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Thermoformed plastics market projected to grow at 4% CAGR through 2017; packaging leads the way

Chandler Slavin, sustainability coordinator and marketing manager for thermoforming manufacturer Dordan, told PlasticsToday while she had not read the study, she did have some assumptions on why there's an anticipated increase in thermoformed plastics demand.

She said an increasing global population begets increased demand for thermoformed plastic products, be it consumer (rigid packaging) or industrial (building and construction) applications. In addition, Slavin said the growth of the middle class along with consumption in BRIC economies, especially in Latin America as Brazil prepares for the 2016 Olympics, facilitates increased thermoformed plastics product demand. 

"A gradual economic recovery with consolidation in thermoforming allows for a healthier industry more apt to serve its customers," she said. "Changes and upgrades in technology allow thermoformed plastic products to penetrate markets formally monopolized by other processes, like injection molding."

The packaging segment for thermoformed plastics, accounts for 80% of the total volume consumed, ReportsnReports stated. This sector was worth 4.8 billion lb in 2011 and is expected to grow to 4.9 billion lb in 2012 and nearly 6 billion lb by 2017, a CAGR of 4%.

Slavin said the industrial thermoforming industry was hit hard by the recession due to the decline of housing and construction, transportation and automotive, signage, and marine industries.

Consequently, thermoformed packaging dominates the thermoformed plastics market as its end markets are more stratified and therefore less impacted by the economic recession, she said.

"Consumer market research indicates that transparent packaging, clamshells and blisters, facilitates increased product sales, due to consumers' visual identification with product," Slavin said.

The market for thermoformed plastic appliances was 765 million lb in 2011. This segment is projected to increase at a 4% CAGR, from 797 million lb in 2012 to 971 million lb by 2017.

With regards to potential trends in the thermoformed industry, Slavin cited optimizing inventory control and implementing robotics integration, upgrades to extrusion, thermoforming and assembly equipment, and workforce training programs.

She also sees thermoforming processes replacing injection molding "due to speed of production and lower tooling costs." In addition, she believes there will be an increased focus on sustainability via thin-walling and the use of recycled and/or bio-based materials.

'Life-saving' medical applications get priority in elastomer force majeure

'Life-saving' medical applications get priority in elastomer force majeure

A force majeure on Pebax was declared last month due to the explosion March 31 at an Evonik plant that produced cyclododecatriene (CDT), a raw material used to produce lactam 12. The plant was the largest producer of CDT in the world and is expected to be closed until the end of the year. Lactam 12 is the primary monomer used to make nylon 12 (polyamide 12, or PA 12)  and Pebax elastomers.

"There is a lot of panic among the medical customers because they would require several months to validate new materials," Aurelien Paumier, director of the Technical Polymers Business Unit, Arkema (King of Prussia, PA) said in an interview with PlasticsToday. "They would feel safer if they had one, or even two, years' worth of inventory, but that is not possible."

Pebax, which is a thermoplastic elastomer made up of block copolymers consisting of a sequence of polyamide and polyether segments, is sole-sourced in the manufacturing of balloon catheters used to open blood vessels close to the heart. Many patients require angioplasty to widen a narrowed or obstructed blood vessel within hours or days of first feeling pain or other symptoms of constricted blood flow to the heart. The alternative would be open heart surgery in many cases.

Paumier said that Arkema is committed to supplying medical customers with the amount of Pebax they had ordered in the months leading up to the Evonik plant explosion. "That is typical for a force majeure situation," he said.

Supply crisis in Q3
The shortage of CDT and lactam 12 will reach a crisis situation in the third quarter of this year in his view. "There will be 75% less material available than there was two months ago."

Paumier said that customers outside of medical almost certainly will need to use alternate materials by then. These include nylon 10 and 11 that uses castor oil derivatives as a feedstock, as well as other plastics that are racing for automotive qualification in the demanding applications where nylon 12 has been used.

He pointed out that Arkema has acquired some additional CDT supplies form Invista and BASF to meet demand for nylon 12 and Pebax elastomer through the second quarter.

