05 December 2008 16:45 [Source: ICIS news]
By Nigel Davis
LONDON (ICIS news)--“Bottled water’s 15 minutes are up, the marketing scam is exposed, and it is time to go back to the tap,” said Joe Cressy, campaigns coordinator for the Polaris Institute, a Canadian environmental watchdog group, this week.
Consumers in the developed world have become so used to plastic packaging that it is not surprising there is some backlash against it. I’d include the polycarbonate baby and sports bottle bisphenol A scare earlier this year in this category.
Most consumers like what they see - greater convenience, clever new packaging. The packaging sector argues that its products help preserve freshness, extend shelf life, even provide a ‘greener option’ because they help save weight and hence fuel consumption during transportation.
But the green angle on most plastics packaging is a difficult argument to make.
Recycle and re-use has become a buzz phrase. Certainly, some plastics, PET among them, can be recycled. But certain molecules are more easily reformed than others. And there is always the argument - as made so strongly in
Suffer the overcrowding of any of the major
The problem for the PET, purified terephthalic acid (PTA), dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) and the paraxylene producer is that production growth is determined on the back of studies that foresee still strong demand for polyester textiles and fancy packaging.
The decline in textile demand for polyester in the developed world has been taken up by strong growth in the PET bottle resin market. It now accounts for just over 30% of global polyester demand.
The growth has come mainly from the replacement of glass in soft drink and mineral water bottles. But the polymer has found applications in more niche markets such as sports drinks, fruit juices and food products.
Crystalline PET is finding relatively new use in the packaging for pre-cooked ready meals.
Convenience may mean a great deal to the well heeled consumer but the recession is biting into PET sales. Demand is weaker, alongside that for most polymers. And it became apparent not so long ago that PTA demand was much reduced globally.
One of the factors, it was suggested, was that US consumers were buying more soft drinks in large containers and eschewing the smaller, convenience bottle. A couple of slugs of a well-known fizzy drink, it seems are not enough - it pays to buy in bulk.
The swings in market demand driven pure economics are one thing. The more fundamental shifts in polymer demand growth driven by changing social mores are another. Forget water. Perhaps packaging beer in PET bottles is the next big thing. It is popular in
The polymer will continue to be essential in use for the packaging of larger volumes. But the top end of the market is likely to suffer in the downturn and from the cry from environmentalists and others that enough is enough.
Plastics are great in that they make life so much easier. In parts of the world the use of plastics to help deliver water may mean the difference between life and death.
Developing world demand for polymers such as PET will continue to grow for textile and for packaging use.
PET is relatively easy to recycle once you have separated it from other plastics and the recyclate is finding lots of new uses. The soft drinks maker Coca-Cola plans to recycle 30% of PET bottles by 2010 and eventually 100%.
But the small PET water bottle vendor has, perhaps, taken a step too far. In
For more on PET visit ICIS chemical intelligence
To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect
For the latest chemical news, data and analysis that directly impacts your business sign up for a free trial to ICIS news - the breaking online news service for the global chemical industry.
Get the facts and analysis behind the headlines from our market leading weekly magazine: sign up to a free trial to ICIS Chemical Business.
|ICIS news FREE TRIAL|
|Get access to breaking chemical news as it happens.|
|ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX)|
|ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX). Download the free tabular data and a chart of the historical index|