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Articles from 2018 In January

Toray Plastics (America) launches third generation of Torayfan polypropylene packaging films

Torayfan CB3

Consumer demand for fresh, shelf-stable food in transparent packaging and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies’ preference for a PVDC-free, high-barrier film have driven the development of a third generation of Torayfan film by Toray Plastics (America). A subsidiary of Tokyo-based Toray Industries, the company is headquartered in North Kingstown, RI.

The new Torayfan CB3 portfolio is manufactured with Toray’s proprietary formulation and a patented PVDC-free coating. The films feature oxygen- and moisture-barrier protection and are available in sealable and non-sealable versions. The robust 70- and 80-gauge CB3 films are an alternative to thicker OPP films and enable source reduction, yield and economic benefits.

The films are sufficiently strong to withstand the rigors of laminating and converting processes without any degradation to barrier performance. All CB3 films are manufactured at Toray’s world-class site in North Kingstown, RI. Applications include bags, pouches and stand-up pouches containing nuts, seeds, salted snacks, cookies, dried fruit and confectionery items.

“These are very sophisticated films that combine a modified base film and complex coating to achieve impressive barrier properties,” said Tammy Williamson, Associate Product Manager of the Torayfan Polypropylene Films Division. “In addition, consumers today want to see the item they are purchasing; it helps them feel confident that the food and ingredients are fresh. CB3 films offer the transparency and freshness protection they expect.”

Williamson added that Toray’s new CB3 technology has an oxygen transmission rate of 0.06 cc/100 in²/day at 73°F, 0% RH, without any compromise to moisture-barrier properties. The previous generation of CB films has an O2TR value of 0.25. In cases where end users are using a lamination made with PVDC-coated PET and a sealant web, the CB3 OPP films offer a significant improvement in both moisture and oxygen barrier.

“Also important is CPG companies’ preference that PVDC be eliminated from packaging because of environmental concerns. They appreciate Toray’s commitment to sustainability,” Williamson said. “Now manufacturers are able to specify a transparent package with even greater shelf stability, without PVDC issues.”

Williamson noted that the CB3 films are also an alternative to acrylic-coated and AlOx-coated films, EVOH sealant web films and metalized BOPP films. They run on vertical and horizontal form, fill and seal equipment.

Vecoplan calls for greater acceptance of recycled plastics


Vecoplan AG (Bad Marienberg, Germany) produces machinery and plants for shredding, conveying and processing primary and secondary raw materials captured in recycling processes. The manager of its recycling division, Stefan Kaiser, recently shared his views on the recycling economy and how it can be improved. “The recycling economy is one of the greatest challenges of the future,” said Kaiser. “It will help to improve the overall image of the plastics industry, from the producer and processor to the recycler. We must learn to appreciate that we need to deal with plastics more sustainably.”

While Kaiser acknowledges that plastics recycling lags behind recovery of other materials such as glass, metal and paper, he cites the wide variety of plastic materials that go into the recycling stream. “We have a broad mix of plastics that are put into circulation,” he said. These are often materials which are not made from a monopolymer but from several plastics, such as multi-layer films.

“At the same time, different plastics are mixed in one product. The more compounds one creates, the more difficult it is to separate these from one another. Recycling is then correspondingly laborious and expensive. Therefore, it is important to think about the recycling capability right at the product design stage. One possibility, for example, would be to produce a film from only one plastic and, in return, make it somewhat thicker.”

While this might make the product more expensive, Kaiser notes that costs have to be considered “over the whole life cycle of a product. It then becomes clear that even if a company produces highly economically, it is only efficient if recycling is not too laborious. Those who market plastic products should think about how sustainably their products can be used,” said Kaiser.

While getting government involved through legislation and regulation processes has some benefits, Kaiser believes it is up to industry to “emphasize the advantages” of plastic and to “show where it is used and what benefits it brings.” It will also require education in recycling “to demonstrate what is possible with recycling and how recycled materials can be used.”