One factor working in favor of medical applications is that the amount of lactam 12 required is considerably smaller than other markets, particularly automotive. Not only is the market smaller, but other materials are compounded into the elastomeric compound to impart softness.

Foster Corp. (Putnam, CT), the official distributor of Pebax MED to the North American medical market, has been working directly with device manufacturers and processors to ensure ongoing supply for existing applications and new developments.

Arkema significantly augmented its supplies of nylon alternates earlier this year with the acquisition of Chinese companies Hipro Polymers, a producer of specialty biosourced polyamides 10, and Casda Biomaterials, the world's leading producer of sebacic acid processed from castor oil. Both companies had sales estimated at $230 million for 2011. Biosourced nylon was commercialized by Arkema in the 1950s.

Arkema is the second largest producer of nylon 12, with a capacity around 23,000 tonnes per year. Evonik is the biggest with a capacity of approximately 50,000 tonnes. Others are EMS-Grivory, 18,000; Shandong Guangyin New Materials, 10,000 (new in 2012); and Ube, 9500. Nylon 12 production last year was approximately 98,000 tonnes. Supplies have been short for a while because of booming demand from photovoltaic markets.

Reinforced sheets target lightweight vehicle construction

Large-surface applications in lightweight vehicle construction are targets for carbon- and glass-fiber composite sheets supplied by Lamilux Heinrich Strunz GmbH (Rehau, Germany).

trailer body

Composite panels target adoption in truck and trailer panels

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Continuous production process enables manufacture of sheeting to exacting specs.

As inside and outside face sheets of sandwich elements, they reportedly make sidewall and floor constructions of truck components and trailers highly stable and provide them with a long service life along with a very low mass per unit area.

The sheeting, produced in a continuous production process, can be re-ordered at any time with the same mechanical and chemical properties due to the high level of automation in the manufacturing process. The products are marketed under the Lamilux High Strength X-treme and Lamilux High Strength X-treme Carbon brands.

The fibers are arranged in uniaxial, biaxial, triaxial or multiaxial layouts and integrated as fabrics into the composite materials. "The selection of the fiber layout is mainly dependent on the application of the material to be made and the resulting resistance requirements," explains engineer Sascha Oswald, product manager at Lamilux.

In combination with the matrix resin, the fiber fabrics demonstrate very high tensile strength and sturdiness (e-module) in the longitudinal layout of fibers. Says Oswald: "Our high-strength materials are therefore highly suitable for large-surface-area applications in sidewalls, roofs and floors, since they absorb any load and tension forces impacting on the sandwich elements, which make the entire structure very torsion-resistant whilst saving on weight."

Inseparable bond
In Lamilux composites, X-treme stands for the use of a new resin system in which the mixing ratios of epoxy resin, hardeners and additives interact to form a durable composite material with great stability and excellent flexibility in an end product. The result is a matrix material which perfectly encloses the carbon or glass fibers in liquid form before hardening in the production process and forming a high-strength inseparable bond.

All High-Strength-X-treme products also have in common a very high volume of fiber, adds development engineer Matthias Tretter. "In accordance with the mechanical requirements in the area of application, our production process allows us a fiber content of over 70 percent." In addition to the increased resistance and a very low linear-expansion coefficient, this has the advantage of further weight savings with the reduced resin content.

This becomes clear in a comparison between the Lamilux High Strength X-treme Carbon carbon fiber-reinforced material and other materials used in panel facing sheets. Says Tretter: "The CFC we produce is up to 50 percent lighter with a three-to-four-times higher tensile strength in comparison to steel or aluminium."

Large panels; low weight
With Lamilux High Strength X-treme Carbon material, Lamilux is able to produce carbon fiber-reinforced composite material with a width of up to 3.2m in a continuous sheeting manufacturing process. With this composite, the demands of lightweight design for a material with the highest strength and resistance along with a low weight are optimally fulfilled, says Oswald. "The potential of this material lies mainly in the construction of the walls and roofs of light components and trailers." In refrigerated vehicles, the low heat conductivity and the resulting optimized insulation of the refrigerated structure also pays off.

