Drive ditches recycling codes
The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers says resin identification codes add an unnecessary layer of confusion for recycling consumers. (APR graphics)
WASHINGTON -- Plastics recyclers are boldly moving forward with a new Education Without Numbers campaign because they are convinced that the resin identification code only adds an unnecessary layer of confusion and prevents more plastics from being recycled.
The new recycling campaign identifies plastics by six types of categories that the industry believes are easily identifiable to consumers. “It’s essential that we move plastic recycling beyond the numbers because, in my opinion, the RIC [resin identification code] is holding back recycling,” said Patty Moore, president of Moore Recycling Associates Inc., who helped develop the new program for the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers with funding support from the American Chemistry Council. “The numbers create a lot of confusion for the public about what can and cannot be recycled and are creating a layer of confusion that is unnecessary,” Moore said during a July 31 webinar to unveil the new campaign and graphics, which were simultaneously posted on the APR website. “There are better options and that is why we need to move forward,” Moore said. “There is no reason for consumers to look for the code.”
The resin identification code -- a number located inside a chasing arrow triangle -was never intended as a guide for consumers, she said, but as something to help recyclers sort plastics when only bottles were being recycled. Washington-based APR is not outright asking recycling coordinators not to use the existing code. But it is clear that APR prefers that communities shift away from using that approach. “Those tiny little numbers on the bottom of a bottle?
They’re not smart outreach tools,” APR says in a promotion for the new program. “Those resin identification codes may indicate a plastic bottle’s past, but they don’t predict its future.” So instead of focusing on the RIC -- which have been in use for 25 years and is currently in the process of being revised by the standards group ASTM -- the new campaign identifies plastic products by six categories with specific graphics for each: • All plastic bottles. • Plastic bottles and containers (such as tubs with lids) -- but no thermoformed packaging. • All plastic bottles and containers. • Clean rigid plastics -- no bags, no foam. • All clean plastics with bags and film wraps bundled. • All clean plastics, no bags and film wrap.
“The ability to collect a broader range of materials is growing, and there are now easily described groups of plastics that can now be collected and recycled,” Moore said. “This gives us the ability to educate people about plastics recycling without using the code and the opportunity to remove that layer of confusion from the public and explain [plastic recycling] in language they understand.” Each of the six categories has its own graphic, a short list of facts designed for use by recycling coordinators on brochures or fliers, and a more detailed set of facts designed for use on websites or that can be given to people moving into a community to explain the plastic recycling program in detail.
Additionally, instead of listing all the items in a specific category, the graphics and quick facts note what is excluded from a specific category. “It is more effective to highlight what’s excluded,” Moore said -- for example, no film or bags. APR said the graphics are designed to be easy to read, and to be used as signage at the point of recycling.
The quick facts provide specific examples of what does and what does not go into the recycling bin, and the more detailed information is designed for use on websites or as an informational guide. For example, the quick facts for the “all clean plastic bottles” category explain that a bottle is any plastic container with an opening smaller than its base. And it lists soda, juice, milk, detergent, and shampoo bottles as examples. Other messages include: Please empty. Keep plastic caps and lids on containers. And food, bags, film, cups, tubs, straws, or other types of plastic should not be part of this category. A second example: The “clean rigid plastics” category includes bottles, jugs, cups, tubs, boxes, flower pots, clamshells, crates, toys, buckets and lawn furniture. It tells communities to tell consumers to keep plastic caps and lids on containers, and not to include plastic bags, wraps, film, food, dirt, metal, straws, paper, utensils, degradable or compostable plastics. All the graphics and material for the Education Without Numbers program can be downloaded at www.plasticsrecycling.org/market-development/education-withoutnumbers. The initiative is part of the continuing work by APR to increase the collection and recycling of plastic products. “The objective is to keep the material in the United States and to sustain the growth of recycling economically,” said Steve Alexander, executive director of APR, whose members recycle more than 90 percent of all the post-consumer plastic in North America.
With the introduction of this new education campaign, Moore believes communities should stop using the resin identification codes in the information and education programs they develop for plastic recycling. “The RIC should not be used in outreach or education programs for recycling,” for a number of reason, Moore said. Among them: Consumers think the chasing arrows on the bottom of a plastic products means a product can be recycled and that’s not always the case, she said. And, other times, consumers will choose not to recycle a product because they can’t find, or can’t read, the number. “All of that is unfortunate,” she said. “And then folks ask coordinators, ‘Why can’t I recycle this?’ And it becomes problematic” and an obstacle to increasing the amount of plastics that are recycled. “The RIC does not imply recyclability. It just identifies the resin,” she said. *************************
Commercial CO2 polymers on the horizon HÜRTH, GERMANY -- The Nova-Institut GmbH says polyethylene and polypropylene made using CO2 as a feedstock will be on the market within the next 5-10 years. Spokesman Fabrizio Sibilla says the process will provide a number of environmental benefits, which is why several countries are researching using CO2 as a feedstock, notably Australia, China and the United States. Nova Institut is currently organizing the Conference on Carbon Dioxide as Feedstock for Chemicals and Polymers, which will take place in Essen, Germany, in October. Speaking about the technology, Sibilla said: “If someone takes CO2 as a reactant, this can then be reduced to methane or Methanol. This can be converted to ethylene or propylene which can then be polymerized.” This technology is already on the market where CO2 is already used as a reactant, for example for polyurethanes at Bayer and a polycarbonate at DSM, and many other companies are ready to move into this area over the next two years, including German chemicals manufacturer Evonik. Sibilla declined to give exact figures for the energy savings because life cycle analyses are still in progress but said the materials show exactly the same qualities as those produced by conventional means. The total environmental benefit will depend on where the CO2 comes from. “From 2050 we want to be able to sequester the CO2 from the atmosphere cheaply but until then CO2 from combustion is a way to fill the gap,”he said.
