by Jackie Johnson Jackie Johnson No Comments

A Win for Recycled PET (rPET)

A project conducted by the Natural Resources Institute at London’s University of Greenwich has resulted in the development of invisible UV-fluorescent markers used on the labels that, once placed on food-grade PET packaging, can be used to sort food from non-food. This would allow for easier sorting and greater use of rPET (recycled PET) among food packaging.

Chemical recycling of plastics is an alternative to traditional recycling, in that it converts plastics into either random or regular hydrocarbon fragments, after which it reforms and purifies these fragments into feedstock for repolymerization, which is the process of turning microbeads into solid polymers.

Traditionally, it has been very hard to separate waste from the plastic, a fact that made much of the plastic used in the food packaging industry unrecyclable.

In this week’s blog post, we will go over several different examples of manufacturers using this new tech

UK Company Goes Green

According to Greiner Packaging, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers in plastic food packaging, the need to include recycled content in their packaging has been on the top of their mind for several years now. In fact, Greinier was one of the founding members of the UK Plastic Pact, which set four overarching objectives to create a circular economy for plastics, of which one goal was to increase the rate of recycled content to 30%. Thanks to the new technology allowing recycled PET (rPET) and PP (rPP), they are closer than ever to achieve their goal.

As one of the larger producers of plastic packaging, Greinier saw it as a responsibility to be part of the solution. As media and consumers continue to post negative comments about plastics, they felt strongly that it is only those who work in the supply chain who can create meaningful change.

New FDA Approved Methods

Recycled Food Packaging

Back in the United States, the FDA has recently given the go ahead for Indorama Ventures, the world’s largest PET producer, to begin manufacturing recycled PET for use in food and drink packaging. The organization issued a letter which stated that Indorama Ventures glycolysis process can produce RPET for use with all food types.

According to the letter:

“Based on the description of the glycolysis you submitted for our review, we have determined that your process is similar to the glycolysis we have previously reviewed and found to be effective in cleaning and producing recycled PET of a purity suitable for food contact”

A Better Way to Ship

The FDA also approved the company SeaCap Plastic Packaging’s initiative to recycle PP into 100% recycled content corrugated cartons for shipping produce and seafood. These cartons could be exposed to a variety of temperatures ranging from room temp all the way down to freezing, as long as the food was not heated it remained safe.

According to the letter:

“Because of strict source control, there is little likelihood of unacceptable contaminant levels in the recycled PP material.”

Bottle-to-Bottle Recycling

Finally, the FDA also approved for the company Polymetrix to use a special HDPE recycling process, which, according to them is a “super clean” process that can recycle HDPE beverage containers into PCR for molding into 100% recycled-content bottles for milk, water and juices. These bottles could then be exposed to room temperature and refrigerated temperatures, making them safe and effective.

Austrian Company Expands Recycling System

The Austrian company PET-to-PET significantly increased it’s capacities for food grade recycled PET with the installation of another Starlinger bottle-to-bottle recycling system.

PET-to-PET recycled around 1.13 billion PET bottles into rPET in 2020.

The recoSTAR PET 165 HC iV+ bottle-to-bottle recycling system is the second line from Starlinger in operation at PET to PET. It has a throughput of 1,800 kg/h and achieves excellent decontamination results. The produced regranulate can replace virgin PET at a rate of 100%.

The company was able to increase throughput by 7.3% despite the COVID-19 pandemic with subsequent lockdowns

In Conclusion

Thanks to a new method of removing food waste from plastic packaging, the plastics industry, particularly plastic packaging manufacturers such as Greiner and SeaCap, are able to achieve greater sustainability. Also, plastic recyclers, such as PET-to-PET, are able to recycle even more content, and as such are growing their businesses even more.

Together, the plastics industry is one step closer to a solution to end plastic waste.

by Jackie Johnson Jackie Johnson No Comments

The Problem with PET Thermoforms

PET thermoform packaging—such as those used for fruits, vegetables, muffins, eggs and more—is technically recyclable with PET bottles. In fact, many PET reclaimers accept thermoforms in bottle bales, as long as auto-sort systems and best practices are in place.

However, only 9 percent of them ever make it to recycling bins.

In this week’s blog post, we will go over the obstacles reclaimers face in recycling PET thermoforms and what the plastics industry has planned to work past them.

