Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Legislative Recap: A Big Two Weeks for Plastics on Capitol Hill

The last two weeks have seen big developments on Capitol Hill, particularly for the $380-billion U.S. plastics industry. Below is a quick recap of the legislative shifts and successes that have been on SPI’s radar for the last two weeks:

-TSCA Reform Approved in the House of Representatives

After 40 years (!), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is closer now than it’s ever been to getting a much-needed update. In a 398-1 vote, the House approved H.R. 2576, the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015 on June 23. “The world is a different place than it was when the Toxic Substances Control Act was first enacted in 1976,” said SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux in a statement issued after the vote. “The plastics industry has seen amazing growth and transformation in size and sophistication over the last four decades, but TSCA has remained largely unchanged. By approving H.R. 2576, the House of Representatives has taken a big step in the right direction, toward a regulatory regime that protects consumers without making the plastics industry comply with regulations that are redundant or based on outdated science.” Read the full statement here.

-Trade Promotion Authority Clears its Final Hurdle

A day after TSCA reform was approved in the House, and after one failed vote in the House and some behind-the-scenes legislative wrangling, Congress approved “fast track” or trade promotion authority (TPA), a critical step toward a strong, robust Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), among other trade deals that stand to be lucrative for U.S. plastics companies. “TPA will also make it easier for trade negotiators to reach other important free trade agreements (FTAs) that have the potential to further increase exports of U.S. goods. The U.S. only has 20 FTA partners currently, but they purchase a disproportionately high percentage of U.S. goods,” Carteaux said in a statement. “In 2014 these 20 countries received 47 percent of U.S. exports, worth a total of $765 billion according to the U.S. International Trade Administration. Furthermore the plastics sector enjoys a trade surplus of $20.6 billion with America’s existing FTA partner countries. Clearly, FTAs are good for U.S. manufacturing and for the U.S. plastics industry, and TPA will enable the U.S. to expedite more of them in the future.”

-Senate Approves Transportation Bill, SPI Urges Quick Action from the House

Before TSCA and TPA, the Senate approved, by unanimous consent, S. 808, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) Reauthorization Act of 2015. Specifically the bill aims to strengthen the STB by giving it the tools and flexibility to operate more efficiently as the economic watchdog of the nation’s rail shipping system. SPI and a coalition of other organizations applauded the approval. “Today, most shippers lack access to competitive rail service, and as a result railroad shipping rates have surged over the last decade, rising nearly three times as fast as inflation and trucking rates,” Carteaux said. “Accordingly, this has resulted in an increase in the number, cost and complexity of rate disputes. In its current state, the STB is ill-equipped to handle these developments, but the modest reforms in S. 808 go a long way toward fixing this problem by strengthening the STB and eliminating many of the inefficiencies that have hampered its ability to ensure competitive, sensible rail service to the nation’s plastics manufacturers. A stronger STB would help ensure that plastic materials and products can be shipped efficiently to both domestic and international markets.” Read the full statement here.

Stay tuned to SPI’s home page, Twitter feed and blog for future updates on any and all plastics-relevant legislative developments.

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Murphy builds up both Davis-Standard and NPE

By Bill Bregar, Plastics News

PAWCATUCK, CONN. — Jim Murphy, named in May as Davis-Standard LLC’s president and CEO, said industry activism is time well spent for machinery manufacturers.

“It’s important work,” Murphy said in a recent interview at Davis-Standard’s headquarters in Pawcatuck.

Murphy should know — he has served for 15 years in a leadership role at the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. That work culminated when Murphy served as chairman of NPE 2015 in Orlando, Fla. He will remain on the executive committee through the 2018 NPE, as the immediate past chairman.

Jim Murphy, NPE2012

Jim Murphy, NPE2012

As an executive committee leader, Murphy worked with other members, and SPI officials, to research the decision to move NPE from its longtime home in Chicago to Orlando, beginning with NPE 2012.

“Whenever you make a change, there’s always an uncertainty around the unknowns, right? Clearly I think that everybody saw a lot of opportunity, a lot of upside to the decision,” he said. “And when the show came in 2012, everybody that exhibited and attended had a great experience. A positive experience. That kind of feeds it, and the 2015 show grew nicely.”

