ABS in Demand

Plastics industry hungry for ABS scrap.

September 27, 2010
Recycling Today Staff

Index is based on December 1980 average prices as 100; Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor StatisticsA butadiene shortage has helped to create demand for secondary ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), which means the material is harder to come by, says a reprocessor based in the Great Lakes region.

Butadiene, which also is used in tire manufacturing, is largely derived from a co-product of ethylene production. North America is a net importer of butadiene, and surplus butadiene in Europe and Asia is expected to decrease dramatically in the near future, according to published reports.

According to an analysis issued in late 2009 by Chemical Market Associates (CMA), with U.S. offices in Houston and Valhalla, N.Y., butadiene costs are forecast to increase to levels last seen in 2007, which were thought to be quite high. The CMA analysis is for the years 2004 through 2014.

“Over the forecast period, the C4 olefins and derivative markets are expected to experience a continuation of the pronounced market changes that have characterized much of the past five years,” CMA states in a press release announcing the availability of its 2010 World Butadiene Analysis. “The availability of crude C4 feedstock will remain the limiting factor for North American butadiene production and will become a limiting factor in Asia.”

The reprocessor based in the Great Lakes region says recycled ABS is experiencing increased demand in light of “the force majeure status from two of the four virgin producers.” He adds, “There will be an increased demand for certain types of acetyl, as one of the virgin producers has announced that they will stop producing this grade at year end.”

Automotive manufacturers are looking for regrind material in the Southeast, according to a reprocessor based in that region. She says grades such as PP (polypropylene), ABS and PC/ABS (polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) are the grades experiencing the most demand from this market.

The cost savings recycled plastics can offer remains a draw for consumers overall. “There is greater request for recycled material as more companies are seeking cost-saving opportunities,” the reprocessor based in the Great Lakes region says.

While some companies are looking to recycled plastics to provide cost savings, some cosmetics companies, particularly those that provide organic or natural lines, are looking into biopolymers. “Although there is growing research in bioplastics packaging, there remain few cosmetic applications,” according to a press release from Organic Monitor, a research and consulting company that focuses on the global organic and related product industries. High heat sensitivity and water permeability prevent biopolymer packaging use for products such as creams, lotions and shampoos. However, the company Mirel is developing bioplastic materials to replace petroleum polymers such as (PP), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), ABS and PC, Organic Monitor reports.

In light of the limitations of the current biopolymers available, most beauty companies are looking at recycled packaging materials, with Burt’s Bees making a commitment to use only recycled materials, which is encouraging news for secondary plastics.