The slightly heavier Lamilux High Strength X-treme, on account of its use of glass-fiber reinforcement, also impresses with its strong resistance to mechanical stresses in utility vehicles. "Due to the high glass content and the resulting low linear expansion, it is particularly suitable for use in lorry roofs," says Oswald. High UV and weathering resistance, as well as the protection from corrosion and hail, are also advantageous.

The composite unfolds its full power in lorry floor assemblies according to its supplier. "Here, Lamilux High Strength X-treme forms the upper or lower face sheet of floor constructions from wood and PU-foam and gives the entire material bond an extremely high flexural strength and torsional stiffness."

In both variants of the composite, a sealing gelcoat allows the UV and weathering resistance of the materials to be increased and gives the surface a high-gloss finish. In addition, colors directly incorporated into the materials are available in all RAL, NCS and customer-specific shades. —[email protected]

Polypropylene intake manifolds solve multiple challenges, acoustically superior to polyamide

With intake manifolds made of polypropylene (PP), Röchling Automotive (Mannheim, Germany) says it has set new benchmarks in terms of cost, weight, and acoustics. These three criteria have been improved due to the lower density of polypropylene (PP) compared with polyamide (PA), the material currently most widely used for intake manifolds.

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Raw-air intake with resonator, air-filter housing with air filter, plus intake manifold with throttle flange comprise the complete intake manifold system in VW's 1.0-L three-cylinder engine.

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The acoustic problem zone between the air-filter housing and intake manifold shown in red. A PP-based system reduces sound pressure by 10 to 15 dB, which is one of the key selection criteria over PA.

At the same time, PP is said to offer sufficient sturdiness. Two reference engines from VW that employ PP are the one-liter three-cylinder petrol engine in Brazil and Europe and the 1.6-liter, four-cylinder petrol engine in China.

"The PP intake manifold is the first and only one of its kind in China and Brazil to date. It's also the first three-cylinder application in Europe, and particularly demanding in terms of acoustics," says Marco Barbolini, product manager for the air intake system at Röchling Automotive. "These are Röchling's first intake manifold applications using polypropylene. To be able to substitute for polyamide, there were a number of challenges to overcome. But we were rewarded with improved acoustics."

The 15% cost advantage over PA is made possible by the need for fewer processing steps plus the lower melting temperature and density. Moreover, PP is easy to obtain worldwide. "We have found a local PP supplier in each of the target markets," reports Barbolini. Since PP does not need drying and the tooling and melting temperatures are lower, the manufacture of the components is less energy-intensive. This has the added benefit of reducing the carbon footprint according to the processor.

In spite of the lower processing temperature, Röchling now attains almost the same continuous operating temperature of 120 degrees with PP as with PA. However the PP does require special heat stabilization, above all because of the crucial hot-air resistance requirement. "This is where our particular expertise comes in," says Barbolini. Further, PP and PA have the same rigidity at room temperature and low temperatures.

The weight advantage of 15% over PA entails no disadvantages in terms of tensile strength and stretch at break. The most important mechanical properties are sufficient for requirements, even if they are not always on a par with those of polyamide. PP is also stable with regard to chemical resistance. In terms of ethanol resistance, it is even superior to PA, and moisture absorption properties are also better.

Superior sound
The lower density also results in acoustic emissions that are superior to PA—"measurably and audibly" so, according to VW—in particular at higher engine speeds and frequencies, where the sound pressure is as much as 10 to 15 dB lower. This superior acoustics comfort was ultimately also the reason for substituting PA with PP. The geometry of the intake manifold only had to be adapted very slightly to achieve the same rigidity values with the new material.

Röchling Automotive carried out the complete modification development and applied acoustic design principles to the complete air intake system, paying particular attention to the air filter housing. This involved simulating the acoustic effects of various sizes and shapes of anchorage points, decoupling elements, the top and bottom of the air filter housing, intake manifold plenum and throttle flange. The degree of correlation between calculated and measured values was satisfactory.

