SPE Library

The SPE Library contains thousands of papers, presentations, journal briefs and recorded webinars from the best minds in the Plastics Industry. Spanning almost two decades, this collection of published research and development work in polymer science and plastics technology is a wealth of knowledge and information for anyone involved in plastics.

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Various topics related to sustainability in plastics, including bio-related, environmental issues, green, recycling, renewal, re-use and sustainability.
An Eco-efficiency Life Cycle Analysis of Food Waste Collection and Disposal
Keith Edwards, February 2009
An eco-efficiency study was conducted to compare the environmental impacts and total costs of three options for diversion of food waste in a food service setting; 1) disposal in a compostable liner made from Ecoflex®, 2) disposal in a non-compostable liner made from polyethylene and 3) disposal without the use of a liner. The interest and growth of food waste collection and diversion away from landfills to alternative disposal sites is well known to today’s waste managers. Organics collection is at an all time high, and pre and post consumer food waste is a vital part of that stream, reported as 31 million tons from the 2006 EPA report on Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). With so much food waste to collect and divert in the US, infrastructure questions abound. Along with each piece of the infrastructure puzzle, more questions arise concerning the benefit of organics diversion versus the cost of collection and the potential harmful environmental impacts of hauling, sorting and composting of organics. The BASF Eco-Efficiency Analysis (EEA) tool is a sophisticated life cycle assessment tool that considers all of the environmental impacts of the production, use and disposal of a product. The EEA also considers all cost associated with the product use, which is not something typically included in a life cycle assessment. Furthermore, the BASF EEA produces a portfolio that normalizes potential solutions into a grid to allow for comparison on a performance basis. Thus, many potential solutions to a problem can be compared, quickly and accurately, to determine the most environmentally and economically attractive choice.
Carbon Footprints -- What are they and what good are they?
Shawn Blenis, February 2009
Carbon—specifically, carbon dioxide (CO2)—has gone mainstream and it hasn’t exactly landed in the limelight. Everyone from consumers to retailers to investors is now intently focused on CO2, or more accurately, the elimination of it. A groundswell of media attention, activist groups, new legislation, changing market dynamics, and a link—real or perceived—to global warming have made carbon public enemy number one. Yet, it remains one of the largest industrial manufacturing by-products emitted into the atmosphere by volume. Reducing levels of CO2 output is a complicated process that takes time—the one thing nearly everyone is short on. But as the adage goes: “knowledge is power.” And in a manufacturing industry that is scrambling to “green-ify” itself that knowledge comes in the form of understanding carbon footprints—and putting the results to work. The best way to generate a carbon footprint is through a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) which systematically assesses the environmental burdens associated with a product, process or activity over the whole of its lifecycle from the extraction and transportation of raw materials through to manufacture, packaging, transport, distribution and finally, disposal. A carbon footprint, which is a component and subset of the more detailed and comprehensive LCA, is a complete analysis of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions created by a particular product or service. Carbon footprinting measures the global warming potential (GWP) of products or services. A carbon footprint should be considered by any manufacturer that is serious about truly understanding and reducing its environmental impact and improving public perception. This presentation will address in detail how carbon footprints can be applied to complex manufacturing systems. Such application presents significant challenges, including: • Parameters and scope – Define the functional unit and decide what exactly can be measured and how. This preparatory phase looks at the product systems and system boundaries as well as what assumptions are being made. It also accounts for what should be excluded. • Data collection and quality – Consideration for how data will be collected and how emissions will be quantified must be considered. Also, how reliable is the data? • Impact Assessment – This includes how the data should be benchmarked and presented so it is meaningful to multiple audiences, internal and external. • Drawing sound and objective conclusions – Finally, carbon footprints are only useful if the data is presented in a meaningful and actionable way. These challenges and appropriate avenues to success will be discussed for the benefit of environmental compliance officers, plant managers and anyone involved in the optimization of production processes. This presentation will highlight in a general sense several actual case studies of carbon footprints conducted for major consumer and industrial companies including: Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Novartis and Pepsi and Coca-Cola, among others. The presentation will cover the results in more detail of several carbon footprint exercises including:  A comparison of traditional HDPE plastic shopping bags to new biopolymer bags;  A study comparing the carbon footprint of bottled water to that of tap water;  A case study that looked at the relative carbon footprints of various types of plastic packaging for flocculants. This presentation will discuss how conducting your carbon footprint will quickly identify the “80/20” rule for global warming potential, and how it can subsequently be applied to reduce your environmental impact in an efficient and economical way. In most carbon footprint scenarios, manufacturers will discover that the greatest component of emissions generated comes from two sources, the primary being electrical consumption and the other being transportation of goods. Finally, the presentation will offer information for participants not only on how to conduct a carbon footprint exercise for a particular product, but how to interpret and present the results. This powerful information will allow manufacturers to understand on a micro and macro level the impact that their operations have on the environment— thus their business—and what, if any, action should be taken.