There is still some environmental benefit from using CO2 from combustion and natural gas is cleaner than coal and oil. “There is more natural gas than oil and its combustion releases CO2 and water, no other contaminants, so the CO2 from this could be captured,” said Sibilla. “For example, In the North Sea there was a disaster at an offshore platform, a methane well. This was still a disaster, but nothing compared to what happened with the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico!” The industry still faces several challenges moving forward, notably producing enough hydrogen. “Producing hydrogen is very energy demanding and part of the research is finding enough hydrogen in a cheaper way,” said Sibilla. “For mass distribution of these products we need more hydrogen at a cheaper price.” He added: “Hydrogen is the only problem, the rest of the technology is optimized. Once that is solved we will be able to produce practically everything.” The first polymers will be on the market in the next few years but they will be expensive, niche products. *************************
England building large waste-to-energy plant TEESIDE, ENGLAND -- A U.S.-based gas and chemical group is to create what it calls the world’s largest energy-from-waste facility in Teeside. Air Products and Chemicals Inc., which is based in Allentown, Pa., plans to start construction in the next few weeks, with the intention of converting the first of 350,000 metric tons of residual waste a year – capable of powering 50,000 homes – by 2014. The plant, a U.K. first, will use AlterNRG advanced gasification technology to create up to 50 megawatts annually. Air Products hopes it will also have the potential to generate renewable hydrogen, with fuelling public transport a possible end-use. Matthew Aylott of the National Non-Food Crops Centre (NNFCC), which advised the government on the energy-from-waste market, said he expected a “high proportion of plastics” to be included in the 350,000 metric ton figure. “This is hopefully the first of a number of such plants,” Aylott told PRW. INEOS and British Airways are looking at similar operations to convert municipal solid waste into road and jet fuel respectively. While the scale of investment in the plant is not known it is nevertheless expected to lead to the creation of 50 permanent jobs, as well as up to 700 construction jobs while it is being built. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg welcomed the development: “Advanced gasification has a key role to play in delivering renewable energy and I warmly
welcome the decision by Air Products to proceed with its Tees Valley Renewable Energy Facility.” Clegg said Air Products’ announcement “reflects the U.K.’s commitment and support for clean energy, combined with our stable and transparent environment for investors. “With the world’s spotlight on the UK this summer, we are working hard through the British Business Embassy program to help U.K. and international companies to capitalise on new trade and investment opportunities to deliver safe, secure, sustainable and smarter energy ‘ecosystems’, from extraction through to the end user.” Changes to subsidies for renewable electricity following a recent banding review announced last month could incentivize between about $31.2 billion and about $39 billion of new investment in the economy between 2013 and 2017, said the Department of Energy & Climate Change. Geraint Evans, head of biofuels and bioenergy at NNFCC, said waste was an underutilized resource for energy generation and gasification “could hold the key to unlocking its vast potential. “We will now apply our engineering and policy expertise to ensure this is just the first of many advanced gasification plants built here in the U.K.” The British Plastics Federation welcomed the development, with its public and corporate affairs director Philip Law commenting: ‘‘Used plastics are too valuable a resource to consign to landfill. For fractions unfeasible to recycle this is a great initiative.’’ *************************
The REAL cause of the 'Skills Gap' We hear a lot about the skills gap that exists in manufacturing today. The lack of skilled machinists, welders, machine technicians, processing technicians, and people who can troubleshoot machine tools and molding presses are putting companies in a bind, making some think that even if manufacturing does come back to the U.S. we wonâ€™t be able to support it. So what is behind this skills gap that has manufacturers gnawing their fingers even as some industry segments are picking up steam? College. Yes, you heard itâ€”college. Thatâ€™s what a molder said to me recently. So I got to thinking about that and decided he had a point. Back when my father was a teenager only really wealthy people went to college and they went there to become scientists, doctors, lawyers, and engineers. My dad was the son of a manager of a tool and die company near Cincinnati, so it was expected that he would one day get a job at the same tool and die company. He graduated from high school, got into the apprenticeship program at this company and learned all the skills of a tool and die maker including blueprint reading and machine tool operation (such as feeds and speeds), and became a journeyman tool and die maker. All of his friends worked in manufacturing in the Cincinnati area, too, at big companies like Cincinnati Milacron, General Electric, and Ford. My dad loved manufacturing. He loved it so much that he had a woodworking shop in an old barn on our property and at night and on weekends, he made grandfather clocks and other beautiful pieces of artwork.
After he took early retirement from the company, he started his own tool and die company—against the advice of his father, who believed that working for someone else was less risky than working for yourself. Within 10 years had built a company that occupied three adjoining buildings comprising 30,000 square feet and had 70 employees. The "everyone must go to college or they can’t be successful" fad started in about the 1960s. The Vietnam War was a good reason for many of the guys in my high school graduating class to get into college. The push for everyone to go to college continued throughout the remainder of the 20th century, until by the 1990s, high schools no longer had classes like “shop,” where metal- and wood-working skills were taught, and there began to be a vacuum in manufacturing for certain skills. The move to offshore our manufacturing to China started getting traction about that time as well, but no one thought it would get as big as it did. The more young people were pushed into college—whether they really wanted that Liberal Arts degree or not—the wider the skills gap became. But it didn’t matter. Everything was being made in China, India, Pakistan, Thailand, and other developing nations. Let those people learn the skills and have the manufacturing jobs. Our country would thrive on service jobs, and professions like law, social work, accounting, and psychology. One day, we suddenly woke up and saw that not only was our manufacturing disappearing at a rapid rate, but so were the manufacturing skills needed to keep it going.
Now there’s talk of resurgence in manufacturing, and a big worry among manufacturers that we’ve lost the skills that it will take to restore what made America great. The fact that older people took early retirement when many of the manufacturers began closing U.S. operations exacerbated the problem: there’s no one to train the younger people—to pass along that "tribal knowledge"—even if they are interested in making things. Apprenticeship programs have waned, and are only just now beginning to come back to life as the metal-working industry—including mold manufacturing—tries to play catch-up. There might be some good news however. Reports show that college is becoming so expensive that many young people won’t be able to afford it. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe many of these young people will start hearing about manufacturing and the good jobs available for those who want to learn how to operate machinery, program machine tools, design parts and molds to make those parts, integrate automation, repair machinery, and many of the other kinds of good-paying jobs available. Just maybe it’s the colleges' and universities' turn to suffer from lack of young people, many of whom can no longer afford to spend four years (or more) taking classes that sometimes result in them having to take minimum wage service jobs because they really don’t know how to do anything that creates actual wealth. As my dad always said, “Creating things creates wealth.” My dad brought home $18 a week when he began his apprenticeship at 18 years of age. When he died in 2002, he had not only created wealth for my mother and ultimately for his heirs, but for a lot of other skilled people who worked for him.