The geometry, material, density and sealing of the filter itself likewise affect the acoustics. The acoustic technicians benefited from the fact that the air filter with its muffling effect was also developed and manufactured in-house. This meant that the acoustics of the complete module of intake manifold and air filter housing could be optimized as a single system. —[email protected]

Japanese compounder boosts auto PP grade presence in Americas

Almost half of this new capacity to be added by Mitsui Chemicals (Tokyo) will come from the acquisition of a 70% equity stake in Brazilian compounder Produmaster Indústria e Comércio Ltda. (São Paulo) by Mitsui group company Prime Polymer Co. (Tokyo). The Brazilian entity will be renamed as Produmaster Advanced Composites Indústria e Comércio de Compostos Plásticos Ltda.

Produmaster supplies products to major auto makers through two sites: its head office and production facilities located in Mauá, São Paulo (38,000 tonnes/year), where many auto makers are located; and its 50%-owned subsidiary Produmaster do Nordeste Ltda., located in Camaçari in the northeastern state of Bahia (17,000 tonnes/year capacity). The subsidiary in Camaçari will become a 50:50 joint venture of Produmaster Advanced Composites and current partner Alberto de Boni Neto. Previous Produmaster Indústria owner Vicente Eudes de Freitas will retain a 30% stake in Produmaster Advanced Composites.

Mitsui Chemicals also plans to add capacity at its U.S. affiliate Advanced Composites Inc. (Sidney, OH), boosting capacity by 28,000 tonnes/year from the current 226,000 tonnes/year by the third quarter of 2013. Its Mexican operation Advanced Composites Mexicana S.A. de C.V (Aguascalientes) will also see compounding capacity boosted from the current 45,000 tonnes/year to 70,000 tonnes/year by the fourth quarter of 2013. Finally, Chinese affiliate Mitsui Advanced Composites (Zhongshan) Co., Ltd. will boost its compounding capacity from 60,000 tonnes/year to 70,000 tonnes/year also by the fourth quarter of 2013.

The Mitsui Chemicals Group has production sites in seven of the major world markets (Japan, United States, Europe, Thailand, China, and India) for automotive grade PP and targets strengthening and expanding its production operations. An expansion at its Thai affiliate Grand Siam Composites (Bangkok) will boost capacity there from 122,000 tonnes/year to 140,000 tonnes/year by the third quarter of this year.-[email protected]

Currier Plastics expands manufacturing

Currier Plastics Inc., a custom injection molder and blowmolder in Auburn, NY, received kudos from the governor of the state of New York, and tax credits and grants for its expansion plans. Currier recently added three Automa extrusion blowmolding machines—two AT400D and one AT700D—machines that feature in-process trimming capabilities (dome, moil, tail, and handle punch-out) increasing the company’s overall blowmolding capacity. The machines represent a $1.75 million investment and significantly increase Currier’s ability to produce both higher-volume and larger-sized container programs.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said, “The expansion of Currier Plastics is another example of our efforts to help strengthen home-grown companies and keep them in the communities they’ve helped to build. By making strategic investments in economically distressed areas, we can create jobs and spur economic growth in the Upstate communities that need it most.”

Utilizing $1 million in Excelsior tax credits and a $750,000 Economic Transformation Grant from Empire State Development, Currier Plastics expects to invest $20.8 million to re-use and re-purpose a minimum of six acres of underutilized land to construct a 55,000-ft2 manufacturing and storage facility. The company will also make infrastructure improvements, including construction of a new roadway to provide direct, more efficient truck access to warehouse loading docks. To handle the increased production and new contracts, the company will purchase $12.5 million in new machinery and equipment over the next five years. Currier reported that it expects to create 50 new jobs, and retain 100 jobs that would have been lost if the project was implemented out of state.

Adding the multifeatured Automa equipment will have a positive impact on the processing throughput and it another example of the molder’s demonstration of their V2 (V squared) philosophy, defined as Value x Velocity—the speed, or true velocity, in everything Currier does multiplied by superior value that incorporates total quality, operational efficiency, and established organization core values.

