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US polyethylene scrap exports down 26% in August

HOUSTON, October 7, 2019 (PCW) – US exports of polyethylene scrap totaled 19,545 metric tons in August, or about 1,028 truckloads, down 26% from August 2018, the latest US Commerce Department data show.

Exports were down sharply to India, the top export destination in August 2018. Exports surged to Thailand at 3,203 mt in August 2019, up from 176 mt a year earlier. Exports to Turkey were 2,078 mt in August 2019, up from 781 mt in August 2018 (see table).

The value of all PE scrap exports in August 2019 was $7.8 million and $11.5 million in August 2018. 

pcw 1007

- Xavier A. Cronin, Xavier@petrochemwire.com

Copyright, Oil Price Information Service

PepsiCo water machine maker SodaStream joins Climate Strike

HOUSTON, September 20, 2019 (PCW) – SodaStream, a producer of sparkling water appliance-like machines, is closed on Friday in support of the Global Climate Strike.

This includes the company’s global e-commerce and head-office operations in San Francisco.

PepsiCo acquired SodaStream in summer 2018 for $3.2 billion. It is part of the company’s “Beyond the Bottle” initiative, which also includes flavored “Drinkfinity” pods put into reusable bottles filled with ice water.

PepsiCo acquired SodaStream as part of its “…goal to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions across its value chain by 20 percent by 2030 and commends SodaStream’s actions to support the Global Climate Strike,” PepsiCo spokeswoman Carrie Ratner said.

The Global Climate Strike web site states: “This September, millions of us will walk out of our workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the streets and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels.”

Demonstrations led by schoolchildren are occurring in hundreds of cities around the world, the BBC reported on Friday. 

- Xavier A. Cronin, Xavier@petrochemwire.com

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US polyethylene scrap exports fell 21% In July; India, Turkey top destinations

HOUSTON, September 17, 2019 (PCW) – US exports of polyethylene scrap totaled 23,253 metric tons or 1,224 truckloads in July, down 21% from July 2018, the latest US Commerce Department data show. A standard tractor-trailer truck used for transporting commodities typically carries about 19 mt.

The fall in polyethylene scrap exports was due primarily to lower shipments to Asian countries. At the same time, some scrap exported this past July found its way to countries to which there were no exports in July 2018, including Angola, Brazil, Burma, Djibouti, France, Ghana, Greece, and South Africa, but in small quantities. (See table).

PE scrap is the largest by volume of the five plastic scrap categories tracked by the US government for export. US plastic scrap originally targeted for export but not being exported typically ends up buried in landfills, sold or given away for recycling, or discarded. 


- Xavier A. Cronin, Xavier@petrochemwire.com

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Congressman’s proposed act would ban sale of plastic bottles in National Park System

HOUSTON, September 12, 2019 (PCW) – The sale of single-use plastic bottles would be banned at US National Park System locations, including National Parks, under proposed legislation by Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois.

“Too often, plastic water bottles end up polluting national parks and clogging our waterways,” Quigley said in a press release on September 6, following a trip he made to Yellowstone National Park.  “Reinstating President Obama’s common sense, flexible ban on single-use plastic water bottles will help ensure that our natural wonders are around for generations to come.”

The Reducing Waste in National Parks Act, House-Resolution 4236, would restore “Obama-era guidance banning the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in national park facilities, where possible,” the release states. 

The Act has been referred to the US House Committee on Natural Resources as the first stage of the legislative process. “The Congressman is working to add as many co-sponsors to the legislation as possible in the hopes of moving it forward,” Quigley’s spokeswoman Victoria Oms told PCW.

‘Where possible’ refers to discretion National Park System directors have to adopt such a ban, a source close to the situation explained. The National Park System is comprised of 419 areas, including national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House, according to its website.

A spokesman with the White House Press Office said that a request for comment on Quigley’s remarks on September 11 had been sent to the Executive Office of the President; no response had been received as of the early afternoon of September 12.

The National Park Service’s Jeremy Barnum, acting assistant director of communications, said in an email, “As a general policy, the National Park Service does not comment on proposed legislation for which we have not provided congressional testimony,”

- Xavier A. Cronin, Xavier@petrochemwire.com

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US awash in PET resin, imports and domestic; pushing rPET prices down

HOUSTON, September 5, 2019 (PCW) -- US PET resin imports in 1H totaled 429,255 metric tons, or 8.6 million truckloads, the latest US Commerce Department data show.

This is down 11% from 1H 2018 imports, but combined with robust US PET production, supply is ample.  PET prices at the start of September are in the low 50s cpp, down 21.5% from the start of 2019.

