Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Less is Less – The Battle to Wrap It Up in Plastic

By Michael Taylor, Vice President International Affairs and Trade

When it comes to packaging – plastic is the environmental material of choice.

Plastic products are environmentally-friendly, and manufacturers who produce these versatile products take pride in their efforts to implement sensible green policies and procedures.

And, to quote David Tyler, a chemistry professor at the University of Oregon, “Plastic bags are greener than paper bags, disposable plastic cups have fewer impacts than reusable ceramic mugs, and owning a dog is worse than driving an SUV.” fish bottles

When you consider the entire “life-cycle” of packaging materials, plastics compare favorably to other materials in areas like energy and water use, air and greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste. It has been demonstrated that plastic packaging helps reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions compared to alternative materials.

How does plastic packaging help with sustainability? Simply put, plastic does more with less. It is more energy efficient to make plastic as opposed to other packaging materials, and it takes less lightweight plastic to package a product.

For example, two pounds of plastics can deliver roughly 10 gallons of beverages as compared to three pounds of aluminum, eight pounds of steel or more than 40 pounds of glass. Lighter packaging means less fuel is used in shipping. That is, plastic bags require less total energy to produce than paper bags,  and they conserve fuel in shipping (ie., one truckload for plastic bags versus seven for paper).

Replacing plastic packaging with non-plastic alternatives in the United States would:

  • Require 4.5 times as much packaging material by weight, increasing the amount of packaging used in the U.S. by nearly 55 million tons (110 billion pounds);
  • Increase energy use by 80 percent—equivalent to the energy from 91 oil supertankers; and
  • Result in 130 percent more global warming potential—equivalent to adding 15.7 million more cars to our roads.

And plastics engineers continually work to do even more with less—this process of light-weighting can help boost the environmental and economic efficiency of consumer product packaging. Since 1977, the two-liter plastic soft drink bottle shrunk from 68 grams to 47 grams, representing a 31 percent reduction per bottle. This saved more than 180 million pounds of packaging in 2006—just for two-liter soft drink bottles alone. The one-gallon plastic milk jug succeeded on a similar diet, weighing 30 percent less today than 20 years ago.

Next to lightweight (or source reduction), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identifies “reuse” of packaging as the next highest priority in managing waste. Plastics packaging’s durability enables reusability in storage bins, sealable food containers and refillable sports bottles. And 90 percent of Americans report that they reuse plastic bags.

In summary, plastic is the smart material of choice because it’s light, inexpensive, versatile – and recyclable.

To learn more about plastic packaging, please view SPI’s latest Market Watch report,  “Packaging Market Watch: Plastics Wraps it Up”. It may be accessed by visiting SPI’s website at http://www.plasticsindustry.org/.

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

Congress: We Urge Prompt Attention to Passing the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act

CongressSunriseViewThe U.S. Congress has a great opportunity to come together and provide tax relief to both American families and the businesses in which they work.

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act would resolve four key issues that affect plastics. Specifically, the PATH Act would:

  • Permanently extend the Research & Development Tax Credit – This has the potential to unlock a great deal of innovation in the plastics industry.
  • Extend “Bonus Depreciation” for Five Years – Bonus depreciation is an added amount of depreciation that can be claimed by a business on property it acquired and placed in service during 2015 through 2019. This facilitates new purchases of equipment.
  • Permanently Extend Section 179 “Small Business Expensing” – The bill locks in the small business expensing limitation at $500,000, lifting it from its current $25,000 ceiling.
  • Place a Two-Year Moratorium on the Medical Device Excise Tax – Due to their superior design flexibility, plastics are increasingly used in medical devices. This tax harms job creation and stymies innovation in the medical device sector.

Combined, these provisions would greatly benefit the public, and anyone who touches or is involved in the plastics’ supply chain.

We encourage both members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to act quickly to advance this bipartisan bill.

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

The Most Plastics-Centric Manufacturing Day Ever Helped Change the Public’s Perception of Manufacturing (and Plastics)

On Manufacturing Day 2015, at least 35 plastics facilities hosted tours and educational events across the country. At seven facilities alone (The Rodon Group, AMA Plastics, Parkinson Technologies, Inc., Toshiba Machine, Yushin America, Wittmann-Battenfeld and MR Mold) more than 600 people attended events, tours and information sessions focused on the great career opportunities that plastics manufacturing offers young job seekers.

All this to say that this year’s Manufacturing Day was the most plastics-centric ever, and it’s safe to say that these events succeeded in changing attendees’ perceptions of both plastics and manufacturing.

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A new study shows that 90 percent of the students who attended Manufacturing Day events, like those hosted by plastics manufacturers across the country, found the activities or tours interesting and engaging. Furthermore, 62 percent of students came away more motivated to pursue a career in manufacturing.

The plastics industry faces both a coming labor shortage and a perception gap.  By opening our doors and inviting people in, we help to educate and spark interest in an exciting and solid career path.

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!

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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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