One of the challenges in recycling is the quality of the recycled materials, which has “improved considerably” in recent years, commented Kaiser. With the latest processing techniques, higher quality of recycled plastics is possible. However, Kaiser noted that he thinks the main problem lies in creating acceptance of these materials by the consumer. Recycled plastics may be the better option, but it is also necessary for recycled materials to comply with the necessary standards required for end-use products.

Injection molders have told Kaiser that the properties of the processed recycled material must be equal to that of virgin resin. “Many companies still believe that secondary plastics are difficult to handle and jeopardize reliable production,” said Kaiser, who acknowledged that recycled plastics are not the same as virgin resin. “For each product, the processor should ask whether new material is necessary or whether recycled material is sufficient. What is necessary to achieve acceptance by the consumer, by the processors and their customers?

“Only [acceptance of] these recycled plastics will drive manufacturers to produce higher quality products from recycled materials,” Kaiser added. “The quantities will then be sufficiently large to make it worthwhile—the greater the acceptance, the lower the price.”

Kaiser also explained how bio-materials might affect recycling. Biobased plastics are produced organically, for example, from corn starch. Bio-plastics can be divided into biobased and biologically degradable plastics. “I think their use is critical; in the case of biobased plastics, I can definitely see a possibility, particularly when fossil materials have been used up and sustainable raw materials increase in importance,” Kaiser commented.

"The end product has the same properties as a product made from refined oil, and requires a similarly long time to decompose,” said Kaiser. “In recycling, the material is treated in exactly the same way as any other plastic. On the other hand, degradable plastics only have the basic form and behave like a plastic. To process them so that they can be recycled is more difficult. But, in return, they can decompose—not as quickly as a banana, but still faster than a normal plastic bag, which needs approximately 450 years to do so.

“When composting bio-plastics, higher temperatures and moisture can accelerate the decomposition process. In spite of this, consumers should not be fooled into thinking that bio-plastics are the answer.” 

Plastics can help make Trump’s infrastructure plan truly great


The plastics industry has a constructive role to play in the infrastructure plan mentioned by President Trump in his State of the Union speech last night, a point made by William Carteaux, President and CEO of the PLASTICS Industry Association (PLASTICS; Washington, DC). 

“Plastic materials and products should be allowed to compete on a level playing field for the improvement projects that will eventually form the president’s infrastructure plan,” said Carteaux in a statement issued following the address. “Plastic materials can perform as well, or better, than more traditional materials, and often at a fraction of the cost to the American taxpayer.”

Living in the Los Angeles area, I confess that I am as concerned with the state of our roads as I am of the state of the union, and Carteaux's statement reminded me of a project in the Netherlands that has some relevance.

Those “gleaming new roads” that the President wants to build “across our land?” I have just one word for him: Plastics. Back in 2015, I wrote about a pilot project in Rotterdam that would pave new roads with recycled plastic bottles. There are numerous advantages to replacing asphalt with plastic, according to Dutch construction firm VolkerWessels (Amersfoort) , which is spearheading the project: Reduced maintenance, increased temperature resistance and accelerated road laying, which would take weeks instead of months. The surface lasts three times longer than asphalt, adds the company, and it is lighter and hollow, making it easier to install cables and pipelines below the surface.

The sections can be prefabricated in a factory and transported to the construction site, shortening construction time and reducing congestion caused by roadwork.

The PlasticRoad consortium claims that its roadways last three times longer than conventional paved roads and reduce construction time by as much as 70%. Image courtesy PlasticRoad.

Since we published that article, VolkerWessels has teamed up with recycler Wavin, which has its headquarters in Zwolle, Netherlands, and French petrochemicals company Total (Courbevoie) to form PlasticRoad, a consortium that is developing a business case and building a prototype of the road of the future.

Yes, this is not shovel-ready and would require R&D resources, but the technology has immense potential and helps to solve several problems in one fell swoop. Worth a look, no?