Message in a Bottle - PET Bottle Recycling
Mike Hendley, February 2009
The United States produces 100 billion bottles per year. If the bottles are not returned to the original high value item, another 100 billion will be produced each of the following years, putting the bottles into various waste streams. Each bottle is high value because it represents lightweight packaging, energy input and consumer confidence in the safety of the product. Thus the question, “can we reuse the asset and is it worthwhile doing so, based on sustainability guidelines”? The presentation provides specifics on equipment that is both capital and operationally effective. It addresses Rpet requiring only 10% of the energy of Virgin PET with a reduction of 30% in CO2 emissions. While satisfying the previous, it can be designed to meet FDA guidelines for contaminate levels along with the requirements of emissions for EPA. We can recapture the asset value and recycling of PET bottles can be accomplished at high capacity with reduced overall costs and also be environmentally friendly.
Sorting Out the Economics and Science of Green Polymers
Roger Jones, February 2009
For some time, scientists, politicians, environmentalists, and even private citizens have been emphasizing the protection of the environment. However, it is notable that often there is substantial disagreement between advocates in all of these groups about how to best accomplish this worthy goal. Frequently, these differences of opinion occur because the parties are not working from the same set of facts or even comparable concepts. This paper seeks to identify a unified basis for understanding and comparing the critical economic and scientific details of such ideals as sustainability, renewable materials, and alternative energy sources as applied within the plastics industry.
Why Degradable?
Michael Stephen, February 2009
We hear a lot these days about plastic bags – but what’s wrong with plastic? Plastic is very strong - it’s waterproof and its still very cheap. Without plastic it would be impossible to transport food safely and hygienically to millions of homes all over the world and to sell it at affordable prices. The problem is that if ordinary or recycled plastic gets out into the environment it will lie or float around for decades, and we have all heard of the massive patch of plastic waste floating in the Pacific Ocean. Technologies have now become available which can produce plastic products such as shopping bags, garbage sacks, packaging etc. which are fit for purpose, but will harmlessly degrade at the end of their useful life. These fall into two broad categories, namely: 1. Oxo-biodegradable plastics, made from a by-product of oil-refining, which degrade in the environment by a process of oxidation initiated by an additive, and then biodegrade after their molecular weight has reduced to the point where naturallyoccurring micro-organisms can access the material. 2. Hydro-biodegradable plastics, made wholly or partly from crops, which biodegrade in a highly microbial environment, such as composting
Recycling PVC: Debunking the Myth
David Yopak, February 2009
In the age of heightened environmental awareness, many new concepts and materials have been developed and discussed in an effort to either reduce our carbon footprint or limit our use of fossil fuels for plastic materials. One material, often misunderstood, has had a positive impact on the environment for years. Both rigid and flexible compounds of Polyvinyl Chloride have been used in a myriad of applications ranging from outdoor furniture, to medical applications, to compliance with NSF standards for potable water, all while offering excellent recyclability characteristics as well as a smaller carbon foot print than many conventional commodity thermoplastics. This paper will provide a practical discussion of recycling flexible Vinyl and the potential uses of the recyclate. From sourcing to processing, all aspects of a vinyl recycling operation are covered, with a primary focus on the material characteristics of the recyclate, and the ability to tailor the recycled compound to a given set of physical properties. In addition, further discussions will include potential uses of the recyclate, as well as ideas for infrastructure to promote the use of post consumer PVC.
Banana Fiber Composites for Automotive & Transportation Applications
Lina Herrera-Estrada, September 2008
The purpose of this work was to establish and optimize a process for the production of banana fiber reinforced composite materials with a thermoset suitable for automotive and transportation industry applications. Fiber surface chemical modifications and treatments were studied along with processing conditions for epoxy and eco-polyester banana fiber composites. Flexural tests show that banana fiber/eco-polyester composites have a higher flexural strength and modulus due to improved fiber/matrix interaction. Environmental tests were conducted and the compressive properties of the composites were evaluated before and after moisture absorption. The resulting banana fiber/epoxy composites were found to yield a flexural strength of 34.99 MPa and compressive strength of 122.11 MPa when alkaline pretreated with improved environmental exposure resistance. While the non alkaline pretreated banana fiber/polyester composites were found to yield a flexural strength of 40.16 MPa and compressive strength of 123.28 MPa with higher hygrothermal resistance than pretreated fiber composites with the same matrix.