The PET market is “severely oversupplied, with a never ending downwards price trend,” said a US-based PET importer/distributor.

Both rPET and prime PET are used to produce single-use bottles and containers, single-use packaging, carpeting and other flooring industry products.

Lower PET prices have caused some end users to bypass their normal purchasing of recycled PET, or rPET, and have driven down these prices.

The bloated PET market underscores the high cost of recycling the most common consumer plastic, relative to fresh PET pellet made from burning hydrocarbons. The costliest rPET is clear repro, used for food-grade use, with prices currently in the low 60s cpp, a dime cheaper than prime resin, and down 15% from the start of 2019.

Prices for other rPET commodities, like recycled flake from post-consumer rubbish, have also fallen. A US rPET flake importer said earlier this week that he’s been unable to get his asking price of 47 cpp for packaging-grade rPET flake, with 10% contaminates, as customers opt for prime or offgrade PET, which sells as low as the mid-40s cpp. “I’m not doing any orders right now,” he said. “There’s just too much PET around.”  


- Xavier A. Cronin, Xavier@petrochemwire.com

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US plastic trash exports drop 47% in January-June, surge to Senegal

HOUSTON, August 20, 2019 (PCW) – US exports of plastic scrap totaled 352,494 metric tons (about 17,624 truckloads) in Jan-Jun 2019, down 47% from Jan-Jun 2018, the latest US Commerce Department data show (see tables). Plastic scrap imports fell 10% in the same periods.

Exports to China, once the top destination of US plastic rubbish exports, totaled 4,887 mt in 1H 2019, or about 244 truckloads, down 83% from exports in 1H 2018.

Plastic rubbish sold as commodities is typically recycled into ‘regrind’ flake, ‘repro’ pellet, or post-consumer resin (PCR) pellet. Flakes and pellets are often blended with prime plastic resin pellets or used independently to manufacture new single-use packaging, containers and bags, single-use bottles, jugs, cups and utensils, auto parts, auto battery holders, plastic furniture, medical devices, and a host of other products.

The five plastic scrap categories tracked by the US government for imports and exports are PE, PET, PVC, PS and ‘other,’ which includes scrap like polypropylene curbside bales and comingled plastic trash.

The value of the scrap exports in 1H 2019 was $149.8 million, down from $270.6 million a year earlier.

In the polystyrene export category, the West African country of Senegal was the top destination in 1H 2019 at 5,761 mt, up from zero in 1H 2018.

The greatest volume of exports in 1H 2019 by category was polyethylene scrap, at 151,776 mt, down 37% from 1H 2018. The top destination of PE scrap exports in 1H 2019 was India at 56,013 mt.

9,956 truckloads of plastic trash imported in 1H 2019

US plastic scrap imports, meanwhile, in 1H 2019 totaled 199,130 mt—about 9,956 truckloads--down 10.4% from 1H 2018.

The top import category by volume in 1H 2019 was PET at 69,653 mt, down 4.3%. Mexico was the top source of 1H 2019 PET scrap imports at 18,578 mt, or 26.7% of the total.

scrap exports

– Xavier A Cronin,  xavier@petrochemwire.com

Copyright, Oil Price Information Service

US polyethylene scrap exports down sharply in April; Top export destination is now India

Houston, June 21, 2019 (PCW) – US exports of PE scrap totaled 27,325 metric tons in April, down by 39.4% from April 2018, the latest US Commerce Department data show. 

Plastic pollution in oceans and on coastlines has been a major factor lowering demand for plastic scrap as a commodity exported to many Asian countries. At the same time, US exports of PE scrap – the largest of five plastic scrap export and import categories tracked by the US government – did increase to several countries in April, including Turkey, at 2,703 mt compared to 294 mt in April 2018. 

- Xavier A Cronin, Xavier@petrochemwire.com

Copyright, Oil Price Information Service

A Shot at Redemption: Long Island’s PQ Recycling takes all redemption PET bottles, all the time; Regional ‘Reclaimer’ in business since 2012

East Farmingdale, New York – June 20, 2019-- George Smilow walks in the PET recycling plant toward the loading dock where there’s a tractor-tailor half-filled with--what else?—water and soda bottles scrunched in bales. Another truck, another 40,000 pounds of PET from redemption centers in New York State, with an occasional load from nearby Connecticut and other New England states.

George Smilow, COO of Polyquest Recycling, stands by stack of PET bales from redemption centers at PQ’s plant on Long Island.