He took the risks and reaped the rewards. He trained a lot of young people over the years (including my oldest son, who, by the way, eventually did go to college and got a degree in manufacturing engineering) because he believed in manufacturing as the path to success. College is highly overrated for many young people for whom learning manufacturing skills could result in them having more than they’d even dreamed of in life. That certainly was true for my dad. I know it’s still true for others. We just need to get the word out about what is possible so that manufacturing—as it returns—can once again thrive and sustain the U.S. economy and the U.S. worker. *************************
MuCell Extrusion gets license for foamed films WOBURN, MASS. -- MuCell Extrusion LLC has licensed Dow Chemical Co.’s patent portfolio for thin foamed films. The deal, announced Aug. 6, adds to the two companies' existing collaboration relationship. The companies said in a news release that the new agreement “not only eliminates existing confusion among potential customers as to patent and licensing obligations, but it also provides a clear demarcation of responsibilities for support of these foaming technologies.” Midland, Mich.-based Dow will offer resins specially formulated to optimize foaming results, while Woburn-based MuCell will provide technology transfer equipment and technical support. This deal follows a similar agreement announced in March for MuCell Extrusion to exclusively license Dow’s patent family on flat sheet resin technology. *************************
Guitar pick maker signs deal with celluloid supplier BERLIN, CONN. -- Officials with D’Andrea USA are sure they’ve picked a winner in decorative plastic supplier Delmar Products. D’Andrea -- a leading guitar pick manufacturer -- has signed a strategic alliance agreement with Delmar, the firm that’s been supplying it for almost 50 years with the celluloid used to make its picks. The deal includes D’Andrea’s moving its operations from Kensington, Conn., to Delmar’s facilities in nearby Berlin, Conn. Delmar President John DiMugno Jr. said in a recent news release that the relationship between the two firms “spans many decades.” “With the signing of this agreement, we now look forward to combining our resources to strengthen our global position as a branded product and OEM supplier to the industry,” he added. The alliance “ensures the continuing growth of both companies,” D’Andrea President Tony D’Andrea said in the release. News of the deal comes as D’Andrea USA celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. The firm got its start when Italian immigrant Luigi D’Andrea began making guitar picks and decorations from tortoise shell-colored cellulose nitrate in New York City. Previously, guitar picks had been made of real tortoise shell, which was expensive and brittle. The business later branched out into guitar accessories, straps and care products. Delmar distributes decorative film and sheet products made from PVC, acrylic, ABS, cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate for use in musical instruments, flooring, credit cards, gift cards, lighting, snow boards and other applications. *************************
Sabic: Plastic body panels are coming back TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. -- The future looks brighter for plastic exterior vehicle parts as automakers intensify their search for weight-saving ideas. After suffering a blow nearly a decade ago, when General Motors abandoned its pioneering use of polymer body panels on its Saturn lineup, plastics are poised for a comeback, says Venkatakrishnan Umamaheswaran global automotive marketing director for Sabic Innovative Plastics. The two main reasons: 1. Weight reduction is a more urgent priority for automakers in 2012, and plastics offer as much as a 50 percent weight savings over comparable parts made of steel. 2. Suppliers have made manufacturing with plastic parts easier and less expensive. Umamaheswaran says Sabic is getting orders to supply new programs. Most of them are in Europe and Asia, he acknowledges, including fenders and other exterior pieces on recent vehicles from Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Mitsubishi and Chery. And makers of a number of U.S.-market vehicles also are considering Sabic plastic exterior parts for upcoming models, he says. “American car manufacturers went through that phase one of plastic body panels, and we believe that a phase two is imminent and coming,” Umamaheswaran says. The 2002 Saturn Vue had plastic body panels, but General Motors was dissatisfied with the material’s exterior appearance. The panels needed room to expand when hot, resulting in wider than normal gaps in the body.
GM, which struggled a decade ago to rekindle sales of its plastic-clad Saturn vehicles, concluded that plastic didn’t deliver the quality it wanted for exterior appearances. The panels needed room to expand when hot, resulting in wider than normal gaps in the body. “The industry was still in its infancy when GM was making plastic body panels,” Umamaheswaran says. “We’ve made some big strides in the chemistry of plastics in the past decade, and the industry is starting to reconsider us.” Interior and exterior plastics and composites combined account for less than onetenth of the average light vehicle’s body weight, according to the American Chemistry Council, an association that represents the key automotive plastics suppliers. One key innovation allows for easier painting of plastic parts today. Electrostatic painting, which directs paint with an electrical charge, didn’t work on plastic parts, and factories needed two separate paint lines to handle the material. Plastic suppliers have now enhanced the raw material by mixing in a conductive filler that makes the plastic behave like a steel part for painting. “We’ve made the material much friendlier for the production process, and the industry is responding to this around the world,” he says. “There are some significant projects coming up.” *************************
SPI releases machinery statistics WASHINGTON -- The plastics machinery rebound is continuing this year, according to the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.’s Committee on Equipment Statistics. Also, Washington-based SPI is releasing statistics on thermoforming equipment for the first time, and more categories of extruders. Injection molding For injection molding machines, the largest sector, SPI’s year-end report said 2011 ended with 2,849 injection orders, an increase of 13 percent over the order level of 2011. Economist Bill Wood, who provides an analysis for the SPI statistics, predicts a 10 percent increase for full-year 2012, or about 3,100 new orders. Wood also thinks injection press shipments will gain 10 percent in 2012 — finishing this year at more than 2,900 units and approach the 3,000-press barrier. The low point came in the recession-hit 2009, when shipments sank to just 1,285. Extrusion For extrusion, SPI now is releasing numbers on more categories of equipment than before. Instead of one single number for all extruders, the Committee on Equipment Statistics now reports on single-screw extruders, and twin-screw extruders, both co-rotating and counter-rotating.
This year, Wood is predicting a modest increase in twin-screw extruders of 3-5 percent and a flat-to-modest increase for single-screw extruders. Wood runs Mountaintop Economics and Research in Greenfield, Mass. SPI’s 2011 numbers show an increase in unit orders of just 1 percent from 2010. The annual dollar value was down by 10 percent. In the twin-screw segment, SPI reports 150 new extruders were ordered in 2011, an 11 percent decline from 2010. The dollar value was 12 percent higher, although that number weakened toward the end of 2011, according to the report. SPI said demand for counter-rotating twin-screw extruders “exhibited significantly more strength” than co-rotating machines. Orders of counter-rotating extruders slipped by only one machine in 2011 from 2010 — from 57 machines to 56 — but brought in a dollar value 28 percent greater. Orders for co-rotating machines declined by 16 percent, from 112 units to 94, but managed a 5 percent dollar-value increase. Most manufacturers of extruders are expecting business to hold steady or improve, fueled by expansions, new technology and an emphasis on energy efficiency. Blow molding Turning to blow molding, SPI said 2011 new orders for blow molding machines reached 85 units, a 16 percent increase from 2010. The dollar value for new orders jumped 19 percent. Wood thinks blow molding machines will experience moderate growth this year, to about 90-100 blow molding machines.