E-Coat Sustainable Long-Fiber Thermoplastic Composites for Structural Automotive Applications
Raman Chaudhari, September 2008
Polypropylene and glass fibre (PP/GF) based Long Fibre Reinforced thermoplastics (LFT) are nowadays established as state of the art materials for semi-structural applications in the automotive industry. However PP/GF LFT materials are limited for producing automotive components for use in general assembly. The use of LFT based components for structural applications and their implementation directly into the body in white assembly is still a challenge for the automotive industry. In order to develop LFT materials for such applications a feasibility study to investigate the e-coating process sustainability of LFT materials was conducted. The current article addresses the developed LFT formulations and their basic mechanical properties. For this purpose polyamide / glass fibre (PA/GF) based LFT materials were thoroughly investigated. The change of mechanical performance of the LFT materials due to applied temperatures of the e-coating process was investigated by benchmarking of non-temperature-treated against tempered LFT specimens. In addition the combined influence of temperatures and chemicals on the LFT properties was evaluated by running the LFT specimens through the actual painting line that included e-coating and subsequent painting and drying processes. Finally it was found that it is possible to manufacture LFT parts capable of withstanding the e-coating process without causing major changes in the performance of the LFT materials.
Recent Developments in Renewable Resource-Based Resins
Darcy Culkin, September 2008
PowerPoint Presentation at ACCE 2008.
Samsung's Bioplastics for Automobiles
Brian Grosser, September 2008
PowerPoint Presentation at ACCE 2008.
High Performance Plastic Components for Engine Mount Applications
Hans-Juergen Karkosch, Holger Klink, September 2008
In the face of dwindling resources rising energy prices and increasing environmental pollution reductions in consumption and emissions are topics of increasing importance in all fields of technology. To achieve these goals specifically in the automotive industry new engine concepts are needed in connection with thorough-going implementation of lightweight construction. Whereas weight-optimized plastics components are already utilized in many vehicle subsystems and components steel and/or aluminum structures are usually used for load-bearing structural elements. This statement also applies fundamentally for the engine mounting subsystem. In this area plastics components have been used previously only for subordinate moderately loaded semi-components. Now for the first time a mechanically highly-loadable torque reaction mount has been conceived as a plastics structural part and implemented in the series production of a vehicle with a transverse-mounted engine. In addition to weight reduction it also helps create a more advantageous load distribution on the axles. Load reduction on the front axle has positive effects on driving dynamics and safety. The paper begins by stating fundamental requirements for components of engine mounting systems. The principle procedure in developing load-bearing plastics components includes the topics of integrative simulation laboratory component tests and in-vehicle testing.
Lightweight Structural Parts with Rigid Integral PUR Foams
Stephan Schleiermacher, September 2008
With climate change and the current situation regarding energy and environmental policy dominating the agenda car manufacturers are faced with the complex problem of drastically lowering the fuel consumption of their vehicles in order to reduce CO2 emissions. One way of tackling the problem is to pursue a consistent strategy of lightweight construction. Self-activated as well as thermally activated rigid integral polyurethane foams from BaySystems can help to realise reductions in weight. They are ideal for use in structural parts. The presentation covers some of their state of the art solutions and techniques followed by a vision of a new composite design for roof modules which combines the aforementioned polyurethanes and their processing technologies with a sprayed polyurethane barrier layer.
Natural Fibers Plastic Composites for Automotive Applications
Jay Amarasekera, September 2008
The use of natural fibers in composite plastics is gaining popularity in many areas and particularly the automotive industry. The use of natural fibers in polymers can provide many advantages over other filler technologies and areas of application appear limitless. The automotive industry is currently shifting to a “green” outlook as consumers are looking for environmentally friendly vehicles. Natural fibers are a renewable natural resource and are biodegradable which is an important characteristic for components that must be disposed of at the end of their useful life. They are recyclable and can be easily converted into thermal energy through combustion without leaving residue. Among the natural fibers with potential application as reinforcement for polymers curauá fiber is one that recently received special attention from researchers. Curauá is a plant from the Bromeliad family cultivated in the Brazilian Amazon region. The fiber is extracted from its leaves providing a high mechanical strength over traditional fibers like sisal jute and flax. We have developed thermoplastic composites using either curauá fiber or wood flour. These materials provided a lighter weight product with good physical properties and unique surface aesthetics. This paper reviews the properties of these bio composites in comparison with glass and mineral filled products. The products were tested in some automotive applications and the results will be discussed.
