There was a great feeling of anticipation as around 150 delegates, representing over one hundred companies, converged on the conference room. This was going to be the first SAPET conference held in South America, especially for the PET industry in the region. This unexpectedly high participation was a reflection of the hunger to learn as the PET industry enters a new period of growth and opportunity. The conference clearly represented a timely event to meet, discuss and exchange views and to understand better the opportunities and needs of the region.
PET Resin Market perspective
There was a general consensus that the global recession had not impacted the markets of South America as much as in other regions, especially when compared to West Europe and North America. Indeed, the region recorded positive PET demand growth and this is expected to accelerate over the next few years in association with stronger overall economic growth. The opportunities discussed were typical of PET packaging, being directed mainly towards the traditional applications of CSD, water and edible oil and the feeling was that, despite interest in other applications, the traditional ones would remain the driving forces behind future growth, led mainly by demand in Brazil and Argentina.
Although the region has traditionally relied on imports, the clarification of new PET capacity coming on stream next year, as part of a wider and longer term plan to develop raw material and other polyester capacity (for fibre), seemed to give a positive feeling of increased confidence and desire to undertake development activities.
PET Technical Developments
The need to develop post consumer PET recycling was a clear message at the conference with several presentations either clarifying the legislative position or the need to develop RPET use as part of a broader message for business sustainability and reduced environmental impact. This was also the theme in presentations on improving injection moulding, bottle blowing and capping efficiencies, through more efficient use of energy. Light-weighting initiatives, either by reducing wall thickness or by shorter neck finishes, were also discussed. An alternative approach to environmental sustainability was promoted by Coca-Cola; to develop raw materials from sustainable, renewable sources. MEG from sugarcane residues was given as the example with some suggestion that even the aromatic component (PTA) could be manufactured from renewable sources, in the not too distant future. However, there remained some question as to how this could be scaled up to the quantities needed by the industry at least in the short/medium term and whether the longer term cost of these approaches would be viable in comparison to petrochemical sources. Nevertheless, reducing the overall carbon footprint of PET packaging emerged from the conference as a key future ‘challenge’ to the industry.
Other technical developments included new information from M&G concerning their barrier resin now re-branded as Poliprotect™. The new version also included a novel, proprietary, way of presentation. The BicoPET™ technology allows the incorporation of key components e.g. passive barrier, in the core of each and every pellet, so that it can be injection moulded and blown with the same operating procedures as a standard resin. The performance, in terms of shelf-life extension, was presented as being the same, if not better, than multi-layer bottles with statements that the resin would be compatible with typical recycling activities, when in commercial use.
The conference ended in a buoyant mood with the initial optimism and anticipation of new opportunities being reinforced. Overall, this was a very positive feeling for this first, successful, conference, which clearly filled a need within the region.
David Swift, Senior Consultant
PCI PET Packaging
Resin & Recycling Ltd
20th July 2010