In his statement, Carteaux also urged policymakers not to overlook the nation’s recycling facilities when it comes to upgrades. “This push to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure presents a unique opportunity to increase the amount of plastic our country recycles and to facilitate growth in the market. A national effort to upgrade these facilities would both support business and employment growth in recycled plastics while simultaneously reducing waste.”

Hitting on another theme of the State of the Union address, Carteaux said that the plastics industry shared the president’s support for strong, mutually beneficial trade agreements. “The North American plastics industry has been in lockstep when it comes to enhancing the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and we look forward to working with the administration and Congress to ensure that this and other trade agreements are as strong as they can possibly be.”

It should be noted, however, that as recently as earlier this month in Davos, Switzerland, Trump told CBS News: “I may terminate NAFTA. I may not. We’ll see what happens.” Pulling out of NAFTA would be consequential for the U.S. plastics industry, which “ran a surplus of $10.7 billion with Mexico and $719 million with Canada in 2016,” said Carteaux during a December 2017 webcast. “That would not have been possible without NAFTA,” he added.

Battenfeld-cincinnati’s solEX and conEX NG series extruders make U.S. debut at NPE2018

battenfeld cincinnati conEX-co extruder

Battenfeld-cincinnati USA (McPherson, KS) will feature its solEX NG and conEX NG extruder series with Industry 4.0–compatible BCtouch UX control for the first time in the United States at NPE2018.

The conEX NG has a flexible design with one basic machine model for both pipe and profile production, said the company. The extruder’s screw core fits all screw tempering systems and the gear box design allows several different motor positions. Processors can also choose between different barrel tempering and dosing systems. Thus, a wide range of outputs can be covered with one machine.

ConEX NG 54 co-extruder. 

Gentle plastification is ensured and the machines can work with process pressures up to 520 bar (7,500 psi), which are required when producing small or thin-walled profiles, or when using regrind and recycled materials in co-extrusion. Thanks to minimized residence times and quick cleaning, color changes can performed rapidly, saving material.

The single-screw solEX NG extruder has a completely redesigned screw feed section with a significantly lower pressure profile, said battenfeld-cincinnati. This ensures high specific outputs, fast process start-ups at low screw torques and no conveying instabilities, even at high back pressures up to 500 bar (7,200 psi). Thanks to the new processing unit, a reduction of melt temperature by approximately 15 to 20°F is possible. 

Therefore, the cooling length can be shortened as cooling baths need to remove less heat. Alternatively, for nearly all products, it is possible to increase line speed with the same cooling length, resulting in up to 20% higher outputs. Lower melt temperatures at a consistently high level of melt homogeneity also result in better product quality. For example, sagging is reduced, which is particularly important for thick-walled or large-diameter pipes.

Pipe producers operate under high cost pressure, which makes energy and material savings crucial for efficient production, notes the company. The solEX NG series needs up to 15% less energy, because it operates with less drive power and lower energy losses. Thanks to the grooved barrel and corresponding lower pressure profile, energy savings can be achieved by reduced barrel cooling. The machines’ processing characteristics, combined with special wear protection solutions for the processing unit, result in material and maintenance cost savings.

Battenfeld-cincinnati will exhibit at booth W2771. NPE2018 comes to Orlando, FL, on May 7 to 11. 

TimerCap introduces Bluetooth-enabled iSort 7-Day Pill Box

TimerCap iSort pill box

Did Mom take her morning meds? She can’t remember, and as her caregiver you don’t know what to do. Now there is the iSort 7-Day Pill Box to help people, including doctors and caregivers, keep track of patient compliance when taking medicine. 

Larry Twersky, CEO of TimerCap LLC (Los Angeles, CA) said in an interview with PlasticsToday that the number one reason older people are admitted into assisted living is that they can’t remember to take their medication. The iSort automatically records and stores the times when each door/slot is opened and closed. It knows which door has been used and seamlessly updates the TimerCap app. The app keeps track of when doses were taken or missed, providing reminders that help improve adherence to medication dosing instructions and eliminate annoying false alarms, double entries and unnecessary reminders when pills have already been taken.