“Our data showed that adding these three particular machines to our blowmolding department will produce a very quick return on investment because it increases our ability to mold at higher cavitations than before,” said Steve Feaster, project manager. “We have customers that want to expand their product lines in terms of volume, so making these investments to offer our full support at Currier was the direction we wanted to go in. We use high-tonnage injection molding machines to mold high-cavitation lids and closures. We can now offer the same advantage in the blowmolding department with the addition of these new Automa machines.”

John Currier, president of Currier Plastics, said, “We are very excited to be able to grow the business where it was founded in 1982, and where we call home. We know it has significant and long-term payoff for our customers, community, employees, suppliers, and the owners alike. I applaud Governor Cuomo and the Central New York Regional Economic Development council for their help in keeping the company in our community.”

Currier Plastics (www.currierplastics.com) is located in the finger lakes region of New York, and specializes in custom product design, injection molding, blowmolding and injection stretch blow molding. Currier Plastics is an Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) and is a recipient of the Economic Champion by the Center State Corporation for Economic Opportunity.

TPE resin prices, May 5-11: PE, PP slip another $0.02/lb; May contracts to be “significantly” lower

Average spot polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) prices slid $0.02/lb last week, and contracts for both materials will be marked significantly lower in May. Spot-trading platform, The Plastics Exchange (TPE), reported that resin trading continued to improve last week, as lower prices worked their way downstream, spurring some purchases. TPE reports that while the number of spot resin transactions is up, the volume per trade remains low, with most buyers seeking only a single truck or railcar as they anticipate still lower prices ahead. Although the total amount of resin on TPE's trading floor is down from the end of April, TPE CEO Michael Greenberg said the general feeling is that plenty of railcars would be available for prompt shipment if the demand was there. "This is one of those markets where suppliers do not want to just flood the market with material and crater the price without actually selling their resin," Greenberg said.TPE resin prices, May 11, 2012

Energy markets once again moved in opposite directions, bucking the long-term trend that saw rising crude oil and falling natural gas prices. For the first time since December, June crude oil futures traded below $100/bbl during the entire week, settling at $96.13/bbl on Friday with a loss of $2.19/bbl. June natural gas added to several week's of recovery gains by rallying $0.230/mmBtu to finish at $2.509/mmBtu. The crude oil : natural gas price ratio contracted again retracting to 38:1, the tightest since mid-February, but still more than 6X the 6:1 level considered parity.

Ethylene spot prices plunged in very active trading. Although several crackers are currently offline for maintenance, most of the turnaround season is behind the industry, with fully operational ethylene production available soon. Ethylene for May delivery fell all the way to $0.535/lb, before bouncing a tad to end the week at $0.5425/lb, almost a $0.09/lb loss. While forward markets also felt pressure, most of the re-pricing was in the near months and the curve flattened considerably. Ethylene for delivery in the third quarter last traded around $0.515/lb, and fourth quarter material was priced with a $0.02-$0.03/lb discount from there. Ethane prices broke down into the $0.30s/gal, but bounced back by the end of the week to around $0.46/gal ($0.195/lb) almost a $0.05/gal weekly gain.

Polyethylene (PE) average spot prices shed $0.02/lb, which brings the rolling 30-day loss to $0.06/lb. The break comes amid ample material availability, quickly falling monomer prices and lower contract prices. Despite tight feedstock supplies and high spot costs, producers ran reactors above 90% in April, which proved way too much considering the lowest domestic demand in two years and exports that are the worst since January 2009. PE producers' collective inventories swelled 270 million lb and entered May at a hefty 3.37 billion lb, up a full 700 million lb so far in 2012. PE producers were fairly quick to respond to easing feedstock costs, hoping to end the PE price erosion with their offering for $0.04/lb of relief for May resin contracts, but TPE thinks another $0.02/lb or so can still come out for May. Greenberg noted that whether or not that will be enough to satisfy buyers, most market participants agree that PE contracts in June will be lower than they are today.