A New Law

On September 24th, 2020, Governor of California Gavin Newsom signed a bill made by California Assembly member Phil Tang, requiring manufacturers to include recycled materials when making plastic bottles, and, by extension, plastic thermoform parts.

AB 793 is designed to bolster the market for recycled polyethylene terephthalate in the state. Manufacturers must meet a number of deadlines for recycled content, achieving 15 percent by 2022, 25 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030.

Clamshells play an important role in the ability of companies in California, the country’s largest agricultural producer, to safely ship products across the nation. Lawmakers hope that the bill will propel the whole supply chain toward more environmentally responsible packaging, making California a greener state.

However, opponents of the bill state that while recycled content mandates can be positive, there exists a significant gap between how much recycled content actually exists and the requirements of the bill. Shannon Crawford, director of state government affairs for the Plastics Industry Association, says of the bill:

“While this bill would develop end markets for plastic materials, there should be an equal emphasis on improving the collection and sortation of these materials.”

A New Report

A coalition of packaging and plastic industry groups, part of a project led by the Foodservice Packaging Institute, and includes the Association of Plastic Recyclers, the National Association for PET Container Resources and companies like Amcor Ltd., Driscoll’s Eastman Chemical Co. and Sonoco Plastics, released a report in December on pathways to try to increase PET thermoform recycling. The report estimated there to be around 1.6 million pounds of PET thermoforms used in packaging in the United States and Canada. That, also according to the report, is sufficient enough to sustain a recycling market.

The problem, it found, was that there were also sizable barriers. These include technical challenges that cap the amount of PET thermoforms that can be mixed in with bales of more valuable PET bottles. On top of that, the prices of virgin resin have lowered to the point of creating a competitive challenge. And while buyers of PET bottles are willing to pay a premium, that’s not the case with other PET markets such as thermoforms.

According to Resa Dimino, senior consultant at Resource Recovery Systems, which prepared the report for the industry coalition, the next phase after the report will be to develop a pilot project in a community and work with MRFs and others on technical challenges. It will also include developing a viable investment strategy for PET thermoform recycling.

In Conclusion

While it is clear that thermoforms can be recycled, we still have a long way to go before the process is viable for the industry as a whole. The good news is that the industry is increasingly moving towards more sustainable options.

by Jackie Johnson Jackie Johnson No Comments

Rising Prices of Polymers

In North America, prices for polyethylene, PVC and other solid polystyrenes have risen to unprecedent highs in 2021. This is due to a variety of factors, the most common being a distinct lack of materials used to make the plastics. Whether due to the pandemic, a mechanical failure, or simply being unable to keep up with the demand, it is clear that the scarcity of materials is causing an increase in prices.

In this week’s blog post we will go over several different polymers and why the prices have hiked in 2021.

Climb in Prices

Regional PE prices climbed an average of 9 cents per pound since April 1st of this year. Due to the pandemic and by outages caused by Winter Storm Uri in February, supplies of the material remain increasingly scarce. Some grades are harder to find than others. For example, high density PE for blow molding has been particularly hard to find, to the point where work has been delayed.

PE market analyst Mike Burns of Resin Technology Inc in Fort Worth, Texas says that allocations are moving higher than 70 percent, however demand is still vastly exceeding supply.

Force Majeure

On top of the already scarce supply of materials, North American PE supplies are further strained by a mechanical failure at a Nova Chemicals Corp. production site.

In April of this year Nova was forced to declare a force majeure, a term where an unforeseeable circumstance has prevented someone from fulfilling a contract, which covers all PE resins produced in the Sarnia, Ontario region. This includes low density PE, HDPE, and more.

A Nova spokesperson said in a letter released to the public that the firm “has experienced a mechanical failure beyond our control…. Which supplies ethylene to our polyethylene facilities…”

According to the spokesperson, there were no injuries or environmental impacts from the event, and that they did not know how long the force majeure would be in place.


With limited supplies and strong demand, PVC prices have risen by 4 cents per pound in April. Because of Winter Storm Uri, PVC makers have had a hard time finding supplies of stabilizers and other additives needed to make PVC compounds, contributing to the ever-tight supply of PVC.

This has hit the construction market has been hit particularly hard by the lack of product, with housing starts at a whopping 1.74 million rate for March, up by almost 40 percent compared to March 2020.

Prices for suspension PVC are up by 21 cents as of May 2021, up a net of 33.5 cents per pound since January of 2020.