Twersky said that the idea for the iSort came from experiencing problems with his own family members. It took “four long and grueling years,” Twersky said, to develop the Bluetooth-enabled device in a manner that made it simple and easy to use.

Like the company’s TimerCap device, the software allows people to know what medications are supposed to be in the pill box. “Emergency personnel have no idea what the patient is taking, because with most pill boxes there are just different colored pills and no information. With the iSort app, you can see what the meds are,” explained Twersky.

The iSort can be loaded with multiple prescriptions. On-board memory retains a history of dosing intervals whenever the iSort is taken away from the mobile device with which it is paired.

Design and development for the iSort was done in the United States, and the assembly and programming are also done by TimerCap through New Horizons, a job provider for autistic adults located in North Hills, CA. However, the injection molded boxes and electronic components are manufactured in China.

“We do what we can to stay price competitive,” Twersky said. “We have this fine line between price competitiveness and affordability, while trying to do right by U.S. workers.”

The iSort is listed on the company’s website at $89.95. It weighs 6 ounces and has an EZ-Lift magnetic latch for easy opening.

“With the advent of tele-medicine, healthcare providers will need these tools to manage people from afar,” Twersky commented.

The iSort is available now and Twersky confirmed that it is being integrated into the systems of many different healthcare groups.

Milacron expands co-injection product suite with Kortec Connect

Milacron Kortec Connect

Processors may be familiar with Kortec Complete co-injection technology from Milacron (Cincinnati, OH), which comprises a co-injection molding machine, Kortec hot runner and on-demand engineering support. Now Milacron is introducing Kortec Connect in response to customer requests for a way to upgrade their current injection molding machines with co-injection capabilities.

Kortec Connect incorporates a molder’s existing injection molding machine using the Mold-Masters E-Multi secondary injection unit in combination with a Kortec co-injection hot runner.

Steve Morris, President of Milacron Systems, explained: “We have perfected the plastics industry’s first and only co-injection retrofit offering. We’ve combined the 30-plus years of experience from our Kortec co-injection melt delivery technology and utilized the highly successful Mold-Masters E-Multi secondary injection unit to offer customers a cost-effective entry into the high growth co-injection molding market.”

According to Morris, Kortec Connect can be used on any qualified brand of injection molding machine, provided it has the required performance. “The Kortec Connect offering has been used successfully in molding coffee cups, caps, closures, personal care items, thin-wall and medical parts, and it can also be added to a PET monolayer system, introducing the ability to mold barrier preforms at a fraction of the cost while avoiding an investment in a dedicated PET co-injection machine,” he stated.

Milacron is exhibiting at NPE2018 in Orlando, FL. Visit the company at booth W2703.

Kortec Connect allows customers to invest in co-injection at a lower capital cost and provides the added flexibility of being able to move co-injection technology throughout their facility, eliminating the need for a dedicated co-injection work cell, the company said. Kortec Connect offers “plug-and-play” conversion, with all of the software algorithms and setup contained in the Kortec Connect controller.

Milacron’s co-injection engineers work hand-in-hand with customers to customize the Kortec Connect solution for their specific applications.

Special report: Analysts predict rosy outlook for U.S. plastics industry in 2018

Special report: Analysts predict rosy outlook for U.S. plastics industry in 2018

The domestic plastics industry has been in constant expansion since hitting bottom during the Great Recession. It will maintain that momentum in 2018, and perhaps even accelerate it. Moreover, the world economy seems to be in lockstep, experiencing a rare instance of “global synchronous growth,” according to financial gurus.

