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Plastic - a Weapon vs. Coronavirus

Posted by Joel Longstreth on Fri, Mar 20, 2020 @ 06:34 PM

In a crisis, political correctness and platitudes are relegated to abeyance.  Roosevelt and Lincoln both contravened the Constitution.  Only weeks ago plastics was the bane of our existence was plastics.  Now we are getting letters assigning essential status.

In 2008 in the aftermath of hurricanes Rita and Katrina the EPA put the summer regional formulations on hold when unleaded gas hit $ 6 per gallon in Atlanta.  Of course they were reinstated in spring 2009.

The U S government is doing the inverse of overreach in the coronavirus pandemic.  Cumbersome regulations for truckers have been rolled back like Walmart pricing to meet real needs.  The FDA is streamlining the approval process at an unimaginable pace, especially to anyone who has had to shepherd a drug or medical device through their maze ( they are notoriously slow because the bureaucrats have no incentive.  If a drug is a boon, the manufacturer gets the glory; if it has deleterious side effects, they get blamed for letting it get past phase 3 ).  Luciana Boro second guessed the off label use of hydroxychloroquine when patients are at the " hail Mary " juncture.   If she would remain a Luddite if she becomes desperate remains to be seen. 

Texas governor Greg Abbott has waived many trucking regulations

Publix is installing plexiglass barriers.

No real surprize.  Wars accelerate technology. 

plasticbashBashing plastic straw men became one of the favorite targets of virtue signallers in 2019.  

Here we go again.  In the aftermath of hurricane Harvey, plastics came to the rescue.

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, plastic is once again the unsung hero.  You don't see articles
about plastic breaking the transmission chain.  The mention is mostly passing, usually about how long the virus can stay alive on specific surfaces. 

" These plastic bubble helmets are connected to ventilators to help patients breathe."
ABC chief foreign correspondent Maggie Rulli on assignment in Italy March 20,2020

 The Fauci " curve " would be a spike without plastics.

Plastics plays a key role in both mitigation and cure.  If we are on a war footing, plastics is a weapon against the coronavirus.

hazmatdoc

Take a look at these images.  The common thread - plastic is a barrier between the virus and humans.
Did you know ?  Even the nonwoven gowns and N 95 respirators are made from fossil fuel plastic, not organic hemp. 

coronavirusmasks&bottlesbloodbagbloodbag2

n95maskcoronabloodtubecoronamaskcoronafunnelcoronaswab

If the plasma therapy turns out to be viable, would single-use plastic or glass bottles be the preferred choice ?
Israel just flew in 10,000 hydroxychloroquine kits.  Were they packaged in woven burlap or plastic ?

The reason post-op infection rates are low is simple.  The sterile plastic devices are used once and disposed as biohazard in single use plastic bags.  There is no chance for seed populations to infect another patient.  If this mode was not effective, we would still be washing and recycling drapes.  New York Presbyterian has a shortage of masks because they are not taking any chances.  They are going through 40,000 to 70,000 daily compared to their normal usage of about 4,000.  Source: Craig Smith, Chair Department of Surgery / Surgeon in Chief  NYP CUIMC.

(  Let's remember basic econ here - a shortage is defined as an insufficient quantity of a commodity at the prices the market wants to pay.  When demand spikes due to an acute change in consumer behavior, voila !  You got a shortage.  We are seeing firsthand the invisible hand stepping up. )

We make film destined for opthalmic drapes, ostomy bags, under patient capillary blankets and other dermal contact medical devices.  Would you really want to be the patient who gets a hand-me down device ?  There are no poll numbers, but I suspect most of the greens would save themselves, not the planet given a choice.  If the government declares plastics a non-essential industry, recycled devices and bandages will become SOP (standard operating procedure ).

mountsinaigowns

These nurses at Mount Sinai are improvising.  There is a shortage of single use disposable aprons.  The major US manufacturer has put their customers on allocation.  Suddenly, the distributors who had been pushing them to meet the cheap China price want to be their friend. 

Think it couldn't happen here ?

" Doctors are putting masks in ziplock bags so they can be reused for up to a week."
ABC anchor David Muir March 20, 2020.

oldhospital

It's ironic that this is happening just as we are about to launch version 4.0 of a reusable bag.  Suddenly, the data about microbes travelling on reusable bags has become relevant.   A major defense of single use bags has been their cleanliness vis-a-vis reusable bags.  The data on microloads has been out there for years.  This has led to re-thinking bag bans.  

https://wgme.com/news/coronavirus/state-considers-delaying-new-law-banning-plastic-bags-amid-coronavirus-spread

https://www.silive.com/coronavirus/2020/03/plastic-bag-ban-enforcement-delayed-due-to-coronavirus-concerns.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/1433324/coronavirus-is-why-plastic-bag-ban-should-go.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickgleason/2020/03/17/pandemic-prompts-call-to-suspend-or-repeal-bag-bans--taxes/#53cf2f23464d

The virtue signallers have a dilemma.  If they show they care more than everyone else by using single-use plastic bags, they will tacitly endorse the plastic-induatrial complex. 

