DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - Polypropylene is growing faster than the overall rate of European plastics packaging, and PP is growing faster in packaging than in other markets, a German resin company executive said at a Dusseldorf conference before K'95. PP is about 30 years old in Europe, much younger than other major resins. But PP use has grown at a much faster rate than polyethylene, polystyrene and PVC in the past decade, growing from 4.5 billion pounds in 1985 to more than 11 billion pounds today, said Erhard Seiler, director of product development and technical service at BASF's PP business unit.
As the first speaker, Seiler opened ``Plastics High Performance Packaging,'' a conference held Oct. 3-4 in Dusseldorf, with a slide of the German Reichstag wrapped in huge sheets of PP this summer by the avant-garde artist Christo.
Christo proved a point about PP, noted Seiler, who said, ``It is an extremely versatile material.''
About one-third of the PP consumed by western European countries goes into packaging -a significantly higher percentage than in the United States, Seiler said. Much of the resin's growth has come from substituting it for other resins.
Oriented PP film has replaced cellophane nearly 100 percent.
Thermoformed PP margarine tubs have replaced most PVC and PS tubs.
PP is a strong competitor of PS in dairy product packages.
PP is making inroads into crates and paint containers, the domain of HDPE. Full-size pallets could be next.
Cast and blown PE film is being substituted with cast film from PP homopolymers or random copolymers.
Growing new applications include:
Thermoformed containers, still largely served by PS. Lower output remains the major disadvantage for PP as it battles PS, Seiler said.
Injection stretch blow molding is being used to make small PP containers of up to 2 liters. PP's high stress cracking resistance makes it suitable for condiments. Limited melt strength has kept PP out of larger containers so far.
Session moderator Dewey Rainville, a consultant in North Plainfield, N.J., asked whether recycling has been an obstacle. In the United States, he said, materials such as PP have been hindered because the recycling infrastructure is geared toward two major resins, PET and PE.
Seiler said Europe's recycling system is not limited to only a few resins and has not restricted PP packaging.