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.



Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Recycling Rundown: Data that Shows Recycling is Still Economically Viable, Environmentally Beneficial and, Most Importantly, Growing

A bouquet of flowers made from recycled plastics.

A bouquet of flowers made from recycled plastics.

There’s a lot of data illustrating recycling’s economic viability, environmental bona fides and overall growth out there. We’ve collected some of it here for the benefit of naysayers and true believers alike. Below is a (not even close to comprehensive) rundown of facts about the importance of recycling. Did we miss any? Leave us a comment or send us a tweet and we’ll add it in!

Robin Wiener, president of the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (via Recycling International): “Recycling accounts for nearly US$ 106 billion in annual economic activity and is responsible for 471,587 direct and indirect jobs in the USA, generating more than US$ 4.3 billion in state and local revenues annually and a further US$ 6.76 billion in federal taxes.”

Grist’s Ben Adler: “Commercial customers want [recycling] to lower their waste bill, whether it’s a restaurant, factory, or college,” says Chaz Miller, director of policy and advocacy for the National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA). “They see the ability to sell their recyclables and they want the revenue. We do not see commercial clients backing away from recycling.”

Eco-Cycle Solutions: If everyone in the United States recycled only their plastic water bottles for one year (all 42.6 BILLION of them), that would offset the greenhouse gases generated by 1,065,000 round-trips between London and New York in coach every year.

The Closed Loop Fund: “According to the EPA, recycling rates doubled from 16 percent in 1990 to 28.5 percent and to 34 percent in 2010—a 40 percent increase every decade.”

From the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division: “According to, the average prices for recovered plastics as of June 2, 2015, were: HDPE natural plastic (milk jugs) $0.32 per pound, PET (beverage bottles) $0.14 per pound, and PP (deli and dairy tubs and lids) $0.14 per pound. During the same period, prices of mixed paper, newspaper and old corrugated containers (cardboard) ranged from $0.02 to $0.04 per pound.”

Ron Gonen, former Deputy Commissioner for Sanitation and Recycling in NYC:  “The economics of recycling for a City are simple. Send paper, metal, glass, plastics and food waste to landfill, the City is charged a fee….Send the same material to a local recycling facility or organics processor, the City avoids the landfill fee and sometimes also generates revenue.”

Recycle Bin

Rick Moore, executive director of the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR): “Even with low plastic resin prices, use of recycled PET in the U.S. is at an all-time high.”

There is a paradigm shift happening in waste management.  We are no longer just talking about recycling; rather, we’re having a broader conversation about sustainable materials management, and taking a bigger systems approach. There are both measurable and immeasurable benefits of recycling in the big picture of sustainable materials management and overall lifecycle impacts.

Send us a comment or tweet us at @SPI_4_Plastics if you’d like to contribute additional facts about the benefits or importance of recycling.

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Plastics Enhance Delivery of Medical Care

The plastics industry is positioned to play a significant role in the healthcare and medical device space as the demand for services and single-use products grows in conjunction with the graying population, a study released by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association said. In its report, “Plastics Market Watch: Healthcare & Medical Devices,” SPI discusses advances in plastics that have enabled the material to gradually displace traditional medical devices made of metal, ceramics and other substances.Market Watch 2

Due to plastics’ extraordinary versatility and the constant development of new blends, it seems extremely unlikely that plastics will be replaced by another material, at least not in the foreseeable future. The change now underway is exciting and foretells longer and healthier lives for humanity – and new applications for plastics.

“Increasing reliance on plastics has generated remarkable breakthroughs in technology that not only enhance delivery of medical care but also provide increased usage of plastics,” William R. Carteaux, SPI’s president and CEO, said. “This has been, and continues to be, a win-win for the plastics and healthcare industries.”

Using this as a backdrop, the report draws on the work of Ken Gronbach, a multi-generational marketing expert and author of “The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm,” to explain the future market and the population that’s driving it.

Gronbach said the world’s population is setting up healthcare’s perfect storm. “There will be a collision of the largest generations ever to become elderly with the age sector that demands the most healthcare services. In many cases, worldwide the number of 70-plus year old people will double. When a market doubles in demographic size, the demand for products and services related to that market more than doubles – a phenomenon called ‘the multiplier effect,’” he said.

All of the critical data – soaring populations, rising middle classes, aging population, advances in medical technologies – point to an ever stronger market for medical devices which today are largely comprised of plastics.  In earlier years, the growth of plastics in healthcare, particularly medical devices, came largely from material substitution, but that transition has been accomplished. Now the growth of the medical device market is almost synonymous with rising demand for plastics, or so it would seem. The shift to non-invasive medical protocols in particular will reduce the demand for many plastic basics of medical care.