SPI reported that the total number of auxiliary equipment units booked was 13 percent higher in 2011 from the year before. Exports declined modestly. A significant change in the number of companies reporting the data means that SPI officials are not comparing the numbers to 2010. A similar issue comes in the components sector, which examines screws and barrels. Changes in the number of reporting companies makes it impossible to do year-over-year analysis on data for screws or barrels. For the full year, a total of 7,970 components were shipped by reporting companies in 2011, as business conditions gradually improved. Thermoforming In the new category of thermoforming machinery, SPI reported that new orders in 2011 declined by 28 percent in terms of units and 25 percent in dollar value, from 2010 levels. But the shipment picture was brighter: shipments increased to 164 units, up 7 units from 2010, and the shipment dollar amount increased by 4 percent, according to SPI. â€œThe long-term incentives for equipment investment remain intact,â€? Wood wrote. *************************
Plastics win, metals and glass lose in medical device material battle Polymers are increasingly expected to replace other materials like glass and metals in medical devices, despite gradual increases in their prices. A new analysis from Frost & Sullivan states that "the ability to engineer and customize polymers according to varied application needs will create lucrative opportunities." How lucrative? The consulting business's new report, Western European Market for Polymers in Medical Devices, states that after the market earned revenues of EUR 602 million ($743 million) in 2011, it is projected nearly double in seven years' time to EUR 1.075 billion (1.328 billion) in 2018. This growth will be boosted by the increasing replacement of other materials in medical devices by polymers, with plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), silicone, thermoplastic elastomers and engineering and high performance polymers all winning new applications. Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Tridisha Goswami sees growth impacted by three factors: A rapidly greying population Increasingly sophisticated equipment Portable, impact-resistant medical devices suitable for homecare settings "Competition is intense and market participants have to diversify their product lines and be a one-stop-solution for all healthcare material needs," Goswami stated in a release.
"Manufacturers should focus on developing novel, high quality products that meet the particular needs of varied applications." The report found that polymers with higher chemical and impact resistance, superior mechanical and thermal properties have become "the material of choice" for medical applications like medical tubing, wound care, adhesives, and lubricants. Medical device design is also increasingly emphasizing miniaturization, homecare, and aesthetics. Enter polymers, which Frost & Sullivan says have exceptional durability, flexibility, and strength, as well as the ability to be colored while permitting lightweight, portable, smaller-sized devices. The report also said that in comparison to other verticals, such as automotive and construction, polymers in healthcare represents a low-volume market, but one that provides opportunities for higher margins and, moreover, is less tied to GDP growth. *************************
Report: Thin laptops hard to recycle ROCKVILLE, MD. -- The Electronics TakeBack Coalition released a report saying that ultrabooks, the common name for very thin, light laptops with a solid state hard drive, are often built with a nonremovable battery, making them more difficult to recycle or reuse later. According to the report, the Sony Vaio T13 and Hewlett-Packard Elite Book Folio 9470 are the only ultrabooks on the market that have batteries that can be removed by the user. Many ultrabooks, including those produced by Apple, Dell and Samsung require the manufacturer to replace the battery. “If we are serious about wanting to extend the life of these products, then it should be as easy to replace their batteries as it is to replace the batteries in a flashlight,” said Kathleen Goldstein, executive director of the group. In addition, the report says the manufacturers need to be open about the fact the batteries cannot be replaced by the consumer. “They should be much more transparent about this issue on their websites and packaging so consumers don’t find out the hard way,” Goldstein said. *************************
Jell-O Shocks! New Moldable Polymer Gel Conducts Electricity Exclusive to Polymer Solutions News Applications for innovations in science sometimes seem to fall on the silly side of incredulous, and a hydrogel developed by researchers at Stanford University may contribute to that sentiment. The researchers have created a jelly -- a kind of conducting hydrogel -that feels and behaves like biological tissues but conducts electricity like a metal or semiconductor. The gel is quick and easy to make. It can be patterned onto surfaces with an inkjet printer and will later conduct electricity or act as a sensor. What's next? Martha Stewart using the hydrogel as a decorating item? "You can use your printer to spell out any holiday wish you want onto this colorful paper, and then it will flash its greeting warmly," she might say.
Or how about comedian and Jell-O pitchman Bill Cosby touting the virtues of a novelty item made from the gel? "It looks like a Jell-O Pudding Pop, but it's really a hair curler," he might say. On the serious side, though, the creators of the jelly -- Stanford Chemical Engineering Associate Professor Zhenan Bao, Material Science and Engineering Associate Professor Yi Cui, and members of their labs -- believe the jelly holds an enormous promise for biological sensors and futuristic energy storage devices. Their research has been published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The secret to the innovation is using long chains of the organic compound, aniline, together with phytic acid, which is found in plant tissues. The acid chemically grabs up to six polymer chains at once, creating an extensive cross-linked network. The gel's network creates a complex, sponge-like structure. And like a sponge, the hydrogel is pockmarked with innumerable tiny pores that significantly expand the gel's surface area. That area increases the amount of charge it can hold, its ability to "sense" chemicals, and the speed with which it makes an electrical response, the researchers say. "There are already commercially available conductive polymers," Boa says, "but they all form a uniform film without any nanostructures." Because the gel is malleable, it can be manipulated into any shape the designer wants. The material doesn't become rigid until the last step of the synthesis.
Therefore, it can be printed or sprayed as a liquid and turned into a gel after it's in the desired place or shape. This means that the designers should be able to construct intricately patterned electrodes at low cost. "You can't print Jell-O," says Cui. "But with this technique, we can print it and make it Jell-O later." The unusual structure is what gives the gel "remarkable electronic properties," says Cui. Most hydrogels are bound by a large number of insulating molecules, reducing the material's overall ability to conduct electrical current. But phytic acid is a "small molecule dopant," meaning that when it binds to polymer chains, it also lends them a charge. The effect makes the hydrogel highly conductive. The gel's ability to conduct electricity is "among the best you can get through this kind of process," says Cui. Its capacity to hold a charge is very high, and its response to an applied charge is unusually fast, the researchers claim. The gel's similarity to biological tissues, its large surface area, and its electrical capabilities make it well suited for allowing biological systems to communicate with technological hardware. The researchers believe it could be used for medical probes, laboratory biological sensors to biofuel cells, and high-energy density capacitors. "And all it's made of are commercially available ingredients thrown into a water solution," said Bao. You can almost hear Bill Cosby say the same thing in his next Jell-O commercial. ************************
Cooling innovation Every molder knows that fast cycle times are all about the cooling, and to help get the heat out Progressive Components offers its latest Bubbler Base designed for maximum cooling flow rates and ease of mold assembly and disassembly. The Bubbler Base accepts attachment of a thin-wall cascade tube in order to optimally cool long, round mold cores. The Bubbler Base comes in two installation styles to suit assembly and disassembly preferences, in four diameters each. “The Bubbler Base is a huge problemsolver,” Ken Rumore, design engineer for Progressive Components, told PlasticsToday at the Amerimold trade show.“Tubes no longer need to be screwed or unscrewed from the plate, which can take hours for a large multicavity mold. In addition, to clean the tubes you don’t have to unscrew them, just pop them out of the plate. That way you don’t destroy the tubes trying to get them out. And it saves time and money when replacing damaged tubes.” Progressive also has added items such as non-interchangeable Keyed Connect Socket Connectors and Fittings (fittings consist of extension plugs, connector plugs, and cavity hose inserts) for fail-proof connection of cooling lines. New Swivel-Type Water Jumpers enable installation within a plate versus outside, and Water Line Safety Clips are also now available for easy identification of blue and red water lines *************************
Materials Available today in many shapes and forms, plastics have become part our everyday life. However, their popularity and almost endless applications present a series of challenges for the recycling industry. We now use about 20 times more plastic than we did 50 years ago and certain postconsumer products contain as many as 20 different types of plastic materials. This widespread use of all kinds of plastic makes it difficult to collect large enough quantities of certain types to make recycling viable. At the same time, each variety has a particular molecular composition and as a result, a different recycling process must be employed.Identification and separation technologies are crucial for efficient and effective plastic recycling. Recycling helps to reduce energy consumption, air and water pollution, but also the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills. Plastics are polymers composed primarily of petroleum, thus the recycling industry plays an important role in preserving this vital natural resource. Recycling Processes Recycling plastics requires a series chemical and mechanical procedures:
Granulation of plastic for recycling
Baled PET bottles for recycling
Car bumpers made from recycled plastic
Sorting: This critical part of the process can be performed both manually and mechanically. Shredding and compacting: When necessary, sorted plastics are shredded into smaller pieces and bailed to facilitate handling and transportation. Washing: Scrap plastic goes through various mechanical processes to remove filth and dirt. It is then washed and ground into smaller flakes. Flotation tanks are also used to separate plastics from contaminants. Melting: Plastic is either melted down or shaped into granulates or pellets. Reforming: The granulates are shipped to manufacturing plants where they are made into new products. The Sorting Challenge The biggest problem with plastic recycling is that it is labour intensive and this is because it is difficult to automate the sorting process. Numeric codes are used to indicate different types of plastic. New mechanical sorting processes using spectrometry are being developed and implemented to increase plastic recycling capacities and efficiency.