Davis-Standard, which makes extrusion and converting equipment, takes the top executive position vacated when Bob Preston left the machinery maker to become top executive at GSE Environmental last November.

Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the company, which generates sales of about $300 million. Davis-Standard runs plants in Pawcatuck; Fulton, N.Y.; Suzhou, China, and Erkrath, Germany.

A native of Canton, Ohio, Murphy graduated from the University of Akron, then worked for a small company before taking a field sales job at extruder maker NRM Corp. After three years at NRM, he joined Davis-Standard. His most recent position, before becoming president and CEO, was vice president of global sales and marketing.

The sales role prompted Murphy to get active with SPI, on the Committee for Equipment Statistics. He got involved with the NPE marketing committee for the shows in 2003 and 2006, then got deeply involved in the NPE operations side in 2006 and 2009. He chaired the operations committee for NPE 2009 — the final one at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Moving NPE to Florida was a major undertaking, led by Bill Carteaux, SPI’s president and CEO, and Gene Sanders, senior vice president of trade shows and conferences. Together with the two SPI leaders, the NPE executive committee got to work before the final decision was made.

“We pulled together and evaluated a lot of that data regarding the services — do we have the right services in Orlando? Do we have infrastructure — electric, power, water, floor loading, the ability to move material. All the kind of things you need to do to get it accomplished,” Murphy said.

Murphy said Davis-Standard management has always supported the volunteer work of its employees on trade associations. Company engineers also take an active role on SPI’s safety standards efforts.

And Murphy said Davis-Standard is in a good position, as a business. More than half of its sales comes from machinery for the growing packaging market. The company employs 90 people in the Asia-Pacific region, including about 60 in Suzhou. The middle class in China and other countries in the region is growing, fueling demand for better food packaging — which fuels sales of more-advanced equipment, he said.

“Asia-Pacific represents about 25 to 30 percent of our sales. It’s been that way, and growing, for the last decade,” Murphy said.

Private equity firm Oncap, part of Toronto-based Onex Corp., bought Davis-Standard in 2011. “They’re extremely supportive in terms of providing financial strength, and extremely supportive of the business and the strategy of the business,” he said.

Murphy said Oncap expanded the number of Davis-Standard employees who hold an ownership stake to 100, from about 50 under the prior ownership. About 860 people work at Davis-Standard.

“Employees who are owners have a longer-term view of things, as an owner,” he said.

Davis-Standard’s veteran workforce is a big strength, he said. At the last service awards dinner, the company recognized one employee with 45 years at the company. Eight employees got 40-year awards. Many people have worked at the company for more than 20 years.

“We have a clearly dedicated group of employees that understand the business and the technology,” Murphy said.

This article may be accessed on Plastics News’ website by clicking here.

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Hispaniola Sustainability Forum Enlists Plastics, Recycling Industries in Effort to Solve Environmental Problems in Developing Countries

Spend all the money you’d like on machinery, collection bins and other pieces of recycling infrastructure; they won’t be worth much if people don’t fill them with recyclable products. The culture of recycling can often be as important as the infrastructure that supports it, and while here in the U.S. we have both, in other nations, they have neither.

DRBeachPhotoThat’s a problem that Jesús D’Alessandro, a sustainability researcher for the Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) and director of the Foro Hispaniola de Sostenibilidad (FHS), is trying to bring his colleagues together to solve. “I lived in Japan for nearly four years,” he said, “and it was great to see that everyone cooperates. You have schedules issued by the municipalities and you have the days when the garbage is going to be collected, including polyethylene terephthalate (PET), glass and metals. You have to actually wash the recyclables, classify them and keep them at home until the truck comes along. It is a great example of community cooperation.”

The achievement of this level of awareness and cooperation between citizens and the public and private forces that enable this system to work is a result of a long-lasting social cohesion process in Japan, according to D’Alessandro, who noted that in his home country of the Dominican Republic, that process is only just beginning. “The work of educating the society on these basic sustainable development concepts here hasn’t yet been done with the appropriate level of seriousness,” he said.

