Monday, April 21st, 2014

Mend it like Beckham with a Plastics Air Boot

By Michael Salmon, Public Affairs Manager

We’ve all seen the impact plastics has in the medical arena, but the role plastics play in a medical situation really hit home at SPI recently when our own Tracy Cullen, the senior vice president of communications and marketing, had a fall and broke her foot. A majority of the plastic air boot Tracy was fitted with is made of plastic.

Bota Shell Air Ankle Walker

Bota Shell Air Ankle Walker

“My orthopaedic doctor outfitted me with a lightweight, removable plastic boot,” Cullen explained.  “It is made of a durable, semi-rigid plastic shell, and four air cells line the boot to support my foot and ankle … I simply use a plastic hand bulb to inflate and deflate the air cells as needed for a snug fit, and I’m told that  this compression will reduce swelling and pain.

The boot, a.k.a. the Bota Shell Air Ankle Walker, is made by Breg, Inc. of Carlsbad, California. The shell “offers the same support, comfort and compliance as Breg’s Vectra product line with the added convenience of a lightweight, durable, semi-rigid shell,” of plastic.

Tracy was instructed to remove the air boot to flex and exercise her foot, ankle and leg muscles  in order to prevent stiffness and muscle atrophy. And that’s precisely why this type of plastic air boot is now commonly used to treat professional athletes like David Beckam, Wayne Rooney and others who suffer from Metatarsal fractures, sprained or broken ankles. It reduces pain and overall healing time so professional athletes and association execs alike can quickly get back in the game.

It wasn’t too long ago when the doctors would have broken out the plaster and made a bulky cast on Tracy’s foot, but in the past few decades, plastics have made health care simpler and less painful. They have reduced healing time, relieved pain and cut medical costs.

“I’ll be in my air boot through my rehabilitation period until I am ready to start walking normally,” Cullen said.  “I’ll simply start walking while still in the plastic boot—there is a tough rubber sole to provide traction.”

To complement the cast, Tracy is also using a knee scooter in lieu of crutches for enhanced mobility. The knee scooter is another medical device that benefits greatly from plastics. The wheels, leg rest and brake cable coverings are all products of the plastics industry. “Crutches are so 19th century,” Cullen joked as she rolled down the hall.

As has been mentioned in previous blog posts, the plastics industry is responsible for much advancement in the world of medicine. State-of-the-art medical equipment utilizes plastic and helps people recover, rehabilitate, and regain their quality of life. Whether it is medical equipment such as stethoscopes made using polypropylene and polystyrene, or disposable medical applications (blood bags, tubing, catheters, examination gloves and inhalation masks as examples) made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane, or incubator domes made from acrylic or polycarbonate to defend premature infants against infection, plastics are there.

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Hilex Poly Busts Myths About Plastics in Marine Environment

By Philip R. Rozenski, Director of Sustainability for Hilex Poly Company LLC, Policy Chair for the American Progressive Bag Alliance

As a leading American plastic bag manufacturer in the United States and operator of the nation’s largest closed-loop plastic bag recycling facility, Hilex Poly understands the importance of keeping plastic bags and films out of the environment and in the recycling stream. While we would love to Bag2Bag Logoeliminate all waste (and have in fact invested tens of millions of dollars in recycling programs), we recognize that there are times when various plastics are improperly disposed of and end up in places where they don’t belong.

At the same time, myths about plastic bag waste and litter continue to receive media and NGO (nongovernmental organization) attention that distorts our true litter problems. A perfect example where this can be seen is with marine debris. Contrary to what many people believe to be the truth, not only do plastic bags constitute a minute amount of the total overall marine litter, plastic bags are unfairly grouped with other littered items that serve as much larger threats to marine life.

BAG-2-BAG RECYCLING

To further reduce the likelihood of plastic bags becoming litter, Hilex has taken an aggressive, proactive approach to increase the amount of plastic bags that are recycled and makes recycling all plastic films convenient for consumers across the country. Through our Bag-2-Bag Recycling Program, we have distributed more than 32,000 recycling collection bins across 45 states, allowing millions of consumers to easily recycle plastic bags and wraps at grocery stores and retailers. Proving this program’s success, our recycling center in North Vernon, Ind., recycled more than 20 million pounds of bags, sacks and wraps in 2012 alone.

Bags created in our Bag-2-Bag program are made of recycled content, lower carbon emissions by 11 percent, require 20 percent less energy to produce, reduce the need for virgin material and divert millions of pounds from landfills each year through this closed-loop process. We are extremely proud that the time, money and resources we have invested in this program are paying off.