Containers are usually made from a single type of plastic, making them relatively easy to sort. However, mobile phones for example, usually have various components made from different types of plastic. New research and development programmes are being set up to improve dissembling technologies and to increase the recovery and recycling rates of plastic products. Applications Unlike metals, recycling usually affects the physical properties of plastics to some extent. This makes it difficult to recover large amounts of certain types of plastics for use in the same applications that they were originally produced for. Thanks to intensive research and technological developments made by recycling companies, recycled plastic can be used in almost as many applications and products as those using virgin materials. These are just a few products that can be made from recycled plastic: Polyethylene bin liners and carrier bags Plastic bottles 1. Flooring and window frames 2. Building insulation board 3. DVD and CD cases 4. Garden furniture and fencing 5. Garden sheds and composters 6. Seed trays 7. Fleeces 8. Fibre filling for sleeping bags and duvets 9. Office accessories 10. Recycling Facts
One tonne of recycled plastic saves 5,774 kWh of energy, 16.3 barrels (2,604 litres) of oil, 98 million Btu's of energy, and 22 cubic metres of landfill . There is an 80 to 90% reduction in energy consumption by producing recycled plastic compared to producing plastic from virgin materials (oil and gas). Recycling a single plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60-watt bulb for up to six hours. Recycling 5 PET plastic bottles produces enough fibre for one t-shirt. Recycling 100 million cell phones saves enough energy to power more than 194,000 US households for one year. Worldwide trade of recyclable plastics represents is valued at $5 billion per year and is estimated to represent a total of 12 million tonnes. EUROPE recycled 21.3% of plastic waste during 2008 representing about 5.3 million tonnes. A recent study shows that if all landfilled plastics waste are recycled or recovered into energy, then 7% of EU quota of CARBON GAS REDUCTION will be fulfilled Our Experts For more information on technical issues, contact our experts working on the Plastics Commodity Committee: Chairman Surendra Borad (Belgium)Members Gregory Cardot (France),Peter J. Daalder (Netherlands), Jacques Musa (France) *************************
Dyneon plant to recycle PTFE scrap ST. PAUL, MINN.– Dyneon GmbH is building a pilot plant in Burgkirchen, Germany, to recycle polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) scrap. The plant, which will be located at the firm’s integrated production site, will have capacity to recycle 500 metric tons of PTFE waste annually. According to the company, every year 20,000 metric tons of waste is created globally during the processing of PTFE. This waste material is currently either incinerated or landfilled. In the new process, PTFE scrap will be heated in a reactor, split into its raw gaseous components, cleaned and fed back into the production of new PTFE. When running at capacity, the process will save 10,000 metric tons of waste hydrochloric-acid and 7,500 megawatt hours of energy annually. It also will save 7,500 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere annually, according to the company. The University of Bayreuth supported the development of the process. The project was one of 200 concepts featured at the “Week of the Environment” exhibit, held June 5-6 in Berlin. Dyneon is a unit of St. Paul-based 3M. *************************
First birthday for New Zealand’s plastic stadium New Zealand’s transparent polymer-roofed Forsyth Barr Stadium – the world’s only permanently enclosed, natural turf stadium – has celebrated its first birthday. The stadium’s ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (EFTE) clad roof is light and translucent, allowing maximum sunlight onto the pitch. The $162m stadium is in Dunedin — the second-largest city on New Zealand’s south island. Its rectangular pitch is 433 feet long and 266 feet wide; the internal roof is 121 feet high; and the external roof is 154 feet high. The roof is supported by five arches, each spanning 344 feet. Construction began in June 2009 and finished Aug. 1, 2011. It held its inaugural rugby football game Aug. 7, 2011, ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, hosted by New Zealand last September. An international architectural firm, Missouri-based Populous Holdings, designed the stadium with New Zealand-based Jasmax. The stadium is the southern hemisphere’s largest ETFE-covered structure, with 220,660 square feet of ETFE cladding. Before the stadium was built, turf experts, engineers and architects spent two years studying the affect of grass growing under ETFE. An ETFE test rig was built onsite to monitor grass growth.
Populous associate principal Ron Van Sluijs said grass under the ETFE rig was healthier and stronger than grass around it. “We can maintain a constant temperature and grow a stronger grass which won’t become boggy because it will never rain, snow, or hail inside,” he said. “[The] material allows for 90 percent of sunlight to reach the pitch, along with UV light and fresh air.” Populous associate Jochem Veerman told Plastics News the plastic roof has performed “incredibly well” in its first year. “It has a reputation as one of the best playing surfaces in New Zealand. The main benefit of having a roof over the grass is the field’s moisture levels can be controlled and are not dependent on the weather,” Veerman said. ETFE is lighter than glass (just 1 percent of the weight), bears 400 times its own weight, and stretches to three times its length, making it suitable for Dunedin’s windy, snowy conditions. Van Sluijs and Veerman said the material is up to 70 percent cheaper to install than glass, and transmits more light and heat than glass, reducing energy costs by up to 30 percent. Van Sluijs and Veerman said polytetrafluoroethylene and PVC were often used for roofing, however neither are as clear as ETFE. They also do not allow sufficient light and ultraviolet rays through. Clear hard plastics, like polycarbonate and acrylic, are not suitable because they have non-UV translucent properties. They said Forsyth Barr Stadium is not the first to incorporate ETFE, but it is the first time ETFE’s UV-transparent properties have been used in a stadium.