Propylene saw several spot deals done at sharply lower prices, after a couple weeks of heavy offers and no transactions. Polymer grade propylene (PGP) started the week trading at $0.63/lb and ended being offered in the mid-$0.50s/lb. Forward months also saw good activity, according to TPE, with PGP for the fourth quarter falling to the lower $0.50s/lb. May PGP contracts reached a settlement at $0.675/lb, which was down a dime from April. "While relief is nice," Greenberg said. "Some already think this was not enough." The spot market is already more than $0.10/lb below May contracts, and refinery grade propylene (RGP) prices also dropped, ending the week in the low $0.50s/lb.

Polypropylene's (PP) market continued to unravel, as spot prices fell another 2 cents, bringing the trailing 30-day loss to $0.07/lb. The spot PP market briefly peaked in the low $0.80s/lb during early March, never reaching the high $0.80s/lb seen for March and April contracts. Once processors felt that the market had peaked, a general effort to reduce inventories ensued and contract orders consistently fell short of those forecasted, backing up resin. The resulting over supply further widened the spread between spot and contracts as sellers chased the falling bids just to move material. Although May PP contracts are settling down $0.10/lb along with PGP, spot markets for both monomer and resin remain at a sharp discount to contracts thus perpetuating the environment. With prices in June already forecasted to fall, buyers are still minimizing purchases today and holding off for lower prices in the future. However, the forward curve has flattened considerably, so unless something changes, Greenberg noted that after one more large price adjustment in June, further downside potential could become very limited.

Final thought from Michael Greenberg

Resin market sentiment turned decidedly bearish and buyers are back in the driver's seat. Monomer prices have tumbled while dismal domestic demand, coupled with weak exports, has created an over-supplied situation. May resin contracts are giving back a chunk of their first quarter gains and the spot markets, which remain discounted to contracts, point to additional relief ahead. PE contracts were up $0.06/lb during the first quarter and are down $0.04/lb so far in May. PP contracts, which jumped $0.215/lb during Q1, have seen $0.10/lb erase this month. Resin markets tend to trend higher for long periods of time and then correct quickly, we are in the midst of one of those corrections.

A deep issue: Plastic waste in Pacific Ocean increases 100-fold

It's called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A swirling vortex of plastic bags, bottles and other debris, a landfill some say is twice the size of Texas.

While this area has brought concern for some time about its effects on marine life, researchers from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography found there's even more cause for worry. In a paper published by the journal Biology Letters, scientists from Scripps reported the amount of plastic debris in this part of the Pacific Ocean has grown 100-fold in the past 40 years. SEAPLEX researchers collected an alarming amount of small bits of broken down plastic floating across thousands of miles of open ocean. Photo credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego

Even the researchers were shocked at this increase.

"To find this abundance of microplastics was surprising - we didn't expect this," Scripps graduate student Miriam Goldstein, lead author of the study, told PlasticsToday.

A plastic expedition in the pacific

In 2009, a group of graduate students led the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX) to the North Pacific Ocean subtropical gyre aboard the Scripps research vessel New Horizon.

During the voyage, the researchers, who concentrated their studies a thousand miles west of California, documented a high amount of human-generated trash, mostly broken down bits of plastic the size of a fingernail, floating across thousands of miles of open ocean.

"This paper shows a dramatic increase in plastic over a relatively short time period and the effect it's having on a common North Pacific gyre invertebrate," Goldstein said. "We're seeing changes in this marine insect that can be directly attributed to the plastic."

Since the pieces are so tiny, Goldstein said they weren't able to trace the waste to any particular type of plastic packaging.

"We can't tell what the objects are or how long that piece of plastic has been in the ocean," she said. "We are definitely interested in finding a way."

Examples of a not-yet-hatched sea skater (Halobates sericeus) egg (top), about the size of a grain of rice, and a hatched egg (bottom). Photo credit: Miriam Goldstein, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San DiegoPerhaps one of the most alarming facts about this study is this sharp increase of small plastic debris in the Garbage Patch could have ecosystem-wide consequences that lead to changes in the natural habitat of animals such as the marine insect Halobates sericeus.

