Total Petrochemicals USA Inc. is sharpening its edge in plastic cutlery with a new grade of crystal polystyrene resin aimed at cutlery and tumblers.
The high-flow, general-purpose grade was commercialized earlier this year, said Todd Jagmin, Total national sales manager, in a recent phone interview from the firm's Houston headquarters. In addition to cutlery and tumblers, the material can be used in similar high-speed injection-molding applications or in extrusion capping and blending.
``Food packaging and food service are still big markets for polystyrene,'' Jagmin said. ``Those uses make up 60 percent of the market.
``They're starting to be mature markets, but they're important to us nonetheless. We want to do everything we can to help our customers compete with imported products and to allow them to keep their manufacturing here.''
The new grade allows for reduced part weight and higher cycle times, allowing for cost savings on the processing side. The resulting material also is tougher than previous resins.
``We've made a tougher part and maintained high flow,'' Jagmin explained. ``You don't want a fork to break when you're eating something at a party or a picnic.''
In the tumbler market, Jagmin said the clear material can be used in ``more upscale party goods'' and is an alternative to thermoformed PP cups. He added that the new material will be in a similar price range to Total's other PS offerings.
Phil Carruthers, Total styrenics vice president, said in a news release that the new PS ``is another example of [Total's] continuing efforts to work with customers to develop the next generation of polystyrene products.''
The new PS was developed at Total's application lab in La Porte, Texas, after receiving a request from a customer. The material then was tested in pilot amounts in La Porte and now is being made at Total's massive styrenics plant in Carville, La. The site ranks as the world's largest PS production location with 1.7 billion pounds of annual capacity.
The business is part of Brussels, Belgium-based Total Petrochemicals, which employs more than 7,000 worldwide and posted sales of more than $15 billion in 2006. Total Petrochemicals is a unit of Total SA of Courbevoie, France, which is the world's fourth-largest oil company.