Auckland’s Eden Park Stadium, Munich’s Allianz Arena and Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre (or Water Cube) also use ETFE. ETFE-clad, non-sports buildings with vegetation inside include the United Kingdom’s Eden Project (the world’s largest greenhouse) and the Netherlands’ Burgers’ Zoo. Van Sluijs and Veerman said the Forsyth Barr Stadium is the world’s only permanently covered stadium to house a natural turf playing field, but is not the first. Houston’s Reliant Astrodome was the first, but the grass was replaced with artificial turf within a year after opening. Some sport venues, like the Netherlands’ GelreDome, Japan’s Sapporo Dome, and Arizona’s University of Phoenix Stadium, have natural grass and fixed roofs. However the pitch is on tracks and slides outside the building to grow. A spokeswoman for Dunedin Venues Management, the Forsyth Barr Stadium’s manager, said 350,000 people attended 269 events in the first year. The stadium seats 30,000 people. *************************
Global PVC demand To reach 50m tons by 2020 A new report says that global PVC demand will show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.9% until 2020, pushing the market up to 49.5m tons. Demand for PVC has grown steadily over the years, from 22.2m tons in 2000 to 32.3m tons in 2011, says the report from GBI Research. More than 65% of demand stems from Asia, where China is driving the majority. The leading end-use segments in 2011 were construction (17m tons) packaging (3.7m tons) and electricals (2.7m tons). The automotive, agriculture, footwear and other end-use sectors accounted for the remainder. GBI Research says energy efficiency and conservation are increasingly important and singled out Europe for its PVC sustainability. Thanks to the Vinyl 2010 programme, Europe recycled 260,842 tons of PCV in 2010, above its target of 200,000 tons.
A good soak cleans off plastic beer labels Avery Dennison has developed a “no-label look” label for returnable beer bottles that can be easily washed off, simplifying the recycling process. According to the company, the labels, which are suitable for both glass and PET bottles, provide label converters with a “simple and immediate replacement for any existing wet-glue product”. “Our responsibility as a producer of wash-off labels extends far beyond our portion of the value chain,” said Jon Maley, vice-president, marketing at Avery Dennison’s materials group. “We work closely with our customers to develop solutions that reduce the environmental impact of the products we collectively manufacture and consume. Maximizing recycling is a great way to do that for beverage applications.” The wash-off labels have a multi-layer construction consisting of a polypropylene film that delivers excellent clarity, a PET liner and a proprietary wash-off adhesive. The wash-off labels leave no adhesive residues on the bottle, said Avery Dennison. Also, they wash off from 65°C, allowing for lower washer temperatures than the current average of 80°C.
Energy from waste – a Better approach than recycling? I recently had a lengthy and frank exchange with a senior person in the plastics industry – the topic was flexible plastic packaging. It’s a growth market and a highly sophisticated one in terms of film formulation. And what’s more, we’re really good at it here in the UK. However, the nature of the finished product makes it pretty much impossible to recycle. A plastic multi-layer construction that also features inks and probably foil is about as difficult to unpick as any combination imaginable. A veritable Gordian Knot of plastics and additives.The answer is incineration… energy from waste; a phrase that still has to be uttered in a whisper in polite company, principally as a result of some pretty widespread ignorance about what the technology involves. The current generation of energy from waste plants is clean, efficient and if sited properly, unprepossessing. It also offers an ‘environmentally friendly’ method of disposing of waste that would otherwise be difficult and uneconomic to recycle. And yet it’s a technology that’s still characterised as dirty and ugly – two of the key reasons why politicians have given energy from waste such a wide berth.Clearly this perception needs to be corrected if the UK is to create a fully integrated and functioning environmental industry that can operate without government favour or subsidy. The trouble is that ingrained public opinions, like gravy stains, are hard to shift. *************************
Recycling… the answer’s clearly a load of rubbish My local authority, Reigate and Banstead, is ‘upgrading’ its waste collection. The original letter to residents explaining what's going to happen was slightly ambiguous so I contacted my borough office for some clarification. I was especially interested to find out what qualifies as non-recycling waste. The reply below is not a joke – this is exactly what I was sent… word for garbled word. Is it any wonder that some people find recycling a little difficult to understand! Read it and weep… Hi, thank you for your message regarding the new service , I am the portfolio holder for waste and recycling ( and other things) and will try to answer as best as possible I assume from the letter that you may not of got your new containers yet .... firstly may I inform you are not obliged to use them we will, after delivery of all the Boroughs bins send out a disclaimer and collect them,this service as taken a number of years and we have had countless road shows, supermarket stands and countless press articles, known fact 80% of most bin content can be recycled and residents want it to be easier and without going to the bring sites. Food waste collection is in legislation 2013/14 so we have no choice our vehicles should of gone off fleet last year but if we are collecting all this it was right to wait and do everything we can in one go. You will be left a small kitchen caddy and a larger caddy with a lockable handle and a Grey bin, under this lid is a reminder of what y ou can recycle whats not on there or the pamphlet or the web page, goes in the green bin (as before) web , paper/card will still go in the old black box and collected every week, having just checked the web pages again there is a tick & cross section what can be
binned, others have asked where does a dead mouse go, Hoover bag, old cooking oil, if residents have particular concern they can contact customer services. If I can relate my own experiences given it started where I live all my plastics , tin foil , trays, glass, go straight into my grey bin ( no more trips with smelly foil ,plastic and botlles/jars which always seem to leak in the car, my residual as you would expect is minimal and generally I put out a small carrier bag. The garden waste service is a paid for service and collected in a brown bin fortnightly at the same time just two bins are left out. Collection figures in the Horley area on food waste alone for the first collections amounted to 11.5 tonnes ( 2 days worth ) which was not land filled and saved charge payers money multiply this by the 4 other collections coming on stream and its !!!!! Probably not convinced you in total, but if you want to ask anything more please get back to me or your ward Councillor, if you would care to see what we are collecting at our Earlswood depot I would be pleased to show you around during the week, as with most things its new and all we ask is to give it and us a chance, land fill is no longer an option the charges per tonne increase this year at an alarming rate (EU) regards, allen *************************
Aging population will boost medical polymer use MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF. -- The Western European market for polymers in medical devices is set to break the 1 billion euro ($1.23 billion) barrier in six years, boosted by an aging population and the increasing replacement of glass and metals in healthcare equipment. New analysis from research group Frost & Sullivan Inc. suggests that the market generated sales of 602 million euros ($744 million) in 2011, and forecast this to reach 1,075.4 million euros ($1.33 billion) in 2018. “A rapidly graying population with its attendant healthcare needs will have a positive impact on the medical devices market and, by extension, on polymers used in such equipment,” said Frost & Sullivan research analyst Tridisha Goswami. “This will be reinforced by the uptake of increasingly sophisticated equipment by the healthcare industry and the growing importance of portable, impact-resistant medical devices that can be used in homecare settings.” The healthcare industry was increasingly interested in miniaturisation, homecare, and aesthetics for medical devices. “Polymers which have exceptional durability, flexibility and strength, and can also be dyed in any color, meet such demands. They also fulfil the need for lightweight, portable, smaller-sized devices,” she added. Goswami said that in comparison to other areas, such as automotive and construction, polymers in healthcare was a low-volume market although it offered opportunities for higher margins and was less tied to GDP growth.