In October D’Alessandro and other thought leaders from the region will gather for this year’s FHS. SPI first participated in last year’s edition and will be participating again this year in the shared hope that collaboration can help solve what’s both a dire situation in Hispaniola and a great opportunity—in the case of plastic waste management—for the plastics and recycling industries to crowdsource a solution to the island’s waste woes. “There are efforts from the government, but the government alone is not enough: there has to be collaboration from society,” D’Alessandro said. “We wish to integrate everyone into a single platform; everyone together dealing with these issues in real time, which is part of the virtue of the project. It’s an open platform for innovative ideas around sustainable development” that, D’Alessandro and SPI hope, can create a model for other developing nations to successfully manage their waste and recycling issues through the power of collaboration between governments, companies and thought leaders.

According to D’Alessandro, SPI’s participation is particularly valuable because of the depth of the plastic waste problem on Hispaniola (which consists of the Dominican Republic on the eastern half of the island, and Haiti on the west). “Dealing with plastics here is a big issue. Although the collecting industry has grown, there’s still very little collecting and recycling in comparison to our volumes of consumption, which makes it a huge environmental problem right now,” D’Alessandro said. “Unrecycled PET is a great problem here precisely because most of the bottles are of PET resin,” he added, noting that the transient nature of the plastic bottle adds to the problem, particularly when it’s used so frequently in a country that lacks both a culture of recycling and the infrastructure to support it. “The bottle is the item with the shortest service life, particularly the 20-ounce PET bottle. It’ll last in your hand for as little as a minute and a half,” D’Alessandro said. “That is why we have tons on the streets and, of course, there are other types of plastic packaging wasted as well, but the vast majority has longer service life and less demand.”

As any consumer in the U.S. is probably aware, PET is an extremely recyclable material, but again, in the presence of a lot of PET bottles, and in the absence of a recycling culture and recycling infrastructure, the problem has festered, creating both an environmental threat and other economic pressures on local companies and the state. “If there is no culture of recycling, and particularly a culture of classifying the garbage at home, you put all of those costs on the state, and of course the state is already struggling to face other domestic challenges,” D’Alessandro said. “We’re fostering a huge environmental problem and the state will not be able to handle it on its own. In fact, it’s not supposed to do it alone. Our generation is going to have to aid the process.”FHSLogo

The size of the problem in Hispaniola is matched only by the size of the opportunity it presents to industry and sustainability-minded policymakers and residents. Investments in technology and infrastructure on the island will go a long way toward ensuring Hispaniola isn’t consumed by a wave of PET bottles, but securing those investments, no matter how much we take them for granted here in the U.S., will require collaboration. “We’re missing an opportunity, while creating and sustaining an environmental problem,” D’Alessandro said. “We have the challenge to grasp the problem from a systemic perspective, and educate normal people about this issue.”

With any luck, D’Alessandro hopes the collaborative solutions discussed and implemented at this year’s FHS will spread beyond the shores of Hispaniola. “We wish to do this every year as long as it is possible, and so far it has been of interest to many people,” he said. “The goal is to gather everyone at a single table to discuss the challenges of society, and become a reference point for other societies in other places where this is a challenge,” a worthy goal, and one that fits firmly within SPI and the plastics industry’s pursuit of zero waste.

For more information of FHS, or to attend, visit their Facebook page here.

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Why Manufacturers Need Millennials for Future Growth

By Jill Worth, Marketing and Communications Specialist, The Rodon Group

There has been a great deal of attention paid to the skills gap facing American manufacturers. The gap needs to be addressed before we can develop the engineers and technicians of the future. A study from The National Defense Industrial Association reported that between 5th and 12th grade, 74 percent of the children do not have access to or interest in STEM the coursework they need to thrive in today’s advanced manufacturing environment. Without this baseline education, our young people will not be qualified to fill the highly technical careers that are now the benchmark of a manufacturing environment.  MillennialsBut there is hope. Many companies are addressing this gap by working with local educators and school administrators to support and encourage STEM education. Some organizations partner with workforce development agencies to identify and groom future manufacturing candidates. Still others are using the “old” model of apprenticeships to grow their own talent internally.

