Plastics: From the Recycle Bin to the Battlefield

As our CEO, Chris Allen is a former Marine, we found this story especially interesting. If the Pentagon gives the go-ahead, drinking bottled water could translate into helping defend the country. According to the Marine Corps Times, a Senate committee is asking the Pentagon to determine what recycled fabrics could fit into the military dress code as part of a government-wide eco-friendly initiative.

Ohio based Cintas says they can, in essence, replicate the same polyester found in current garb, including battle dress uniforms, made of a polyester blend. The company says the bottles are shredded into flakes and transformed into filament, before it is woven into fabric and turned into polyester.

 Cintas style consultant Sarah Levi hopes she'll soon have a new customer -- the U.S. military. "According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it takes 66 percent less energy to make recycled polyester compared to traditionally manufactured polyester," said Levi.



The Dawn of a Faux-Bronze Age? 

From the Wall Street Journal...Sculptors are the lastest "molders" to utilize resin!

We don't think of artists as people who cut corners. As poor as he was, Vincent van Gogh didn't use 10% less paint on his canvases to save money, and Michelangelo didn't substitute quartz for marble. But the rising price of copper, the main component of bronze, has forced more and more sculptors to economize.

"It's ridiculous how expensive bronze has become," Manhattan sculptor Bryan Hunt said. Piero Mussi, owner of Artworks Foundry in Berkeley, Calif., stated that the per-pound price of bronze has risen in the past 10 years to $5 from $1.20. And Marc Fields, owner of New York's The Compleat Sculptor supply house, claimed his prices have more than tripled since 2008, reaching $7 a pound. (He also noted that shipping costs to New York City are higher than elsewhere.)

As a result, Mr. Hunt now casts some of his sculptures in a water-based plaster called Aqua-Resin, allowing him "to save way more than 50%. It's quicker to produce and less expensive for me, and I think the quality of the material is high."

He is not alone. Kitty Cantrell, a wildlife sculptor in Ramona, Calif., used to work primarily in bronze, but foundries now cast her work in polyester resin, which saves her more than half what she used to pay. "I'll work in bronze if someone is willing to pay 50% up front for casting," she said.


SMART MONEY: Top Hedge Funds Betting on Plastics

From Reuters...A wave of top fund managers including James Dinan and David Einhorn snapped up shares of LyondellBasell Industries.

The popularity of plastics and raw materials signal that hedge funds are diversifying commodity bets beyond gold, the darling of 2010, returning 30 percent, as inflationary pressures seep into food and energy.

Top hedge funds' bets on LyondellBasell and other raw materials producers like Penn West Petroleum and Repsol YPF SA suggest investors are seeking out commodity-related plays as the global economy wiggles out of a bruising recession.

LyondellBasell -- the third-largest chemical maker in the United States -- was certainly hurt by the downturn, declaring bankruptcy in early 2009.

But after LyondellBasell emerged back onto the public markets in October, Dinan's York Capital Management and Einhorn's Greenlight Capital, along with Andreas Halvorsen's Viking Global Investors and Thomas Steyer's Farallon Capital Management disclosed their stakes in LyondellBasell.


Featured Vendor: Teijin Kasei America


Teijjn Kasei America is the North American operations of Teijin Chemicals Ltd. and a member company of the Teijin Group of Companies.

Teijin Chemicals Ltd. is one of the world's largest manufacturers of Polycarbonate resin (Panlite®), PC alloys including PC/ABS (Multilon®) and other related products.

The Teijin Group of companies, headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, is comprised of 173 worldwide companies with over 20,000 employees. Annual sales for the group are close to $8 billion. The company's business groups include the plastics, textile fibers, industrial fibers, medical and pharmaceuticals, fiber products marketing, IT and new business development groups.

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What's Really Going On With Plastic Prices?

The article below from IDES provides a clear picture of the correlation between the global oil market and plastics prices:


Resin sellers and buyers have been on a wild ride over the past couple years.  Hoards of plastic price increases have pervaded the plastics industry making the job of producing plastic parts all the more challenging.  Will the situation improve over time?  Can molders expect some degree of predictability with regard to the price they pay for resin?  There is compelling evidence suggesting that the situation may, in fact, worsen over time leading to a much different buyer/seller landscape in the industry.

Any meaningful discussion relating to the price of resin really must start with a look at what is happening in the oil industry.  Although you’ll hear from some that plastic prices have become ‘decoupled’ from crude, at the end of the day there simply must always be a correlation.  The reality is that the oil market is an exceedingly complex organism and to attempt to predict resin prices based on the price of crude would not be meaningful.  This is principally because oil is selling at a price that is based upon market factors instead of a reflection of production costs.  As the price of crude continues to increase, the price of plastics that are produced from oil feedstocks must increase as well.  The same holds true for those resins that utilize feedstocks from natural gas.  Simply put, if the price of flour goes up, the baker has to raise the price of the cake if he wants to keep his margin. 

If one takes a very high-level look at the global oil situation, some conclusions are immediately apparent.  From the day that the Drake well was drilled in quiet Pennsylvania farm country in 1859, the world has been depleting its finite endowment of oil.  There is no more being produced, period.  As with any commodity that is in demand and becomes scarce, it is inevitable that its worth will increase.

Read the rest of this informative article >