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We remain abreast of trends, changes and opportunities throughout the world of polymers and keep our customers informed. We have written the following industry-specific white papers for your information.


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Antimicrobial Plastics Reduce Infections and Protect Products
Antimicrobial Plastics Reduce Infections and Protect Products

This paper examines the development and application of antimicrobial plastic resins as a response to public, private and institutional demands for plastic products and product components that inhibit microbial growth. In the U.S. alone, 1.8 million hospital-associated infections lead to 99,000 deaths each year, killing more people annually than aids, breast cancer and automobile accidents combined. While medical research continues to target constantly-evolving microbes including so called “super bugs,” advances in resin-compatible antimicrobial additive technology have drawn the plastics industry into the germ battle on several fronts.

Antimicrobials are added to plastics for two primary purposes – as an active biocide to kill germs and as a biostabilizer/preservative for the plastic. The main difference lies in the antimicrobial activity profile.15 Plastics with active biocides are often formulated for use in implantable medical devices and items with known high infection potential such as catheters.16 But with the spread of pathogens tied more closely to regular contact with contaminated surfaces on common items such as desks, tables, keyboards, towel dispensers and trays, biostabilized plastics are becoming more prominent not only in medical settings but in home, industrial and office applications as well.

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Sustainable Solutions for Polymers
Sustainable Solutions for Polymers

As scientists, environmentalists and manufacturers continue to push biodegradability to the forefront of the plastics disposal debate, the "paper or plastic" grocery store dilemma of yore may soon be replaced with consumers mulling over the question, "compost or landfill?"

The "correct" answer lies in the ultimate disposal of the product - a fate that is unknown to the manufacturer and depends in large part on consumer location, politics, public perception and, above all, cost.

And therein lies the modern plastic paradox - how does the polymers industry create more environmentally-friendly products when the ultimate disposal environment is unknown until the consumer is finished using the product. And how much are consumers willing to pay - in dollars as well as convenience - to address the problem of plastics disposal. Compounding this uncertainty is the mixed messaging consumers are receiving from the convergence of science and sales. While terms such as bioplastic, biodegradable plastic, degradable and compostable are often interchanged in consumer advertising, the chemical and biological processes those words describe are distinct and occur only under certain conditions in certain environments.

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New Flame Retardants Deliver Safety Without Risk
New Flame Retardants Deliver Safety without Risk

Mounting pressure from environmental and health agencies have pushed the industry away from its most effective and economical flame retardant additive. At the same time, an expected surge in consumer plastics production will fuel an increased demand for fire-retardant additives. To meet this demand, plastics producers must quickly develop cost-effective, environmentally safe alternatives to a class of chemicals that has been saving lives for decades.

In order to function effectively, any flame retardant additive must be as compatible as possible with the original polymer, meaning it should have a minimal impact on key polymer properties such as tensile strength, color and UV stability. PBDEs proved effective in meeting this criterion, with variants such as decaBDE imparting fire retardant qualities at very low addition rates. But now that PBDEs are being phased out, new flame retardants must do the same job without the environmental risk associated with their predecessors.

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Food and Beverage Industry Update: Good Things Come in Safe, Smart and Attractive Packages
Good Things Come in Safe, Smart and Attractive Packages

The food and beverage industry turns on innovation, as manufacturers and suppliers in this highly competitive world strive to be the first to reach consumers hungry for a new product, better value or more eco-friendly approach to production and packaging.

Despite the global economic crisis, the market for biodegradable polymers is growing. Total consumption of biodegradable polymers in Europe, North America and Asia is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of nearly 13% over the five-year period from 2009 to 2014, and SRI noted that “The food packaging, dishes and cutlery market is the single largest end use and will be the major growth driver in the future.”

In the beverage segment, biodegradability and color-change technology continue to show tremendous consumer appeal. International Paper’s ecotainer line of PLA-coated containers features drink cups that can be composted at municipal and commercial composting facilities.

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Medical devices industry cautiously optimistic
Medical devices industry cautiously optimistic

Plastics firms continue prominent role in development, production

To a large degree, the medical devices industry runs on plastics. So ubiquitous are plastics in medical technology that Massachusetts-based BCC Research recently conducted a study limited to plastics usage in medical devices with sustained average annual growth rates “far in excess of the Gross Domestic Product.” In summarizing the study need BCC officials noted, “The aging of the U.S. population, continuing cost reduction pressures in the healthcare field, advances in polymer performance, introduction of new and often life-saving devices, and the ever-present environmental/disposable/nondisposable medical device triad warrant an in-depth study as we continue into this decade.”

Progress through polymers

With so many specialized products to its credit, it should come as no surprise that the medical devices industry is supported by manufacturers boasting expertise in specialized technical processes.

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Medical Products Forecast: Clean, Green and Growing
Medical Products Forecast: Clean, Green and Growing

While government agencies continue to work on improving the pipeline to market, plastics manufacturers and engineers continue to push the medical products industry forward with product, material and process innovation and a strong focus on ‘clean and green’ – increasing the availability of sterile devices and parts with an eye on reducing the medical product industry’s environmental footprint.

Anti-microbial coatings and additives, along with sustainable solutions such as polymers made from renewable resources and biodegradable plastics, lead the expansion in medical products. Closed-loop clean compounding with minimal human intervention will ensure manufacturing with limited chance for contamination.

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Flexibles, OTC Opportunities Fuel Pharmaceutical Packaging Demand
Flexibles, OTC Opportunities Fuel Pharmaceutical Packaging Demand

Worldwide, pharmaceutical packaging demand is projected to increase 6.3 percent annually to $62.3 billion in 2013. The developed countries of Western Europe, the U.S. and Japan will continue to account for more than 60 percent of this amount. However, China will provide among the strongest growth opportunities based on rapidly expanding pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities and the phasing-in of an extensive government program designed to upgrade the quality and integrity of nationally produced medicines,” according to the report.

New packaging opportunities may be driven in large part by an increase in generic drugs as brand-name patents expire, and an anticipated spike in the conversion of prescription drugs to over-the-counter availability. “Rx-to-OTC switches continue to be an engine of growth for the OTC industry, adding new users to the OTC market from the prescription market,” notes Klineblog, the online arm of Kline market research and management consulting. Kline notes that the top ten Rx-to-OTC switch brands during 2008 have grown by 5.8% compared with a growth rate of 2.4% for the overall OTC industry over the same time frame. “With all the competition from private labels and pressure from retailers for brands to offer more value, switches will remain a way for branded marketers to expand the price points, margins, and profitability of their OTC portfolios. Continued growth of the OTC market will be largely dependent on future Rx-to-OTC switches,” explains Kline.

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