About 30 trucks a week chug out to Polyquest Recycling’s 70,000-square-foot plant in an industrial sector of East Farmingdale on Long Island, an hour by bus and subway to Midtown Manhattan.

Smilow is the chief operation officer at PQ Recycling. He’d been a plant operator and production manager in the pharmaceutical, sugar refining, and soft drink industries when an opportunity arose. It was 2012, and he and his partners bought a PET recycling plant which had been idle for a few months. It was built in 1992 in response to New York State’s bottle bill, enacted in the early 1980s, and began business at the time as Pure Tech/APR Plastics Products.

The plant was restarted, renamed and it’s been a good run for PQ Recycling since, Smilow says. The plant has run 24-7 uninterrupted and plans are underway for new equipment and machinery (details were not disclosed.)


No Curbside, please

PQ Recycling is one of about 25 PET “reclaimer” plants in the US. A new one is being built in the Reading, Pennsylvania area by CarbonLITE, which has existing reclaimer plants in Riverside, CA, and Dallas, TX.

PQ Recycling wants redemption – all redemption, all the time. These are PET bottles that cost a dime (in New York state), but can be redeemed for a dime after stuffing them into the crunching get-your-money-back machines at supermarkets, which spit out a credit receipt.

PQ Recycling does not accept ‘curbside PET bales’. These comprise the highest volume of PET bottles that are recycled. There are currently only 10 states with bottle bills which require a deposit for PET bottles; redemption centers are limited to these states.

Curbside bales are  comprised of PET bottles and containers collected from residences and businesses, typically in weekly collections by municipalities and MRFs (materials recovery facilities, middle-man trash haulers and sorters.) Reclaimers source curbside bales from several hundred locations in the US, Canada and Mexico. Custom Polymers in Athens, AL, for instance, draws on about 300 sources for its curbside bales. Some reclaimers take in a mix of redemption and curbside. California, for example, has six reclaimer plants. A major source of their curbside and redemption bales is the Plastic Recycling Corp of California, which buys bales in a twice-monthly bid offering auction.

PET peeves

A forklift driver spears a bale from the tractor-trailer at the PQ Recycling loading dock and backs out with warning-horn beeping. It delivers it to a sorting line conveyor belt which rises like a roller coaster approaching its pre-plunge peak. On the side, two of the PQ Recycling’s 40 workers separate out cans, plastic wrapping and anything else that may have made its way into the bales.

PET bottles on conveyer belt at PQ Recycling plant; soon they will converted to flake for reuse to make new bottles, packaging, and other PET products like strapping tape.

The inside of the plant is crowded with manual sorters, optical sorters, grinders, flotation tanks, boilers, sludge bins, control rooms. Inspectors in white coats test fresh flake batches in lab rooms. There are dozens and dozens of white sacks, five feet high, weighing about 1,500 pounds, bursting at the seams with clear rPET flake (US Food & Drug Administration certified for food-grade use). They sit bloated on the floor, ready for shipment to PET bottle makers—typically to be pelletized before production of PET preforms for bottle production. Other flake customers include plants manufacturing PET sheet for packaging and for use in the fiber and PET strapping sectors.

PQ Recycling also does a niche business in bottle-cap regrind, typically comprised of about 55% PP/45% PET or HDPE. It is a flake of many colors – just look at your next bottle cap of soda pop or bottled water-- – Coke red, Pepsi blue, Sprite, green, Fanta, orange-- and a mix of “oddball colors,” as Smilow calls them. PQ’s bottle-cap regrind is sold mostly to compounders in the US and Canada.

PET Peeve/Better Recycle Than Not

With thousands and thousands of PET bales coming in each month, the most important spec is that they produce a net 80% PET yield; this compares with curbside PET bales which average, depending on state and location, a 60-70% yield. This is mainly due to more moisture, dirt and non-PET material in curbside bales than their redemption brethren.

Smilow’s PET peeve? “There’s not much trash in the bales, but a lot of cans must be separated out,” says Smilow. “There are labels [on bottles] that are non-floating and difficult-to-remove, and there are non-PET compounds incorporated in [the PET] resin” itself, which are difficult to recycle.

There’s always redemption in recycling, Smilow believes: “Recycling could be worse,” the father of five and Long Island resident says with sardonic humor as he strides by a PET sludge basin. “Actually, there’s renewed interest in recycling in the context of the global environment and all that. Recycling is better than not recycling.”

- Xavier A Cronin, Xavier@petrochemwire.com

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Construction begins on $260 million Indiana plastic rubbish conversion plant

HOUSTON, May 22, 2019 (PCW) – A ground breaking was held today for a plant that will convert plastic waste, such as toys, film, Styrofoam and packaging, into diesel, blendstocks and wax, said Jamie Nolan, spokeswoman for the company building the plant, Brightmark Energy.