BUSTING MYTHS

We look forward to a day when the myths about plastic bag waste, including those surrounding marine debris, are recognized for what they are: myths. In the meantime, Hilex will continue to focus on solutions that make a real difference in protecting our environment. We are proud of our products, the many innovative ways people reuse them in their daily lives, and our Bag-2-Bag program which supports an effective way for consumers to recycle the plastic bags they don’t reuse – by turning them into new bags or other useful products.

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Virginia County Makes Rigid Recycling Convenient

By Jamie Clark, Vice President and General Manager of Printpack Rigid

In July, James City County, Va., and three other Virginia municipalities will join the ranks of progressive counties by offering residents the opportunity to recycle rigid plastics at the curbside. Among other plastic containers, items added to curbside pickup will include plastics like yogurt cups and grocery store clam shells.

Jamie Clark

Jamie Clark

As an officer of SPI and chairman of the affiliated Rigid Plastics Packaging Group (RPPG), my team and I helped support a study on rigid plastics recovery within the county that led to this decision. I live and work in James City County.

The Virginia Public Service Authority (VPPSA), which manages curbside collection for the four municipalities, led the initiative with support from Printpack and RPPG.  The study showed that when households were asked to recycle all rigid plastics, the entire quantity of recyclables went up by 20 percent with polypropylene and non-bottle PET making up the majority of the increase.  PET bottles, which are already included in the program, also saw a substantial bump.  Both polypropylene and PET are highly recyclable and valuable to the industry.  In addition, there was no significant increase in non-recyclable materials.

National recycling statistics show a trend in improvements in the recovery stream for rigid plastics.  Non-bottle rigid plastic recovery increased threefold from 325,440,000 pounds collected in 2007 to 933,927,245 pounds in 2011. Also, the ratio of materials staying in Canada and the U.S. as opposed to being shipped to other countries, increased from 37 percent to 61 percent, which is higher than aluminum and paper.

VPPSA officials were initially reluctant to collect all rigid plastics because they were concerned that the market for mixed plastics seemed to be centered overseas, and they wanted to be certain that if rigids were collected, they would actually be recycled. Traditionally, the only plastic materials they accepted were PET bottles and HDPE jugs with necks.

When VPPSA put out their curbside collection contract for bid, they did not include all rigid plastics in the RFQ because of the perceived lack of economic incentive and the fear that there would be cost increases associated with collecting all rigids.

With the support of SPI and the American Chemistry Council, I assured them that the domestic market was developing to handle this type of recovery. The expanded recycling won’t cost the localities more, nor will it require a change in the regional contract.  There is a market for the materials, and contractors seem to be looking for more mixed plastic.

I also pointed out that the level of polypropylene consumed in China is three to four times that in the U.S., thus we should not be surprised that Asia has high demand for this raw material. This is a good thing.

A meeting held in January 2014 to discuss expanding the region’s recycling program included Printpack executives and representatives from the SPI, the Southeast Recycling Development Council, County Waste (the MRF that won the bid substantially reducing VPPSA’s cost) and James City County’s Economic Development and General Services Departments.

County Waste officials said they were collecting rigid plastics elsewhere and were ready to collect them in our region. County Waste made the difference here – they clearly understood that maximizing collection and recycling of all rigid plastics was profitable.

The James City County Economic Development Group was instrumental in aligning the parties and moving this initiative forward.  There is good reason that Forbes Magazine ranked Virginia the best state for Business in 2013.

The grassroots efforts of Printpack associates helped generate attention to the issue. Our associates, who live in James City and the other municipalities involved, reached out to their respective local officials and let them know this was an important issue.  This resulted in several critical meetings and plant tours with influential elected officials.

Being accessible the Virginia Gazette, the local newspaper, helped promote the effort.   Environmental reporter Cortney Langley was intrigued by the story as it was a case where industry leaders were actually pushing for “the right thing to do.”  She published two stories about the initiative.

Citizens of the county can expect a simple procedure of simply separating their plastics in a separate bin to be picked up with regular waste disposal.  With local industries and citizens at large aligned, this no cost solution to aid in the recovery of plastics is projected to be a hit in our community.

If there’s a lesson for our industry – it’s that we can make a difference.   We have 900,000 people employed in our industry we need engage them all and make them ambassadors to communicate our message across the nation.

Friday, March 28th, 2014

NPE2015 Recycling Plan Creates Opportunity for CPR Inc.