These "sea skaters" inhabit water surfaces and traditionally lay their eggs on floating objects such as seashells, seabird feathers, tar lumps, and pumice.

In the new study, researchers found that sea skaters have exploited the influx of plastic garbage as new surfaces for their eggs. This has led to a rise in the insect's egg densities in the North Pacific subtropical gyre.

 "The plastic debris is giving the insects places to lay their eggs as they don't have far to go to find an abundance of plastic," Goldstein said. "This is something that shouldn't be in the ocean."

In addition, data from the expedition found that 9% of the fish captured had plastic waste in their stomachs. That study estimated that fish in the intermediate ocean depths of the North Pacific Ocean ingest plastic at a rate of roughly 12,000 to 24,000 tons per year.

"I think everyone, activists, scientists, and the industry, agrees plastic has no place in ocean," she said.

Plastics industry works toward a solution

Keith Christman, managing director of plastics markets for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), echoes Goldman's statement.

"Plastics don't belong in the ocean," he said. "This is clearly a shared responsibility for all members as a society, it takes all of us to work together."

The United Nations estimates that at least 7 million tons of trash ends up in the oceans every year, of which 5.6 million tons are plastics.

Plastic makers are taking action. The plastics industries of the ACC has partnered with Keep California Beautiful project to put more recycle bins on beaches, campgrounds, and rest areas. Since the program began in 2009, the initiative has installed nearly 700 recycling bins and educational signage in 19 communities along the California coast.

In terms of what the industry can directly control at manufacturing and supply facilities, Operation Clean Sweep is a program aimed at zero pellet loss in plastics handling facilities that Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) launched in 1992. Effective among SPI member companies and others, OCS is expanding in Canada and other countries outside North America.

In November 2011, plastics industry representatives from around the world gathered in Dubai to create an action plan of solutions to marine litter.

Within the "Declaration for Solutions on Marine Litter" signed by 54 plastics industry organizations at Dubai, the plastics industry created a partnership with the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), an advisory body to the United Nations on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection. Approximately 100 projects to be carried out in 32 countries have been identified, and those are in addition to the global activities supported in common by all signatories to the agreement.

Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of SPI, said the meeting was "an excellent move toward meaningful progress by plastics industry representatives from around the world who are committed to the global action plan for solutions on marine litter."

Misconceptions about waste

Still, despite the industry's initiatives and work toward reducing waste, some consumers believe the answer is to ban various forms of plastic packaging. As one user stated on a NPR blog article, "People, please stop using plastics. Stop putting your garbage in the ocean."

Christman said the idea of banning plastics does not recognize the full scale of the litter problem.

"There have been studies done on what materials are found on the beaches and glass bottles, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles all are among top three items," he said. "It clearly indicates litter in all types can become marine debris. It just so happens that plastics floats."

Goldstein said she believes plastics serve a valuable purpose.

"Plastic is awesome," she said. "The key as a society is using it in a way that is useful. The best way to find a solution is stop putting plastic in ocean, add more waste disposals. This seems to be a waste management and behavior problem

Arkema declares force majeure on Pebax elastomers

The shortfall in CDT is already causing a scramble for alternatives to nylon 12, particularly in automotive markets where it has been sole sourced for some applications such as fuel lines.

Pebax is used in a variety of markets, including medical, sport equipment, and power transmission. Pebax MED thermoplastic elastomer is specified for the manufacture of tubing used for many interventional catheters and minimally invasive devices. 

Foster Corp. (Putnam, CT), the official distributor of Pebax MED in North America, has been working with device manufacturers and processors to ensure ongoing supply for existing applications as well as new developments.  "Nevertheless, there remains a great deal of uncertainty and misunderstanding in the market regarding supply of medical grade Pebax polymer," according to a public relations representative for Foster.

The amount of CDT required for Pebax polymers is less than that of nylon 12, resulting in more polymer production for the same amount of raw material, according to Foster. "It is our understanding that Arkema has managed to secure some additional CDT volume from its other suppliers and continue production of Pebax polymers," Foster said in a statement on its Web site.

