BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - An Argentine molder of expanded polystyrene food packaging is spearheading the early elimination of freon gas use by the nation's plastics sector. Buenos Aires-based Plastica Inplast SA, which extrudes high-impact PS and EPS and thermoforms food trays for packers and supermarkets, is the first local molder to use butane gas as a nonchlorofluorcarbon blowing agent for EPS.
Together with the other Argentine EPS molder, Celpack SA, Inplast has presented a national program to replace freon in accordance with the requirements of the Montreal Protocol to eliminate CFCs worldwide.
As part of a $4.5 million investment program, Inplast is upgrading EPS extrusion lines at its Bandex plant in San Luis, Argentina.
This involves scrapping the company's oldest, Italian Colombo freon-fed line, the modification of the gas-injection system on a Battenfeld Gloucester line and the addition of a second Gloucester line. New buildings were required to house the additional equipment.
The investment includes $1.5 million for a special butane gas installation and the security measures that go with using such a volatile agent, Inplast President Alberto Bracali said in a recent interview in Buenos Aires.
Half of the remaining $3 million in the program is being devoted to the extrusion line upgrade while the other $1.5 million is going toward improving high-impact PS thermoforming and auxiliary equipment.
Inplast expects to complete its transfer to butane and its expansion by early September while Celpack is due to complete its conversion a couple of months later, according to commercial manager Juan McCarthy.
Under terms of the global CFC phaseout, developing nations such as Argentina have until 2003 to stop using ozone-destroying gases. But, Bracali said, the industry aims to meet the same 1995 deadline allotted to the United States.
According to Inplast, Brazil's two EPS processors already have stopped using the freon blowing agent. One company switched to butane and the second to carbonic anhydride under license to Dow Chemical, said Bracali, former president of the Argentine plastics industry chamber CAIP.
At Inplast's second plant at Sarand¡, Argentina, its subsidiary Fornalit SA, a producer of high-impact PS trays and sheet, recently underwent a $1 million expansion.
The plant runs six thermo-forming lines at Sarand¡: one from Irwin, two from German supplier Kieffel and three from the Italian manufacturer TFT SpA.
Inplast had sales of $20 million last year but expects to ride higher on Argentina's sweeping trend toward hypermarket shopping. With 28 giant supermarkets opening this year across Argentina, the company is predicting that it will achieve sales of around $30 million in 1995.