As a result of higher prices for benzene feedstock, where prices were up 38 cents for the moth to $3.01 per gallon, prices for solid PS (solid polystyrene) have surged to 9 cents per pound.

Solid PS prices for this year are up 25 cents, and 37 cents as of last year. Benzene prices are up 78 cents in the last two months alone, an increase of almost 35 percent.

The reason for this dramatic price increase? Styrene and benzene supplies have been limited. Some Gulf Coast styrene operations are only operating at 50-60 percent in recent months.

Other Materials

There are several other plastics that have seen an increase in cost of the past few months. Nylon 6 is up an average of 15 cents with Nylon 6/6 up by 25 cents. As of the first of the year, polycarbonate and ABS are both up an average of 30 cents.

On a Positive Note

Despite the increase in prices, the demand for polymers has not slowed down in the slightest. In 2020 alone, the market size was valued at USD 579.7 billion. That number has increased to USD 594 billion by 2021, with an estimated net worth of USD 750.1 billion by 2028. That is a growth rate of 3.4%!

The demand is clearly there, and it is safe to say that once the supply issues have been solved, the price of plastics will once again level out.

In Conclusion

Prices for polymers has increased over the past few months due to a variety of circumstances ranging from mechanical failure to the global pandemic. Despite this the plastics industry has remained steadfast and continues to innovate and provide quality products.

by Sara McCaslin, PhD Sara McCaslin, PhD No Comments

State of the Worldwide Plastics Industry

State of the Worldwide Plastics Industry

The markets for plastics are extremely diverse, including textiles, alternative energy, automotive, fluid handling, life sciences, agricultural, medical, pharmaceutical, packaging and many more. In recent months, there has been a significant increase in the demand for polymer-based products related to PPE for medical personnel. But who is producing these plastics, and what industries are driving this demand?

Global Plastic Production

It isn’t surprising that, according to data compiled by Statista, 350 million metric tons of plastics were produced globally in 2018 alone. In that same year, data shows that China was responsible for close to 30% of the production followed by NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement, composed of Mexico, Canada, and the United States) and Europe, both responsible for 18%. In terms of production per capita, NAFTA countries are in the lead followed by Europe and Japan. When it comes to nations however, Japan produces more plastic per capita than any other country.

Infographic: Developed Nations Produce the Most Plastic | Statista
Statista, Developed Nations that Produce the Most Plastic

Growing Market for Plastics

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the market is growing for plastics: experts estimate that worldwide plastic production will reach 24 billion metric tons by 2050, and Grandview Research reported that the plastics market at the end of 2019 was valued at $568.7 billion.

Major Industries Drive the Need for Plastics 

The major industries supporting this demand for plastics are the automotive, construction, electrical, and electronics industries, although with the COVID-19 pandemic it is also possible that there will be a significant rise in demand for plastics related to the medical industry. 

Automotive applications drive much of the demand for plastics as manufacturers seek to achieve better fuel efficiency through the use of polymers with high strength to weight and strength to stiffness ratios. In the construction industry, plastics are being used for pipes, windows, flooring, and cables as well as in the equipment used, ranging from handheld nail guns to the hydraulic excavators used to dig the foundation. 

In electronics and electrical systems, polymers are used in the connectors that ensure clean signals are transmitted between components. They also provide protection and insulation for even the IC chips used in devices, and secure everything from tiny transistor chips to large smart televisions in durable packaging.

Of course, packaging is another major source of demand for plastics, accounting for up to 35% of the market. Food, beverages, medications, and consumer products depend heavily on plastics. And there is a wide variety of plastics used for packaging, including HDPE, LDPE, PET, PVC, and polystyrene.

Wide Applications of Plastics

However, these are not the only industries where plastics are critical; plastics have become almost ubiquitous in our daily lives. For example, we know that plastics are used extensively in the textile industry, and many polymers we see used in applications such as pipes (PVC), gears and bearings (Nylon) can also be found in clothing, although in a different grade and form. In alternative energy, lightweight but strong plastic components contribute to efficiency and sustainability. 

For medical and pharmaceutical applications, polymers are used for everything from medical cabinets to hold supplies, to PPE equipment to protect medical professionals working at the frontlines, to seals for ventilators and other respiratory equipment, to implantables that support human health and well-being.


Plastics have become a critical factor in many industries. Whether it is recyclable HDPE packaging or high strength, high speed industrial bearings, polymers are a part of our every days lives, and according to economists the market will only continue to grow and expand in the near term.