Once again expediency and survival trumps political correctness. 

charmin

The resin producers claim there is still substantial demand.  In my own direct experience, I have not seen nor heard of eco warriors refusing to buy toilet paper packaged in plastic.  MDPE for soft goods overwrap will be strong in the short term. 

The world will be different in the aftermath of the current unpleasantness.  We will see if plastic reverts to goat or remains a hero. 

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Topics: plastics recycling,, extended producer responsibility, plastics toxic, eco friendly plastic,, virtue signalling, plastic bag bans, coronavirus spread

Post Consumer Recycled Content " Gen 3 " Solution ?

Posted by Joel Longstreth on Mon, Apr 30, 2018 @ 12:58 PM

Giant retailers and consumer product companies are frantic to be perceived as green and sustainable.  Meantime, the major plastic resin producers are doubling down on conventional fossil-fuel based resins.  Sounds like a script straight out of  The Innovator's Dilemma.

walmartrecycledvest

 

" Gen 1 " is defined as plastics derived from fossil fuels.  

"Gen 2" is plastic derived from agricultural sources or "biopolymers " the option of choice for hard liner zealot greenies.  While a truly compostable plastic must be made from ag sources, plastic derived from plants are not by definition biodegradable.

The decision is complex

If plastic packaging made from agricultural sources crowds out arable land, food costs will skyrocket.  The major food processors have seen what happened with ethanol.  

It's all about perception.  Anything derived from fossil fuels is perceived as inherently evil and made from a source which is not sustainable.  Braskem has done a fabulous job marketing their "green" polyethylene and polypropylene made from sugar cane.  They get a premium and won't talk to you unless your volume is 1,000 metric tonnes annual - take or pay.  These resins do not biodegrade any faster than petroleum-based plastic.  Braskem is putting on a billion pounds annual capacity in La Porte, TX.  The feedstock ?  Fossil fuel natural gas.  Their CEO went so far as to praise the U S ( fossil fuel ) feedstock situation. 

With painstakingly politically correct word choice, Lego announced their selection of " green " plastic.  

There are two approaches to a quick fix.  Either "greenwash" ( defined as no change, spin only ) or make hasty changes out of fear of social media.  Notice how much emphasis is put on what a product does not contain these days ?

Bisphenol A is an excellent case study.  " BPA free" is an insult.  Only polycarbonate and PVC use it as a catalyst.  There are trace amounts in the final product.    If your product is made with any other resin, just say        " BPA free" and voila !   You take advantage of the consumer's fear and lack of understanding.which may be just enough to stimulate an impulse purchase.

Sometimes the alternative to the vilified material is worse.  Those who reacted to NGO's clamor for a BPA ban by substituting BPS and other materials were the biggest losers.  In retrospect they look impetuous.  The quiet epilogue: BPA's recent clean bill of health despite being put on California's prop 65 list and the EU's possible ban.  Did the NGO's give a public apology ?   A "never mind" a la Emily Latilla ?

Of course not.  The disingenuous virtue signaling malcontents just move on to another faux outrage cause.

The latest angle is apparently a hybrid of fossil fuels and potato starch from a company called Biologiq.  They offer both compostable biopolymers and combo fossil fuel resin / biopolymers.  They claim their resin initiates a reaction which renders the conventional resin truly biodedgradable.  I have not seen convincing supporting science.  Just the same, the CEO of Walmart is pushing hard to get whole produce packaging transitioned immediately. 

roplastsafewaybag

What is quietly catching on is post-consumer recycled content.   While this approach does not appease the greens for whom fossil fuels is anathema, it is a compromise. 

Consumers feel good about recycled content for whatever reason.

traderrecycle

The major resin producers are not working on it.  They have their hands full with virgin resin.  Resin distributors are partnering with outfits who reclaim and repelletize plastic scrap.   Feedstocks are either the bags returned at the supermarket or the shrink wrap and stretch wrap from the back of the store.  The consistency of the initial product offerings is impressive given the variation in feedstock. 

There are limitations on the amount of post consumer content (  Burying floorsweep in the core layer of coextruded has been around for a long time; overnight shipping envelopes is a ubiquitous example. ) - mainly consistency and FDA approval.  Reclaimed from whatever source is by definition so we will be resigned to adding some virgin resin.   While some extruders are making claims about having " FDA non-objection " letters for prolonged and direct food contact, we have not seen one.  If we use post-consumer resin for food packaging, we would lose our Kosher approval. 

2020-2021 Brentwood Plastics Kosher Certificate small

Click on the image to enlarge.

 

The prime resin distributors are telling us post consumer resin will be a standard offering by the end of the year.  
We are developing select non-food applications such as trade show bags, reusable bags and barrier tape.

Over 100 years ago, H L Mencken said " For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong. "

 

 

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Topics: eco friendly plastic,, sustainable packaging,

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