A ‘symbolic attack on a category of poorly-defined products’ is what the European Plastics Converters (EuPC) has called a proposal by the European Commission (EC) for a directive to introduce a number of reductions and restrictions on single-use plastics products.

The EC’s targets include straws and cutlery (including plastics spoons), cups and food containers, which the EuPC says will lead to confusion for the consumer. The EuPC questions the reliability of the directive as it is based on a study authored by a single consultancy that has assisted anti-plastics lobbies.

The German Association for Plastics Packaging and Films, IK, also criticised the proposals saying they will not raise fundamental awareness among consumers. IK claims that the term ‘single-use’ is misleading because it has a different meaning when translated into German, with the presumption that disposable products are throwaway products and therefore should be avoided.

UK-based food wholesaler Brakes, meanwhile, decided to reduce its use of single-use and plastics that it deems hard to recycle, with the launch of its 2 Zero 20 campaign. The company specifically mentioned black food containers and straws.

Still in the UK, a newly-formed company is to build and operate a country-wide network of plastics recycling plants using what it calls ‘breakthrough technology’. ReNew ELP is bringing a hydrothermal upgrading technology that will chemically recycle end-of-life plastics into valuable oils and chemicals. The first commercial scale Cat-HTR plant will be at the Wilton international site in Teeside and will initially recycle 20,000 tonnes of plastics a year.

Also investing in recycling capacity, Austrian PE and PP producer Borealis has started a €15 million (US$17.5m) investment project in German recycler mtm plastics, which it acquired in 2016.

Company finances were generally in good order this past month, with several firms posting positive results. Spanish flexible packaging supplier Comexi revealed sales growth of 180 per cent for the year in the Spanish and Portuguese markets, while Italy’s Sacmi Imola celebrated another year of growth in its Beverage and Closures and Containers business units, as well as in Ceramics. Sacmi’s 2017 sales were €1.43bn ($1.65bn), up from €1.39bn ($1.63bn) in 2016.

Austrian recycling machinery producer Erema was also in good spirits after its consolidated sales reached €155m ($183m), which enabled the company to post growth of more than 10 per cent for the year. Erema pointed to China’s decision to end the import of post-consumer plastics waste and initiatives by the EU Commission.

India-based converter Cosmo Films also revealed improved quarterly sales on the back of near-full capacity utilisation of a BOPP line it commissioned in February 2017. Sales volumes also grew by 25 per cent for the year.

While there was positive news for BOPP, PCI Wood Mackenzie released a report that identified a challenging market for BOPET film on the back of slack global demand and a lack of new investment. The $12.5bn industry, which is dominated by suppliers in China and India, needs capacity increases above and beyond those already planned for 2020, says the report.

The European PET market is also experiencing its worst tightness in years, according to Wood Mackenzie Chemicals, due to a lack of PTA feedstock and reduced imports. Recent force majeure declarations by PTA producers have come at a time when inventories are low and the beginning of the peak season saw imports down from Asia, a region where local demand has been strong.

More positive petrochemical news came from Total, Borealis and Nova Chemicals, with the three firms finalising a joint-venture in the USA. Bayport Polymers is 50 per cent owned by Total and 50 per cent by Novealis Holdings, a company formed in partnership with Borealis and Nova Chemicals. The JV includes a one million tonne ethane steam cracker, 400,000 tonnes of PE and a new 625,000-tonne Borstar PE unit in Total’s Bayport facility in Texas.

The month was short of acquisitions but most notable were Davis-Standard’s purchase of Canada’s Brampton Engineering, a producer of blown film systems, and the Bostik-Nitta JV company acquisition of Japanese industrial adhesives firm t. The deal will also lead to the construction of a new plant in Japan.

 

And finally…

The choice of materials used in e-commerce packaging makes a huge impact on consumers’ perception of product value, said a joint study by converter Pregis and the University of Wisconsin.

Participants were split into groups and asked to unbox the same bamboo bowl but from different packaging; the first a plain brown box with white polystyrene foam, and the second a ‘premium’ white box with inflated hybrid cushioning featuring a square pattern. Naturally the premium option scored much more heavily with consumers.

Whether they were bamboozled to discover that the bamboo bowl itself cost $25 was not revealed.