20 Mai 2008

Card makers perspectives with PLA-bioplastics

Bill Crawford has a bit of advice for plastic card manufacturers trying to “go green.” “No material is all of that,” said the vice president of sales at Waytek Corp., a Franklin, Ohio-based supplier of adhesive coatings for plastic films. Yet, marketers of various resins – PVC, polylactic acid, polyester and polystyrene – tend to slant their sales pitches to favor the green characteristics of their product lines. The result is a confusing array of claims, he said.

Crawford spoke at the International Card Manufacturers Association’s 2008 expo, held April 6-9 in Orlando. There, conference organizers gave their attention to green developments through corporate and regulatory presentations.

Waytek supplies materials to card manufacturers, he said. Typically, those customers find themselves in the middle between the demands from major retailers and credit card brands. The manufacturers “cannot make decisions” and must work closely with their customers to pick the correct green path, Crawford said in a telephone interview.

No single resin is universally green in terms of being biodegradable, recyclable and sustainable, he noted. In any case, “green is going to cost more than PVC,” Crawford said. For card stock, “we enjoy commodity pricing in PVC now because the PVC suppliers are in place. It cannot get cheaper.”

Moving toward other resins for cards would require manufacturing, ink and lamination processes “to be optimized once again,” he said. “For 20 years, it has been working with PVC,” but changes in any part of the processes would impact others, Crawford said.

PLA in plastic cards
NatureWorks LLC sees potential in the plastic cards and folded cartons markets. The Minnetonka, Minn.-based PLA resin manufacturer sponsored its first ICMA program with support for the green portion of it.

NatureWorks began selling PLA to the card industry in early 2006. Among early adopters, “most people have gravitated toward the application for gift cards, either pre-load or reloadable,” said Brian Glasbrenner, global business and market development manager for Ingeo-brand PLA resin. “We are looking at applications for hotel room cards and conference cards,” he said.

Cards and folded cartons constitute one of NatureWorks’ eight key market segments. “We feel there is a great opportunity there for those involved to extract marketing value,” Glasbrenner said in a telephone interview. “Transferring to renewable resources from traditional plastics brings value.”

PVC dominates the card market now.
NatureWorks works with 16 global partners, including sheet manufacturers and card printers. For card and folded carton production, NatureWorks is collaborating with sheet manufacturing operations including those of Spartech Corp. in Clayton; Transilwrap Co. Inc. of Franklin Park; and RPC Group plc’s Cobelplast-Montonate srl site in Sumirago, Italy. NatureWorks also is linking with card manufacturers in France, such as Narboni in Paris and Scopus in Mérignac.

Another partner, Folienwerk Wolfen GmbH in Wolfen-Thalheim, Germany, sells PLA sheet from NatureWorks for thermoforming applications. The firm is sampling the sheet for card production. Bi-Ax International Inc. of Wingham, Ontario, supplies thick PLA oriented stock for folded cartons and is exploring clear gift card applications.

“The card industry has evolved from simple gift cards to cards with security features and reload capability,” Glasbrenner said.

Users of NatureWorks PLA for cards include discount retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville; outdoors firm Recreational Equipment Inc. of Sumner; restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. of Denver; and bookseller Borders Group Inc. of Ann Arbor.

NatureWorks is a joint venture between agricultural-food processing giant Cargill Inc. of Wayzata,and fiber and films maker Teijin Ltd. of Osaka, Japan.

The firm expects to reach, or exceed, the projected nameplate capacity by mid-2009 at its Blair facility. Teijin “gave support and encouragement to move forward with the expansion,” Glasbrenner said. “We are not there now,” he said. “We continue to make optimizations [to boost throughput] in Blair as we move toward the large step expansion.”

FTC to review rules
An increase in green advertising claims has prompted the Federal Trade Commission to review its so-called green guides now, a year earlier than scheduled.

The FTC is updating its guidelines for environmental marketing claims usage, last revised in 1998. An April 30 FTC workshop in Washington will examine developments in green packaging claims and consumer perceptions of those claims, including new terms such as “carbon neutral” and “sustainable.” Public input is welcomed.

In her presentation, the FTC’s Laura DeMartino advised marketers to “tell the truth” and “have substantiation” for their claims. She said to ask themselves: “What claims does my ad convey to reasonable consumers?” and “Do I have competent and reliable evidence to back up the claims?” DeMartino is assistant director of the enforcement division in the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection.

To substantiate a claim, the recycled material must be diverted from a solid waste stream and used in a product, DeMartino said in a telephone interview. For validity, claims for products containing recycled material need to specify the percentage of that content.

For those accused of deceptive claims or practices, the FTC may impose cease-and-desist orders, consumer refund requirements and ill-gotten-gains disgorgement provisions; as well as directives for corrective advertising, disclosures in future advertisements and product labeling.

Members of Princeton Junction, N.J.-based ICMA include card manufacturers, card manufacturing suppliers, card personalizers and issuers.

(Cf. news from 2008-04-14 and 2008-03-06.)

Source: plasticnews.com, 2008-04-28.

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