A technology promising ‘extraordinary 3D imagery’ was launched at the end of last month by polymer producer PolyOne in collaboration with Merck KGaA.

In what the companies promise to be the first of a series of collaborative efforts involving pearlescent pigments, IM3D technology is said to create surfaces that appear to have depth and structure, even though they are perfectly flat. The 3D impression is created in a single step during the injection moulding process.

Another company making an impression is Constantia Flexibles Group, which strengthened its position in Europe’s pharmaceutical packaging industry through the acquisition of the flexible packaging business owned by Italy’s Lamp San Prospero. Lamp’s core products are printed aluminium blister foil and cold-form slitting for major pharmaceutical companies.

It has been a quiet month for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) – although we had the eventual completion of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s $103 billion purchase of SABMiller to create the world’s largest brewer – with the only notable deals involving rigid container maker BWAY Corporation, which acquired KLW Plastics, and Bonapack of Switzerland, which bought the PET bottle blow moulding business owned by Säntis Packaging.

Although M&A activity was limited, construction work and capacity additions were in full flow as the industry approaches the end of the year. Belgian in-mould labelling manufacturer Verstrate IML is preparing to build an €18 million ($20m) plant in Tennessee, USA, its first such facility in North America, while Brazilian petrochemical firm Braskem went the opposite way by building a €5m ($4m) European technology centre in Germany, where it will develop products specifically for the European market.

Continuing its expansion beyond Europe, rigid packaging converter Serioplast opened a plant in Turkey to supply Unilever’s factory in Konya with rigid containers. It will operate under the name Serioplast Ambalaj.

Also in Eastern Europe, Mondi upgraded its Solec, Poland, plant with machinery that enables the company to produce spouted flexible pouches for the European market, at a time when demand for flexible packaging is markedly increasing across the region. The global market for spouted pouches is set to reach 38 million units by 2020.

In North America, Sonoco has invested in high-performance film core production equipment at its facility in South Carolina to provide improved film quality for its customers, and Huhtamaki North America is planning to open a manufacturing and distribution centre in Arizona to serve west coast foodservice packaging and retail tableware markets.

Meanwhile, flexible packaging equipment supplier PAC Machinery has broken ground on a Clamco (shrink wrapping) product development and manufacturing facility expansion at Berea in Ohio.

Up the value chain, Borealis is studying the feasibility of building a world-scale propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant at its existing site at Kallo in Belgium. A final decision on the plant, which will use Honeywell UOP’s Oleflex technology for on-purpose propylene production, will be made in the third quarter of 2018.

Process progress has been made at Italian biochemical company Novamont, which has opened what it claims is the world’s first plant for the production of butanediol (BDO) directly from sugars through the use of bacteria on an industrial scale. Until now BDO has only been sourced industrially using fossil sources. Compostable plastics for food packaging and coffee pods are two of the applications sourced from BDO.

Helmut Maurer from the European Commission has called for an effective landfill ban on plastics after predicting a doubling in recycling targets. Speaking at a recent recycling conference in the UK, he said it is “time to take action and to deliver on a practical level”.

While delegates agreed that more needs to be done in communicating plastics recycling to consumers, a separate policy paper was unveiled by the Environmental Services Association (ESA) that highlighted potential savings to UK local authorities of £300m ($368m) a year in litter clean-up costs if product manufacturers were made to help fund collections. It called for a focus on the role of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

Users of recycled PET (rPET) in hot-fill packaging can rest easy though after a study by Plastic Technologies Inc (PTI) found no significant adverse impact on bottles incorporating rPET until the blend exceeds 50 per cent. Even at 100 per cent rPET resin use, the performance of the bottle remained acceptable, even if it suffered aesthetically.