New Methods to Produce Reinforced Polyamide-6 for Improved Material Properties in Engineering Plastic Applications
Ab van Geenen, September 2008
Polyamide-6 is widely used in many mechanical applications also in automotive replacing more and more traditional materials such as metals thermosets and elastomers. Good process ability along with outstanding physical properties also long term stability under tough conditions and a high value recycling ability make this thermoplastic material also commercial interesting for new demanding machinery parts. A broad variety of materials is achieved by producing PA-6 “in situ” by anionic polymerisation of Caprolactam which can be performed on extruders on RIM machines or in different casting processes. Nano-Clay or Glass fiber reinforced granules short or long-glass fiber reinforced molded parts glass-mat reinforced manhole covers or wind turbine blades are some examples of Brüggemann’s AP-Nylon® Material applications completed by NYRIM® the wide range impact modified grades. This paper gives an overview of the new developments in this field we were involved in during the last 2 years.
Opportunities and Development of Bio-Based Materials for SMC (Sheet Molding Compound)
Dwight Rust, September 2008
Current and future changes in the automotive industry present an increased opportunity for thermosets. Bio-based materials in SMC present an opportunity to help automotive manufacturers in the US to meet the 2020 Freedom Car weight and 14.9 km/L (35 mpg) CAFÉ requirements as currently mandated by the federal government. Developments in the industrial bio-technology sector are also leading to knowledge to provide opportunities to use bio-based materials to provide solutions using SMC to lower costs and weight. The National Composite Center is leading collaborative efforts in the development of biobased resins fillers and reinforcements. The result of these collaborations in both biobased materials and the interface of nano technology are presented. The opportunities exist for the development of biobased materials to produce a lighter weight SMC.
Renuva Soy-Based Polyol RIM for Automotive Exterior Applications
Dow Automotive & Magna/Decoma International, September 2008
There are many formative trends in today’s OEM composite marketplace which are driving the investigation and development of alternative feedstocks from natural or renewable resources in the plastics industry such as environmental sustainability reduced dependence on crude oil and the high cost of petroleum-based derivatives. This paper will describe the development of a novel soy oil based polyol (under the RENUVA™tradename) which has technological advantages in terms of odour physical properties compatibility and processability in polyurethane application over existing soy-based polyol. The paper will further describe the development partnership undertaken by The Dow Chemical Company and Polycon Industries (a division of Magna International) to utilize this “green” polyol to develop a Reaction Injection Moulded (RIM) polyurethane formulation suitable for painted exterior applications. The paper will outline the development aliterations done to accomplish this goal and to maximize the soy-based polyol content in the RIM composite for physical property and processability optimization. The paper’s conclusion will demonstrate the viability of a 50% soy-based polyol solution to meet the processability paintability and physical property specification of a current Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) RIM program through direct comparison of extensive trial work done on series production fascia tooling at Polycon. The paper will extend this development work into potential opportunities for the RIM polymer involving exterior composite applications for heavy equipment or agricultural machinery where natural resource feedstocks would have clear market desirability.
Elizabeth Dell, May 2008
This paper describes a plastics education program for middle school girls. The goals of the program were to expose the girls to science and engineering and to educate them about plastics. The program included an overview of plastics and hands-on experimental investigations. Experiments included making a polymer environmental issues and the structure and properties of polymers. In addition to giving detailed descriptions of the program this paper includes recommendations for further improvements of the program.
María del Pilar Noriega , Juan Diego Sierra, May 2008
A prospective study on flexible plastic packaging was carried out in Andean Countries with the participation of two plastic research institutes and 20 companies including raw material manufacturers processors converters and end users.The inputs of this prospective study were a review of the state of the art on flexible packaging a benchmarking study considering the 10 most important companies a study using the Delphi method with national and international experts who identified the key variables to the development and progress of the flexible packaging in the region and workshops.This study generated new projects and products on the field of barrier smart and active packaging biodegradable materials among others; it shows that the Andean region is applying R&D and technological alliances in its industrial processes.
Paul Brincat , Russell Speight, May 2008
With growing concern regarding our environmental impact greater focus has been placed on ways we can reduce our impact by improving our decisions designs and processes. The use of injection molding simulation has been shown to reduce material consumption reduce production scrap assist in recycling existing materials create better quality products that have a prolonged life and reduce energy consumption required during the manufacturing process. This paper will present the benefits of an additional measure called an Energy Usage Indicator that can assist part designers using injection molding simulation to easily identify the processing requirements of a polymer material.
Paul Brincat , Russell Speight, May 2008
With growing concern regarding our environmental impact, greater focus has been placed on ways we can reduce our impact by improving our decisions, designs and processes. The use of injection molding simulation has been shown to reduce material consumption, reduce production scrap, assist in recycling existing materials, create better quality products that have a prolonged life and reduce energy consumption required during the manufacturing process. This paper will present the benefits of an additional measure, called an Energy Usage Indicator, that can assist part designers using injection molding simulation to easily identify the processing requirements of a polymer material.

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