Startup is expected in mid-to-late 2021.

The plant is being built in Ashley in northeastern Indiana near the Ohio state line. It is expected to convert 100,000 tons/year of post-consumer and post-industrial plastic rubbish from Indiana and the Chicago area into 18 million gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel and naphtha blendstocks, and about 6 million gallons of commercial-grade wax.

BP has contracted to purchase the diesel and blendstocks for regional distribution; AM Wax, based in La Mirada, CA, has contracted for the wax, Nolan said.

The $260 million plant financing includes $185 million in Indiana green bonds, according to Brightmark.

- Xavier A Cronin, Xavier@petrochemwire.com

Copyright, Oil Price Information Service

PET imports, worth $92.7 mil, down 14% in March; Malaysia top export spot

HOUSTON, May 14, 2019 (PCW) – US PET resin imports in March totaled 75,447 metric tons, down by 14% from March 2018, the latest US Commerce Department data show. The imports’ value was $92.7 million in March 2019 and $112.2 million a year earlier.

Mexico was the top source of imports in March at 16,674 mt, although this was down by 51% from March 2018. Imports were sharply higher from Vietnam at 7,299 mt in March 2019 compared to 113 mt a year earlier. Taiwan chemical giant Far Eastern operates a 400,000 mt/year PET plant in Vietnam.

Imports in March 2019 from Egypt were 3,278 mt and from South Africa they totaled 7,603 mt, compared to zero from each country a year earlier.

US PET exports, meanwhile, totaled 5,329 mt in March, down 6% from a year earlier. Malaysia was the top export destination in March 2019 at 1,538 mt compared to zero in March 2018. 



- Xavier A Cronin, Xavier@petrochemwire.com

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PET recycling plant now planned for Greater Reading, PA

HOUSTON, May 14, 2019 (PCW) – A new PET recycling plant with capacity of about 2 billion bottles/year will be built in Greater Reading, PA, with a startup expected in 1Q 2020, the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance announced on Monday.

The plant will be built in Muhlenberg Township, Berks County, by US PET recycler CarbonLITE Industries at a cost of about $80 million. It will measure 270,000 square feet and employ about 100 people.

It was originally planned for Lehigh Valley, PA.

CarbonLITE’s recycling plants are in Riverside, CA, and Dallas, TX. 

- Xavier A Cronin, Xavier@petrochemwire.com

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Maine bans single-use PS, including ‘party cups’; industry groups object

HOUSTON, May 8, 2019 (PCW) – The state of Maine has banned single-use polystyrene food containers, like takeout clamshells, “red party cups” and egg cartons, effective January 2021, according to the state’s web site.

The ban’s original date was Jan 1, 2020, but it was amended to give the food service industry more time to adjust, the bill’s sponsor, Stanley Paige Zeigler Jr, told PCW on Wednesday.

In a press release on Apr 30 announcing the ban,” Governor Janet Mills said, “Polystyrene cannot be recycled like a lot of other products. So while that cup of coffee may be finished, the Styrofoam cup it was in is not.”

Lynn Dyer, executive director of the Foam Recycling Coalition (FRC), said her group opposes the decision.

“Don’t tell me you can’t recycle foam,” she said on Wednesday, referencing a map which shows dozens of PS recycling locations in the US and Canada.

The FRC was formed in 2014 and is part of the Foodservice Packaging Institute.

Maine’s decision to ban foam foodservice packaging is a lose-lose-lose situation,” Dyer said. “Restaurants and other foodservice establishments lose out because of limited packaging options, growing end markets for recycled foam lose out because their supply is cut off and residents lose out because the state’s litter and marine debris challenges will not have been solved.

Fourteen towns and cities in Maine have already banned single-use PS, according to the state’s release. Several large US cities have also banned this material, including San Francisco and New York.

The American Chemistry Council released a statement after the ban was announced. It reads in part, “Polystyrene foam packaging is a safe, recyclable, durable, and cost-effective product for use in foodservice. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration for decades has determined that polystyrene is safe for use in contact with food. A ban on polystyrene foodservice packaging could lead to increased solid waste, energy use, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions…It is our sincere hope that Governor Mills and the Maine Legislature will reconsider this legislation next year after they see how it will negatively impact the environment and local businesses and consumers.”

Gov. Mills’ spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday afternoon.  

- Xavier A Cronin, Xavier@petrochemwire.com

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