While Perc Pineda, Chief Economist at the PLASTICS Industry Association (PLASTICS; Washington, DC), says that he doesn’t see any headwinds in the next 12 months, pessimists point to uncertainty surrounding the NAFTA re-negotiation. If it were to go south, if you’ll pardon the expression, it could have serious consequences for the plastics sector. The U.S. plastics industry “ran a surplus of $10.7 billion with Mexico and $719 million with Canada in 2016,” said PLASTICS President and CEO William Carteaux. “That would not have been possible without NAFTA.”

This Special Report from PlasticsToday offers industry insights on the year ahead, based on data from PLASTICS, a survey of plastics professionals conducted by Echo-Factory on behalf of thermoforming company Ray Products and other sources. Download your free copy.

Special report: Analysts predict rosy outlook for U.S. plastics industry in 2018

Special report: Analysts predict rosy outlook for U.S. plastics industry in 2018

The domestic plastics industry has been in constant expansion since hitting bottom during the Great Recession. It will maintain that momentum in 2018, and perhaps even accelerate it. Moreover, the world economy seems to be in lockstep, experiencing a rare instance of “global synchronous growth,” according to financial gurus.

While Perc Pineda, Chief Economist at the PLASTICS Industry Association (PLASTICS; Washington, DC), says that he doesn’t see any headwinds in the next 12 months, pessimists point to uncertainty surrounding the NAFTA re-negotiation. If it were to go south, if you’ll pardon the expression, it could have serious consequences for the plastics sector. The U.S. plastics industry “ran a surplus of $10.7 billion with Mexico and $719 million with Canada in 2016,” said PLASTICS President and CEO William Carteaux. “That would not have been possible without NAFTA.”

This Special Report from PlasticsToday offers industry insights on the year ahead, based on data from PLASTICS, a survey of plastics professionals conducted by Echo-Factory on behalf of thermoforming company Ray Products and other sources. Download your free copy here.

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Hefty strides made in recovering plastic packaging as an energy source

Hefty Energy Bag home collection

The plastics community continues moving forward to recovering currently non-recyclable packaging and other items and extracting energy from those materials. One of the most recent steps taken stateside was when Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics (Midland, MI) and Keep America Beautiful announced in early January that two $50,000 grants were designated  for organizations in Cobb County, GA and Boise, ID, to establish the Hefty EnergyBag program in their respective communities.

The program offers an innovative approach to diverting plastics that cannot be recycled—such as chip bags and juice pouches—from landfills and converting the materials into valuable energy resources. The two winning communities will provide collected materials to facilities utilizing advanced non-combustion conversion technologies, which can generate a liquid fuel, such as diesel. To date, Hefty EnergyBag curbside and non-curbside programs, which include a 2014 EnergyBag Pilot in Citrus Heights, CA and permanent program in Omaha, NE, have kept 17.3 tons of plastics out of landfills.

PlasticsToday wanted to find out more about the program and where things are heading. Answering our questions is Jeff Wooster, Global Sustainability Director, Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics.

What will come from the total $100k investment, how long will that last and what happens after the funding is exhausted?

Wooster: The winning communities are committed to continuing the program even after the initial one-time grant funding has been exhausted. The individual programs will determine how and when they spend the funds; the implementation phase is expected to occur in the first half of 2018 for Boise and in late 2018 for Cobb County.

As part of the investment, Dow will provide a framework for implementing the program and will facilitate the planning, implementation and measurement phases. Recipients are responsible for managing the program and soliciting involvement from key community stakeholders.

The press release indicates that the materials will be sent to “facilities utilizing advanced non-combustion conversion technologies.” What more can you tell us about those operations?

Wooster: Materials collected through the Boise and Cobb County Hefty EnergyBag programs will be used by existing alternative energy recovery facilities which use non-combustion conversion technologies that convert non-recycled plastics to valuable resources such as oil, diesel and potentially chemical feedstocks thereby helping to minimize the extraction and processing of new virgin resources.

Energy recovery facilities that are approved to receive Hefty EnergyBag program materials must undergo a strict vetting process. With support from environmental consulting firms, the facilities are assessed based on facility ownership, financial stability, environmental compliance and permits, air pollution controls, facility operational practices, voluntary controls and analysis of the environmental impacts.