For equipment manufacturers, the changing face of modern medicine means smaller equipment, but that will not directly impinge on plastics. Resin suppliers will not see much change because not a huge amount of resin goes into medical equipment. The market for plastics in medical devices is stable and growing, but producers must monitor the market carefully, anticipate changes coming down the road and be prepared to meet them. They must also keep tabs on the regulatory landscape for one can never be sure which way the political fortunes will blow in response to inflammatory news stories or consumer complaints.

Major shifts in the provision and funding of healthcare in this country will drive increased focus on reducing costs at all levels of the medical care industry, and a series of breakthroughs in medical science promise a variety of less physically intrusive medical therapies that will reduce the need for disposable medical devices, which are largely composed of plastics. In the distant future, these forces will to some extent counter the generally positive trajectory for use of plastics in medical devices. But for the foreseeable future, the role of plastics in modern medicine is dominant and likely to remain so.

SPI plans to conduct presentations and webinars in conjunction with this report to discuss our findings, and hope that these will provide important food for thought, whether you are an equipment manufacturer, materials supplier, processor, recycler or brand owner. Future reports issued later this year will focus on Plastics in Packaging, and Plastics in Building & Construction. “Plastics Market Watch: Automotive & Transportation” may be accessed by clicking here.

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Getting Real about Marine Debris

Coral reef and the IslandAn environmental problem of the seriousness and enormity of marine debris can easily overwhelm companies and individuals into inaction. “I’m just a small manufacturer,” you can hear a business owner saying to themselves. “There’s very little I can do to make a difference.” It can be easy to slip into this mentality, but the truth is that the small steps we all take add up to a much bigger, positive effect. This is true about all large-scale issues, including marine debris.

Some of these steps can be taken within the gates of our manufacturing facilities, and some can be directed at consumer behavior. The former is often the simplest, but you might be wondering, “how can I impact the world outside of my facility?” To answer this question, SPI worked with other industry partners to create the proven and effective program known as Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), a program aimed at mitigating pellet loss from the manufacturing environment. Pellets in the ocean are a real and documented problem, but since the implementation of OCS, scientists have actually measured a decline in the presence of these pellets. No single company could have accomplished this. Rather, this decline is a perfect example of how everyone’s small efforts can add up to a larger solution. OCS is a first step that all plastics-handling companies can take in the right direction, before graduating to other collaborative efforts that companies and associations like SPI can take that enable the cause of eliminating marine debris to leap forward.OCS logo

Once companies take action within their facilities, they can focus on other additional opportunities to have an impact on marine debris issues. These come in two areas: supporting further recovery of plastics at end-of-life to help mitigate litter, and actually being part of beach cleanup efforts. “SPI is proud to have contributed” to the cause of fighting marine debris, said SPI President and CEO Bill Carteaux in a statement earlier this year that highlighted SPI’s efforts, all of which are directly supported by its membership. “But we also support the cause of eliminating marine debris by supporting recycling and educating the public about the value of plastic materials. 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.”

In short, an industry committing itself to the kind of environmental stewardship exemplified by OCS and the plastics industry’s other efforts to erase marine debris is all well and good, but failing to engage the consumer in these efforts only limits the possibilities for what can be achieved. The more strongly the industry can enlist consumers in its efforts, the faster the results will arrive, the more visible they’ll be and the longer they’ll last.

So, while companies shouldn’t be discouraged out of acting by the severity of marine debris, it’s safe to say that working to combat it can be a complex task. To demystify the problem and give companies the tools they need to join the fight against marine debris, SPI will host a webinar August 6 at 1 p.m. EST titled “Marine Debris: Where We Stand, and What We Can Do.” As the title suggests, the program will feature both the latest figures on marine debris as well as the numerous opportunities the industry currently has to get involved in international coastal cleanup efforts. It will also give companies that might not think OCS could apply to them (i.e. recyclers) a background on how they can start implementing these important rules to prevent the loss of plastic materials at all facilities, not just plastics manufacturing or processing plants.FriendlyTurtle_Web

“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,” Carteaux said. “By working together, we can drive the meaningful recovery of plastics products that will stop marine debris at its source.” We hope you’ll join us and your peers to tackle one of our generation’s greatest environmental challenges while moving your industry, and your company forward at the same time.