of Trade Shows Gene Sanders (ExpoGene) tells us of real progress in the setup at the North/South Hall of NPE2012, and offers a lesson on when to remove your sunglasses.

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We’ve been chatting a lot about the West Hall recently, so today I thought I’d fill you in on what’s happening over at the South/North Hall (no, the General Lee won’t be parked out front, sorry). Upon walking into the building today I couldn’t help but notice how dark it is. Then I noticed that I forgot to take off my sunglasses.

Once I removed my shades, I was shocked at the amount of branding and building that is going on. There must have been an army of people in the halls moving, raising, and installing all kinds of stuff. Registration was set up, signs were everywhere (think Times Square on New Year’s Eve), and the exhibits seem to have come out of nowhere! There are some beautiful displays that our resin folks are preparing and she’s shaping up like a real “Material Girl” (get it?).

The South/North (sounds like we are confused, but we’re not) building is also home to Technology Central, where you will find hundreds of educational sessions, the technology pavilions, many impressive resin displays, and still other technologies. It’s just a short walk

from the West Hall to the Peabody and Hilton Hotels. This is a great place to showcase what’s new in plastics technology.

During the walk between the North/South and the West Halls, you will notice the beautiful landscaping at the OCCC. Actually, there are no trees or plants. Visit Orlando kindly installed a complete Disney Animation set of plastic flowers, palm trees, and shrubs just for us. They too highlight a new industry segment to be showcased at NPE2015 – Plasticulture!  Or is it Floral Polymers? (so…will they use the resin flowers potted in the ground to make more resin? Now that’s sustainability!)

Everyone (but this one guy) seems really pleased with how smoothly everything is going. I’ve haven’t heard many negative comments about the job people here are doing (except of course for that one guy).

Tomorrow should be whacky Wednesday here at the OCCC, with more and more exhibitors showing up and the clock ticking closer to the opening hour, so my report should be even more interesting (thank goodness for that!).

Until then, I am Expogene “On the Scene!”

Images From the North/South Hall at NPE2012 — Tuesday, March 27, 2012