My colleagues from ICIS are in full-force covering this week's largest plastic trade show in North America, NPE2009, in Chicago sponsored by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI). I've been also getting a lot of bioplastic updates from twitterer @Wi_Bioplastic (thanks!).
As ICIS reported, bioplastics, recycling, energy conservation, and additives regulation were the talk of the show. Bioplastics are said to be increasingly showing up in durables as manufacturers compete to make their products stand out.
Still, the industry as a whole, is not yet familiar with bioplastics which is a challenge, a member of the Society of Plastics Engineers said.
Maybe that's why it's good that the NPE has its green pavilion featuring various bioplastic exhibitors such as Metabolix, Cereplast, DuPont, Enso, Arkema (100% biopolymer for textile) and Sabic. I asked Wi_Bioplastic about Sabic and he said they offer a biocomposite plastic with 30% ag-feedstock-based.
Wi_Bioplastic also twitted that the show's IT pavilion featured exhibitors such as Samsung and LG who are showing their latest bioplastic-based gadgets. SPI's bioplastic council also gave a speech about supporting market development for bioplastics, working hand-in-hand with traditional plastics, and overcoming challenges such as greenwashing and lack of consumer education about bioplastics.
With regards to recycling, ICIS said one producer noted recycled polyethylene terepthalate (PET) demand is up despite the recession. The producer noted retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart demanding more and more environmentally-friendly products and packaging in response to public sentiment and legislative initiatives at the national and local levels.
Recycled PET is said to be also cheaper right now than virgin PET.
One plastic additives producer noted growing interests in plastic magnetic additives that is used to recover resins from parts made up of different types of plastics called multi-material mouldings. Plastic manufacturers can cut costs by not only incorporating different resins into one plastic product but recovering those resins as well.
Participants at the event also cited a notable increase in the
attention paid to recycled resin and processing markets compared with
plastic trend is weight reduction whether it's in product packaging or
use of plastics in automobile parts as opposed to metal or glass.
Companies are said to be reducing the weight of plastics used in
packaging and other applications to save raw material and shipping
costs. Weight reduction was reportedly featured prominently among
automobile exhibits at the show.
"Green marketing has gained momentum and increased public concern over recycling. But more importantly, companies have started feeling the impact of bad PR from not recycling," one company said.
One company also noted the PET industry's shift to lighter-weight bottles which presents opportunities for the PET market. More companies are said to be shifting to PET from materials like glass and aluminium because of the lighter-weight PET resin technologies coming out.
Finally, regulations and mandates were hot buttons for several companies and industry groups.
SPI is said to be launching a long-term public outreach campaign with an annual budget of up to $3m in an effort to counter product deselection and increasing regulatory challenges. Some of the hot regulatory topics were bisphenol-A, phthalates and single-use plastic bags.
The plastic industry plans to engage consumer discussions via internet-based approach including You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and blogs.
far, the plastics industry has not been plugged in to the discussion,"
said SPI. "We have mostly become engaged on a reactive basis, after the
issue is a page-one item."
The US plastics industry said it is also deeply troubled by pending federal legislation on climate control, health care and union voting, that can destroy jobs and export capacity. The climate change bill's provisions for a cap-and-trade emissions reduction mandate could impose sharply higher energy prices on energy-intensive industries such as plastics manufacturing, according to SPI.
Also check out my new (free!) bioplastic article from ICIS Chemical Business.
Here are several out of tons of NPE-related news from ICIS (requires subscription):Bioplastics, conservation play larger role at show