ThomasNet recently posted a blog article that focuses on the future of manufacturing jobs and how the millennial generation apply. Linda Rigano, ​ThomasNet’s​ Executive Director of Media Relations​ states “ With new lines of products and services pairing with a steady trickle of Baby Boomers retiring, the industry is set to have a sizable uptick of job vacancies. As manufacturers increase headcount and look to fill current openings, a very valid question pops up: Who exactly will fill these jobs? Well, there’s a number of socially conscious, innovation-driving, job-hungry individuals seeking careers with security and growth potential — millennials.”

Based on their new Industry Marketing Barometer report, ThomasNet created a SlideShare presentation to highlight the reasons why manufacturers need millennials for future growth.

What impact is the skills shortage having on your business?  Do you currently have millennial age employees within your company? We’d like to hear your feedback and thoughts on this topic.

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

E-Floater, Solar-Powered Electric Scooter That Weighs Less Than 12 Kilograms

By Cynthia ShahanFor Plastics Makes it Possible

BASF and Floatility recently introduced a lightweight, solar-powered, electric scooter called the e-floater. The electric scooter weighs less than 12 kilograms (27 pounds). Urban mobility could hardly be more sustainable… wait, could it be more sustainable?Scooter

The lightweight solar-powered scooter was created with more than 80 percent composite and plastic materials. BASF reports that the plastic materials enable design freedom and streamlined construction. Jointly developed by BASF and Floatility, it is supposed to give commuters the sensation of floating. Thus, its name (e-floater).

“This is a perfect example of how we cooperate with our partners to fully unfold the strengths of our innovative materials. The e-floater combines stability, durability and safety with an exciting, functional design,” said Andy Postlethwaite, Senior Vice President, Performance Materials Asia Pacific, BASF.

Versatility in the plastic materials from BASF adds to their substantial support and development capabilities. A BASF news release states:

Molding multiple parts to create complex shapes with plastic materials enables design freedom and the streamlined construction of the ‘e-floater’. Various grades of glass fiber reinforced  will be used for most of the e-floater’s structure: While the mineral-filled Ultramid® B3M6 is used for the parts where low warpage is crucial, the impact modified Ultramid® B3ZG8 combines toughness and stiffness in a way that is favorable for structural parts that have to resist crash-loads. The surface-improved Ultramid® B3G10 SI offers high surface quality to the parts despite its high fiber content. The reinforcement for front body and deck will be made with the new Ultracom™ composite materials to ensure stability.

Together with Ultralaminate™ B3WG13, a thermoplastic laminate and the adapted overmolding compound Ultramid® B3WG12 COM, BASF also offers its processing and designing support for the development of continuous fiber reinforced parts. Tires and handlebars made with BASF’s TPU Elastollan® will provide a good grip and smooth floating.

No more long walking gaps (not that those are bad) on your last leg home from the city center or the nearest public transport stop — just step on the scooter and “float” along.

“The cooperation with BASF enables us to develop a state-of-the-art short distance urban mobility solution to provide mobility-on-demand for the future. In this way, the e-floater will play a key role in making short journeys more convenient, quick, affordable and sustainable,” Oliver Risse, Founder and CEO of Floatility, said.

Amazingly, BASF celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2015. This was a company built to last. It is “rolling out a global co-creation program with partners on the topics of energy, food, and urban living.”

Some folks, especially in Europe, like to tuck a scooter in the back of their car, or simply their backpack if they prefer public transport. Why? Christopher DeMorro explains well in “Mini Debuts Electric Scooter Instead of Electric Car.” Here’s a piece of that: “In places like New York, Paris, and Beijing, where car bans are talked about with increasing frequency, the idea of combining scooters and bikes with cars seems to be catching on with European automakers. It wasn’t long ago that Smart debuted its own line of e-bikes and scooters to supplement its little city cars, and apparently the engineers at MINI thought it was a good enough idea to take for themselves.”