Hurricane Harvey has earned itself the tag of being the second-costliest hurricane in the US since 1980, after the impact on the economy was estimated at between $60-100 billion. IHS Markit calculated the estimate after assessing national and regional economies, transportation infrastructure, the automotive industry and the crude oil, refining and chemical sectors in the month after the natural disaster.

Market specialist PCI Wood Mackenzie added to the debate by outlining how many facilities did not return to normal operating rates until late last month. At its peak the hurricane slashed ethane demand by 650,000 barrels a day while spot ethylene prices surged by more than 10 per cent.

Just before Plastics in Packaging went to press, Amcor Flexibles Americas (AFA) hiked prices for its products in North and South America by 5-10 per cent as a result of spikes in raw material costs, caused by natural disasters and subsequent supply chain disruptions.

Still in the US, a complex for the production of PTA and PET in Corpus Christi, Texas, remains shrouded in doubt after the petrochemical firm behind it, M&G Chemicals, admitted to financial difficulties that have made it necessary to reduce operating costs and plant construction activity.

While the project ground to a halt, it seems, in Corpus Christi, Pennsylvania has become the location of Greek flexible packaging converter A. Hatzopoulos’ first office outside of Europe. The company supplies customers in more than 25 countries and exports contributed nearly three quarters of its sales in 2016.

Machine builder Comexi has expanded its presence in Africa, meanwhile, after Zimbabwean converter Natpak installed a Comexi F2MB flexographic press for the production of medium runs in the flexible sector for retail and wholesale channels.

Back in the chemical sector, White Tale Holdings has increased its stake in Clariant to more than 15 per cent, causing the latter to publically reconfirm its commitment to a planned $20bn merger with Huntsman. White Tale Holdings is known to oppose the merger, but the majority of Clariant’s shareholders support the deal.

In other acquisition news, Dutch converter Weener Plastics has purchased the shares and operations of Brazil’s Orange Products Plasticos Ltda (OPB), and Thailand’s Indorama Ventures has agreed to buy film operations owned by DuPont Teijin Films (DTF), a joint venture between DuPont and Teijin.

The plastics industry stepped up its assault on marine litter this month with Procter & Gamble (P&G) launching Fairy Ocean in tandem with TerraCycle, which uses 10 per cent ocean/beach-sourced PET. Upstream, Austrian chemicals major Borealis launched an initiative to accelerate waste management improvements in South East Asia.

The company has launched STOP, a multi-million euro project that aims to make a scalable contribution to marine plastics litter prevention. The company will partner with city governments to provide expertise and support waste management policies to increase plastics recycling.

In other recycling news, Dutch firm Rodepa has commissioned an additional washing line for the treatment of post-consumer plastics waste, as it ramps up production. The line was supplied by Herbold Meckesheim.

In a strongly-worded response to the editor of The New York Times, the chief executive of the Plastics Industry Association (PIA), Bill Carteaux, has warned that the idea of taking environmental cues from Kenya is “frightening”. He made the comment after the newspaper published an article urging the US to follow Kenya’s lead on plastics bag policy, which involves the recent criminalisation of plastics bags. Carteaux cited Kenya’s ranking near the bottom for environmental performance whilst saying that the US needs to build on initiatives already working across the country, to promote the recycling and reuse of plastics.

Meanwhile, three international plastics recycling organisations are in partnership to coordinate efforts on testing protocols. The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) and the European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP) have formed the Global Plastics Outreach Alliance with a goal of harmonising relative design guides and testing protocols and to serve as an industry voice to create a global protocol.

And finally…

The former boss of UK-based Asda has called on supermarkets to stop using plastics packaging after claiming that billions of dollars-worth of investment in recycling has failed to resolve “the world’s plastics proliferation crisis”.

Andy Clarke, who stepped down from his role at Asda last year on the back of sliding profits, is urging companies to reject plastics entirely in favour of what he believes are more sustainable alternatives, like paper, steel, glass and aluminium. He did not provide any sustainability credentials to support these claims.

Steven Pacitti