CLEVELAND - PET demand has put Wellman Extrusion ahead of last year's sales and ahead of targets for 1995. Donald Hacker, national sales manager for the Ripon, Wis., unit of Wellman Inc., said sales this year are 350 percent ahead of 1994, and 130 percent ahead of 1995 forecast targets.
``It has to do with the incredible growth in popularity of polyester and PET,'' Hacker said in an interview at Plastics Fair Cleveland, held June 13-15. ``We are only a small portion of Wellman, but the company has experienced great growth in the last couple of years, especially in the recycled PET area.''
Wellman Inc. is the world's largest recycler of PET and produces post-consumer recycled resin and polyester fiber. The company just announced it plans to build a 600 million-pound-per-year virgin polyester and PET manufacturing plant in North America. It also is expanding production of the virgin materials at a recently acquired plant in the Netherlands.
The extrusion division operates three lines at the plant in Ripon with capacity for annual production of 21 million to 30 million pounds. It makes both virgin and 100 percent post-consumer sheet for thermoforming and many other applications.
``We see PET, and especially the recycled-content PET, displacing PVC in the market more and more,'' Hacker said. ``In applications like blisters and clamshells, there is no longer only one clear plastic material, and whether it is warranted or not, the demand is growing because of the concept that PET is the most recyclable plastic.''
Hacker noted that PET's ascent as a packaging material has been boosted by nonobjection letters from the Food and Drug Administration for use in contact with some foods, and in coextruded combinations with virgin resins.
``There is definitely pressure from the consumer, not the industry, for greater use of PET, and especially recycled PET,'' Hacker said. ``That is what is driving us right now.''