By Kim Coghill, SPI, Director, CommunicationsBen 2

SPI’s commitment to reduce the environmental impact of its activities is evident in its requirement that NPE2015 exhibitors divert all scrap materials generated on the show floor from landfills.

Through a highly selective process, Commercial Plastics Recycling Inc., a Tampa, Fla.-based firm, has been named the NPE2015 official recycler, said Lori Campbell, SPI’s director of trade show operations. CPR was selected among a field of eight recycling firms that expressed interest, including three that submitted proposals. The NPE2015 Executive Committee chose CPR based on criteria such as the company’s ability to manage the abundance of material produced for recycling at NPE2015.  CPR is the only recycling firm permitted to remove plastics scrap created by exhibitors.

While the NPE recycling program for NPE2012 handled 260,208 pounds (118 metric tons) of material, the total of NPE2015 is likely to be greater, Campbell said. NPE2015 will take place March 23-27, 2015, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., where more than 2,000 companies are expected to fill one million square feet of exhibit space.

“NPE2015 is an opportunity to celebrate the plastics industry, and we’re excited to be part of it as the official recycler and as an exhibitor,” said Ben Benvenuti, CPR’s president and founder. “CPR will provide exhibitors with quality recycling services and the value they expect at the show.”

CPR will work directly with company representatives in planning, scheduling and removing all scrap material, which will be recycled at its Tampa facility, fewer than 70 miles from the site of NPE2015.  Providing exhibitors with an official recycler eliminates the burden of expenses associated with removal of recyclable material.

Cpr - NIE“SPI encourages companies to establish an effective and economical waste reduction/recycling plan for NPE2015. It is our goal to demonstrate to members, brand owners, show participants, media and the public the strides our industry is making in both the products we produce, as well as the methods our industry is taking to help us fulfill SPI’s mission of zero waste,” Campbell said.

Benvenuti added that CPR will work with exhibitors from booth setup to the end of the show at minimal cost. “We’ll work directly with exhibitors to schedule our services, provide more packaging than in the past, to facilitate collection and provide more support staff on the show floor,” he said.

Founded in 1996, CPR employs just under 70 people plus about 15 temporary staffers across facilities in St. Louis, Miss., Millwood, W.V., and Newton, N.C. CPR helps companies implement recycling programs that reduce the impact on the planet, cut costs associated with waste-hauling and provide competitive pricing for plastic material.

Ben Benvenuti, CPR’s president and founder, is pictured above. 

 

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

For SPI Recycling Committee, the Future to Zero Waste is Bright

By Kim Holmes, SPI’s Director, Recycling and Diversion

With an organization-wide mantra to pursue zero waste, last year SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association formed its newest committee to focus on recovery and recycling of scrap plastics, a program that further supports the zero waste initiative. The make-up of SPI’s membership, which represents the full plastics supply chain, gives the newly formed Recycling Committee a unique angle to approach the full lifecycle of discussions around recovery of plastics. Since the formal establishment of the committee in the fall of 2013, the group attracted nearly 50 member companies to become involved in a broad range of efforts.

“It’s truly exciting to see companies from across the supply chain, bringing together their knowledge, expertise and passion to help further plastic recovery. By efficiently leveraging these collective assets, we are on track to accomplish some exciting work this year,” noted Lori Carson, director of commercial operations at Phoenix Technologies International and chair of the SPI Recycling Committee.

The SPI Recycling Committee met March 10 in advance of the Plastics Recycling Conference to discuss projects that each subcommittee will undertake this year and to gather feedback from committee members on progress and the direction of the course that the group has charted. The meeting was widely attended by plastics industry leaders from processors and suppliers to brand owners as well as non SPI members.

Attendees heard from speakers including SPI President and CEO William Carteaux, who kicked-off the meeting with praise for the committee’s progress and leadership since its 2013 formation. Other discussions included global efforts and initiatives that members can become involved in. To that end, Michael Taylor, SPI’s senior international affairs, presented the group with information on a number of international opportunities from past SPI trade missions and planned 2014 missions.

Some of the activities that will be undertaken in 2014 include:

• Developing strategies for navigating the changing domestic and export markets
• Engaging federal regulators on key issues shaping the plastics recycling industry
• Providing tools and resources to members on changing packaging and labeling trends
• Mapping brand owner and processor needs for recycled plastics
• Technical projects that will help expand the use and recovery of scrap plastics

The committee will work on recycling issues taking place in all segments of the plastics industry value chain. The next meeting is scheduled for May. For more information about the committee contact Kim Holmes at kholmes@plasticsinudstry.org.