However government pressure to keep costs down was likely to limit the profit margins of polymer suppliers. “The market is highly regulated and product development is expensive and time consuming,” she added. Despite being low-volume, the market was defined by high competition and innovation. Efforts to advance polymer functionality and diversify the application base will help companies establish their presence in the market, Goswami said. “Competition is intense and market participants have to diversify their product lines and be a one-stop-solution for all healthcare material needs. “Manufacturers should focus on developing novel, high quality products that meet the particular needs of varied applications.” *************************
Ergonomics a Good Fit for Safety, Cost Savings at Magna International While injuries related to poor ergonomics can be costly, the science remains a back-burner issue for many businesses. Magna International is an exception. By Jill Jusko Is your company giving ergonomics, described by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as "the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population," the attention it deserves? Failure to do so could be costly. Ergonomics-related injuries are the leading cause of serious non-fatal workplace injuries, according to the 2011 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. Indeed, overexertion injuries -- caused by excessive lifting, pushing, pulling, holding and carrying -- grabbed the No. 1 spot (based on 2009 data, the latest year for which data were available) in dollar terms, costing businesses $12.75 billion in direct costs. Add repetitive-motion injuries to the calculation, and the cost increases by another $1.97 billion. Jeff Sanford, managing consultant at Humantech, says ergonomics typically has not received enough consideration by businesses. "You need to manage ergonomics a process," just as you would any other system in the organization, he says. Fourteen Magna International facilities in Michigan, including this one in Highland Park, have embraced the company's robust approach to identifying and reducing ergonomic risk.as
The ergonomics consulting firm suggests that leadership for the ergonomics process should be assigned to engineering or operations, and the reason is simple: Engineering and operations most influence workstation design and equipment. "All sustainable and preferred improvements are engineering controls rather than work- practice controls or administrative controls," points out James Mallon, Humantech vice president. He and Sanford shared their views during a 2011 online seminar. One manufacturing company that has recognized the importance of ergonomics is Magna International. In 2007 the automotive supplier launched a robust ergonomics program in North America. The program includes five measurable categories: support infrastructure; analysis and prioritization; implementation and risk reduction; proactive ergonomics; and metrics and communication. Each category then has five to six criteria elements that outline the specific requirements with which a participating facility must comply. For example, one criterion is that a facility must have an ergonomics committee, and the committee must be led by the engineering manager. The ergonomics effort in 2011 grabbed the attention of safety officials in Michigan, where the program has been embraced by 14 Magna International plants. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration presented Magna with its Ergonomic Innovation Award. Says Marc Neeb, Magna International executive vice president of human resources: "The program has unquestionably been positive for our organization and specifically our employees through benefits such as reduced injuries and increased productivity and quality." *************************
Gurit helps production of world's first composite milking platform Gurit, the Isle of Wight-based composite specialist, has helped to produce what is claimed to be the world’s first composite rotary platform for the milking industry. Waikato Milking Systems in New Zealand has used a composite solution supplied by Gurit in the form of B3 SmartPac – which includes G-Pet, a recyclable structural foam core – in order to create a platform which is claimed to have a 25% longer lifespan than a concrete rotary platform. By replacing the concrete elements with composites the platform's weight has been slashed by 80%, while still being able to support the weight of up to 54 cows – more than 32 tonnes – when fully loaded. Additionally the lighter platform means there is less friction on the running mechanisms, leading to reduced wear and tear. The platform's deck sections are constructed of a sandwich laminate, comprising G-Pet structural foam core, double bias and quadriaxial E-glass fabrics. This is then reinforced with a high strength hybrid aramid/glass woven cloth, and laminated using a resin infusion process. Josh Janmaat, composite division manager at Waikato Milking Platforms, said: “We decided to use the B3 SmartPac as it eliminated the need for time-consuming hand cutting at our own manufacturing facility. “The SmartPac design and cutting process is very accurate compared with hand cutting, which allows us to apply more stringent quality controls to the finished product.” *************************
LFT compound is transparent Long fiber thermoplastic (LFT) compound supplier PlastiComp (Winona, MN) has developed what it describes as a breakthrough product in the form of a long-fiber reinforced compound that is translucent. The new compound is based on a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). "Molded structural parts with translucent qualities lead to unique applications that require strength and optical transparency," notes Raj Mathur, Vice President & Director, Technology & Business Development at PlastiComp. This patent-pending TPU based product can revolutionize structural parts where see-through quality or contact transparency imparts added functionality, according to PlastiComp. When molded, compounds containing 20-40 weight % long glass-fibers, are reportedly smooth Translucent LFT compound exhibits same strength as standard LFT offerings. and translucent, while still maintaining the mechanical properties of astandard long glass reinforced thermoplastic compounds. These translucent TPU compounds reportedly offer advantages in medical devices, pumps, filters, power tools, sporting equipment, or anything requiring a seethrough email@example.com *************************
Plastics win, metals and glass lose in medical device material battle Polymers are increasingly expected to replace other materials like glass and metals in medical devices, despite gradual increases in their prices. A new analysis from Frost & Sullivan states that "the ability to engineer and customize polymers according to varied application needs will create lucrative opportunities." How lucrative? The consulting business's new report, Western European Market for Polymers in Medical Devices, states that after the market earned revenues of EUR 602 million ($743 million) in 2011, it is projected nearly double in seven years' time to EUR 1.075 billion (1.328 billion) in 2018. This growth will be boosted by the increasing replacement of other materials in medical devices by polymers, with plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), silicone, thermoplastic elastomers and engineering and high performance polymers all winning new applications. Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Tridisha Goswami sees growth impacted by three factors: A rapidly greying population Increasingly sophisticated equipment Portable, impact-resistant medical devices suitable for homecare settings"Competition is intense and market participants have to diversify their product lines and be a one-stop-solution for all healthcare material needs," Goswami stated in a release.