For example, the energy recovery facilities must hold applicable environmental permits and reports from environmental agencies, as required. These can include comparisons of actual emissions to current regulatory standards and industry best practices.

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What are the basics of the energy recovery conversion process?  

Wooster: After the Hefty EnergyBag orange bags are collected, sorted and baled at materials recovery facilities, they are shipped to local energy recovery companies for conversion into valuable resources. Potential energy recovery outlets for the Hefty EnergyBag materials can include technologies such as pyrolysis, gasification and cement kiln facilities.

Energy recovery technologies that Cobb County and Boise will be using for their programs are complementary to mechanical recycling because they are able to capture the energy value of non-recycled plastics that would otherwise be thrown out and wasted in the landfill. Pyrolysis is a non-combustion conversion process that breaks down plastics into hydrocarbons by submitting them to high temperatures (350°C to 800°C or 662°F to 1,472°F) in an oxygen-free environment. Products of pyrolysis include oils, waxes, fuels and ultimately chemical feedstocks. The value of energy recovery outputs depends on the type of plastics collected and the price of competing energy sources. The recovery efficiencies vary with each individual process.

Do you expect these programs to continue to spread?

Wooster: Since we have proven the Hefty EnergyBag program works (i.e. that non-recycled plastics can be collected at curbside and at a quality acceptable for energy recovery outlets), we plan to gradually expand the program to other cities across the country.

Once energy recovery technologies are more widely used and accepted as valuable producers of liquid fuels such as diesel, the expectation is that this will lead to the acceptance and use of these technologies to produce a chemical feedstock which could be used to create new plastics.  Our vision is to expand the use of new technologies that lead to the advancement of the circular economy, which we strive for.

Where do U.S. efforts stand vs. similar programs in other regions such as Europe?

Wooster: The Hefty EnergyBag program, which is currently active in the U.S., complements mechanical recycling by providing a much-needed solution for plastics that currently cannot be mechanically recycled. The program enables curbside collection and conversion of these non-recycled materials into valuable energy resources. It is a significant step forward for the U.S. in achieving positive long-term environmental and economic advantages, including more alternative energy resources and fewer tons of valuable plastics ending up in U.S. landfills.

In certain parts of Europe, collection systems and treatment technologies for plastics are well-established and enable the integration of mechanical recycling with energy recovery. For example, in 2014, it was reported that plastics recycling and energy recovery reached an average of a 69.2% diversion rate in the EU28, Norway and Switzerland. Countries such as Switzerland and Austria are leading the way with the high recycling and energy recovery rates in excess of 95%, thereby minimizing the amount of plastics going to landfills.

Is this energy recovery solution the default process when other options are unavailable or impractical?

Wooster: Dow and the plastics industry are working to increase the amount of plastic packaging and materials that can be mechanically recycled by re-designing packaging where possible and by creating innovative new technologies that allow for increased recycling.

While mechanical recycling is the preferred solution for many post-use plastics, some plastics cannot be readily mechanically recycled because of material composition or lack of end users. In this case, according to the EPA’s Waste Management Hierarchy, energy recovery is the next best sustainable alternative. A range of energy recovery technologies are being used to complement mechanical recycling in order to help divert these valuable post-use plastics from landfills. These options complement each other and help realize the full potential of discarded plastic. While we are improving options for capturing value from used plastics, it is important to keep in mind why those plastics were used in the first place. The value in the use of the plastics will always be the primary driver of sustainability, and we must remember to keep that in mind as we optimize the value captured after the use phase is completed.

Where does this work within a Circular Economy model?

Wooster: As a global advocate for resource recovery technologies, Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics is dedicated to sustainability through policies and programs that advance the vision of a circular economy for plastics, an important focus of the 2025 sustainability goals Dow set in 2015. Plastics are a valuable resource and through energy recovery we can recover their embedded energy content. There is no reason to continue to send plastics items that cannot be or are not being mechanically recycled to the landfill, when we can recover them to be used as valuable resources. The circular economy requires the input of energy and capturing the energy value from materials that would otherwise be wasted, which helps conserve resources that benefit all of us.