"Additionally, Arkema Inc. has recently announced their commitment to continue to service the medical; despite the supply crisis.  Therefore, given the existing levels of inventory, scheduled production plans for Pebax MED polymers, in conjunction with the continuous support from Arkema, we remain optimistic in our ability to fulfill customer's historically normal order patterns."

Low-emission acetal finds favor in steering column

Buffer-stops made of Delrin 100PE grade low-emission acetal resin from DuPont (Wilmington, DE) cushion the impact when mechanically adjustable steering columns from ThyssenKrupp Presta (Eschen, Liechtenstein) reach full horizontal adjustment.

Decisive factors in specification of this material were its compliance with stringent emission levels demanded by some of Germany's automotive OEMs for interior applications and its steel-like springiness. The material also is characterized by its vibration damping effect, its high notched impact strength and very good sliding properties.

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Small spring element made from low-emission grade DuPont Delrin 100PE cushions impact in steering column.

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Testing in accordance with the VDA standard 275 confirms that all three low-emission grades of Delrin meet emission requirements of the world's major automotive manufacturers.

The buffer-stop, injection-molded in Delrin 100PE, takes up very little installation space with its 14 mm x 9 mm x 6 mm dimensions. Held by a rivet, it slides during adjustment of the steering column on metal guide rails until they reach their limit at the end of the adjustment range. Although the associated jolt may in some cases be hard, two small springs on either side of the buffer-stop are enough - thanks to the high stiffness and elasticity of the material - to cushion the impact both mechanically and acoustically. Moreover, as a direct benefit of the excellent sliding properties of Delrin acetal resin, the buffer-stop will continue to move easily, softly and virtually inaudibly on the guide rails for the entire lifetime of the vehicle.

According to Ingo Weise, project manager at ThyssenKrupp Presta: "Acetal is an established material for damping elements used in steering columns. We have often used Delrin 100P for similar parts in earlier designs where it met our requirements. In this particular case, however, we needed to meet especially strict emission levels. We therefore worked with DuPont Performance Polymers on finding an alternative, including carrying out required testing. This ultimately resulted in us specifying Delrin 100PE."

Martin Elmer, marketing manager for injection molding at Huber+Suhner (Herisau, Switzerland) adds: "We produce these high-precision parts that are characterized by their variable wall thicknesses, in 16-cavity hot runner molds and keep within a tolerance of just ±0.05 mm. Because the processing requirements of the new, low-emission Delrin 100PE are almost identical to those of the 100P grade, we were able to adapt our production in the shortest of time and without compromising quality, all with the help of the experienced application technicians from DuPont."

Based on the direct and simple changeover in production, as well as the very positive experience to date during serial production, ThyssenKrupp Presta is planning to use Delrin 100PE for further automotive applications of a similar nature.

The combination of high elasticity and stiffness as well as excellent sliding properties are said to make Delrin acetal homopolymers a material of choice for applications requiring low weight and where elements are required to absorb high forces, levels of deformation and impact, as well as to continuously move both smoothly and quietly. According to Hans-Hermann Kirner, material development leader for vehicle interiors at DuPont, "Gears and adjustment mechanisms are ideal applications for Delrin. In view of the strict limits with regard to the emission of volatile particles, Delrin 100PE is a very suitable application located within the vehicle's interior." It is able to meet the demands of the global automotive industry with regard to emissions of volatile substances during both processing and use. The same applies to the higher flow grades Delrin 300PE und 500PE.

Tests conducted by SGS Institut Fresenius (Taunusstein, Germany), in accordance with VDA 275, revealed emissions of below 2 mg/kg for all three grades, whereas their strength, stiffness, impact resistance and resistance to creep and fatigue are the same as standard grades." DuPont has also recently introduced Delrin 127UVE, 327UVE and 527UVE, which are all UV-stabilized versions of its low-emission acetal resin for automotive interior applications.-[email protected]