"Manufacturers should focus on developing novel, high quality products that meet the particular needs of varied applications." The report found that polymers with higher chemical and impact resistance, superior mechanical and thermal properties have become "the material of choice" for medical applications like medical tubing, wound care, adhesives, and lubricants. Medical device design is also increasingly emphasizing miniaturization, homecare, and aesthetics. Enter polymers, which Frost & Sullivan says have exceptional durability, flexibility, and strength, as well as the ability to be colored while permitting lightweight, portable, smaller-sized devices. The report also said that in comparison to other verticals, such as automotive and construction, polymers in healthcare represents a low-volume market, but one that provides opportunities for higher margins and, moreover, is less tied to GDP growth.
Author imagines a world without plastic A plastic-eating bacteria was unleashed on the world, which has devastated everything from food packaging to medical equipment to debit cards. Rest assured, we are not suffering from a worldwide disaster. That hypothetical scenario is the inspiration behind the novel, "The Rest is Silence". Back in early June, I wrote a blog article about a bacteria strain that could potentially degrade polyethylene. A study claimed polyethylene, which is considered to be inert, can biodegrade if the right microbial strain is isolated. After the article was published online, I received an e-mail from novelist Scott Fotheringham. He talked about how during his research for his novel, he came across preliminary studies looking into biodegradation. Naturally, I was curious about a novel exploring the concept of degradation of plastics and Mr. Fotheringham gladly agreed to send me a copy of his novel. Fotheringham, a specialist who holds a PhD in molecular biology and genetics from Cornell University, explores a slow apocalypse due to a loss of plastics in the world. The reader learns about the state of the world through the observations of a man who had
withdrawn himself and is living in the backwoods of Nova Scotia, Canada. The man occupies his time with planting his own food, building a cabin, and developing friendships and relationships with the select few around him. But outside the forest, a world disaster is brewing and the future is uncertain. I found "The Rest is Silence" to be an extremely compelling and quick, page-turner. If you want a book that both details science and has character development, this one is for you. When I asked Fotheringham about his decision to write this novel, he said he thought the idea of a molecular biologist who creates bacteria to eat plastic would make a great thriller. "I wanted to perform the gedanken experiment of imagining what the world would be like if plastic disappeared quickly," he said. "It was fun to imagine (though would not be fun to live through) the consequences. I also wanted to explore my grief about the state of the natural world and how we've turned so much beauty into a landfill site. We've fouled our nest and I find it distressing." Fotheringham said quite a bit of research went into the novel. He had to learn about plastic; how it's manufactured, what the different types are, what their chemical structure is, which he said his background in molecular genetics helped there. In his novel, the world was in chaos once the plastic-eating bacteria were released. I ask Fotheringham if that situation happened in our reality what kind of implications would we experience. He said he imagined two scenarios: "One involves a rapid loss of plastic that is unstoppable. In that case, I don't think our future would look good. Plastic, in many ways, allows us to sustain our population of 7 billion. It is necessary for worldwide transportation of food and materials; for medical equipment; for computers.
It is the last item that would ruin us. Everything we do now is dependent on computers, from the work we do writing for magazines and blogs, to nucleargenerating stations, to driving our cars.The second scenario involves a gradual, well-planned process. We could collect waste plastic and digest it in contained plants, producing carbon dioxide and water. My guess, given mankind's history of meddling with nature, is that the first scenario is much more likely."On his blog, Fotheringham gave away five books to those who could come up with the best way to resolve the excess of plastic debris in the world. He asked his readers to use their imaginations and invent or innovate some social, technical, or biological solution.Fotheringham said recycling was a common answer and others thought that high-heat incineration could provide energy while reducing pollution. There are many themes discussed in his book and Fotheringham said he wrote the story to explore feelings of grief, not just about plastic pollution but about other personal aspects of life, such as grief about the loss of a parent, the loss of love, the loss of home. "I hope the book is not a harangue about what we're doing wrong and I hope there aren't overt lessons in it. If there are, then I've failed as a novelist. I wanted to tell a story. Any practical discussion can come after the book has been read. I contacted you because I do want to have these conversations. I see talking about this problem as a good start to doing something about it," he said. I highly recommend "The Rest in Silence" and if you do end up reading it, let us know. Leave a comment on the bottom of this article or send me a quick e-mail. The book is available at online bookstores and at Goose Lane Editions. *************************
Plastic guitars – a potted history Judging by our web stats, the story I posted yesterday about the prototype Perspex Fender guitar stirred the inner musician in a good few of you. In fact, page views show that you lot are currently more interested in music than you are in the latest BPA scare. How very sensible… So, given that many of you are closet strummers, I thought I throw together a few words on the history of the plastic guitar. It all started back in the 1950s when a luthier called Mario Maccaferri used his knowledge of guitar design to create a cheap but reliable plastic instrument. Introduced in 1953, production lasted right through until 1969. The original owner’s manual contained the following helpful words: “DO NOT drop it on a hard surface…it will break.” The Dan Armstrong – as favoured by Keith And just as the old fashioned-looking Richards
Maccaferri guitar went out of production Ampeg introduced a clear space-aged acrylic-bodied guitar and bass design by Dan Armstrong.
Although short-lived – the two models were only available from 1969 to 1972 – the instruments got celebrity back from the Rolling Stones. Both Keith Richards and Bill Wyman sported the see-through guitars. Fender had produced a one-off Stratocaster entirely in clear plastic back in 1957 for display at a trade show. It was never intended as a production model despite it looking rather handsome, an accolade that probably can’t be applied to the see-through, no-name Fender from 1972 currently up for sale on eBay. Despite being viewed as commercial failures by the big brands, plastic guitars continued to be produced in the Far East, including clear copies of Fender Stratocasters and the defunked Dan Armstrong – kitsch instruments that embodied a certain Punk/DIY ethic. But as so often happens, tastes change and in recent years the plastic guitar has made a comeback. Ampeg has reintroduced the Dan Armstrong Plexiglas to widespread acclaim – even Keith has a new one I recently tried one out but the weight put me off – it weighed like a boat anchor… but it did look unfeasibly cool! *************************
Toray targets PLA for agricultural films TOKYO -- Japanâ€™s Toray Industries Inc. has developed what it says is the first biodegradable polylactic acid film resin made without costly solvents, and it plans to set up commercial production in 2014 initially targeting agricultural markets. The company, headquartered in Tokyo, said that previous biodegradable PLA films needed an expensive solvent to manufacture, but the company has developed a new particle dispersion technology to create breathable microporous PLA film that can be used in agriculture and healthcare applications such as sanitary napkin and disposable diapers. A company spokesman said details of the commercial production, including amounts invested, have not been decided. The company said most agricultural film is now polyethylene, but replacing it with a biodegradable polymer like PLA will reduce environmental problems and waste from the plastic film, which is used to cover fields and help protect and insulate some crops, among other uses.