We have learned that energy recovery technologies, as supported by EPA's waste management hierarchy, have a definite role to play in diverting non-recycled plastics from landfills. While most pyrolysis technologies currently produce an oil or diesel fuel output, the continued development and acceptance of these technologies is necessary for chemical recycling to occur at acceptable scale. This will help us achieve the ultimate circular economy goal of creating new plastics from materials that can’t be recycled via traditional mechanical recycling processes.

Our long-term vision for the Hefty EnergyBag program is that collected materials are used not only as energy resources but also for chemical recycling whereby new plastic feedstocks such as naphtha can be produced and used to make new plastics in a closed-loop system which satisfies the requirements of the circular economy.

How does this method of recovery compare to the TerraCycle model, i.e., programs that repurpose otherwise non-recyclable materials?

Wooster: At Dow, we believe we need a wide variety of technologies and systems to create a sustainable society. The Hefty EnergyBag program and other innovative recycling systems are complementary to traditional mechanical recycling. Many different types of recycling, repurposing and reuse programs can contribute to creating a more sustainable society by allowing resources to be used more efficiently.

Anything else to point out to PlasticsToday’s audience?

Wooster: While better management of used plastic packaging is an important part of improving our sustainability performance, it is essential to recognize that the use phase of the lifecycle is the most important contributor to sustainability. Our decisions about sustainability should always be based on the benefits and burdens across the entire lifecycle, not on a single phase. By allowing food, medicine and other products to be delivered safely to consumers by providing the needed protection, we are able to make a tremendous positive impact. We must all remember that packaging is an investment that protects the resources used to make the products inside it.

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Weekly resin report: Snug supply lifts spot PE, PP prices

Weekly resin report: Snug supply lifts spot PE, PP prices

Last week’s spot resin trading activity ran at about the same pace as the previous week, which was significantly slower than the first half of the month when processors were eager to back-fill supply requirements, reports the PlasticsExchange (Chicago) in its Market Update. The flow of fresh offers this past week was slower than average, keeping the market for both polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) snuggly supplied.

Cool Design
Image courtesy Cool Design/

PE prices rose again, adding another $0.02 to 0.03/lb on average, as the marketplace braces for the $0.04/lb price increase nominated for February. PP prices were mostly steady to a penny higher, though widespec offers started to come in a bit softer. Export demand is very good, according to the PlasticsExchange: Strong international resin prices, fueled in part by rising crude oil costs, have resin traders looking to North America for competitive supply. 

Spot PE prices continued to rise, as production issues and heavy exports have limited spot availability. Resellers and downstream processors had light inventory coming into the new year and continued to chase supply throughout the month. The PlasticsExchange team reports seeing some pushback this past week, as spot has swung from a discount to premium, but current levels still bode well and tip in favor of the February $0.04/lb increase. LDPE and LLDPE resins for injection are still tight, as are most film grades. During much of 2017, HDPE injection was scarce, but for the past month or so, it has become more available than other commodity resins. Softer pricing for off-grade PE resins also has been observed in Houston. 

The spot PP market continued to transact at an elevated pace. The market has been pushed higher in January by rapidly rising monomer costs and snug resin supplies, which have been tight for months. As PP offers are sold, they have been replaced with higher asking prices, writes the PlasticsExchange in its weekly report, and buyers began to balk as PP moves well into the $0.70 range per pound. January PP contracts will mostly settle up $0.09/lb along with the same rise in monomer. On Friday, Jan. 26, word began to circulate about the propylene rally perhaps coming to an early end, which scattered some PP buyers. This quickly puts to question the longevity of PP maintaining its current lofty level; the PlasticsExchange advises caution.

Read the full Market Update on the PlasticsExchange website.