Processors should treat calcium carbonate like a new polymer a material that can help them save money plus meet their customers' sustainability goals.
That's the message Picayune, Miss.-based calcium-carbonate concentrate supplier Heritage Plastics Inc. brought to K 2010.
The company came armed with case studies citing how different types of processors have successfully used the materials, as well as a life-cycle assessment comparing the concentrates to conventional polyethylene.
Calcium carbonate gets a lot of attention because it is an easy way to implement a solution that takes a step toward improving your carbon footprint while also lowering energy cost and lowering raw material costs, said Holly Hansen, vice president of technical services, in an interview at the Dusseldorf show.
Heritage's primary focus is on making concentrates containing 80 percent calcium carbonate, in a variety of resin carriers.
President Paul Lewis said the ability to save customers money and improve their sustainability performance has been successful, as Heritage has expanded three times in the past four years.
The biggest expansion project came in 2007, when the firm opened a second plant, in Sylacauga, Ala. This year Heritage added compounding equipment, boosting nameplate capacity by 20-25 percent. Lewis declined to give total capacity.
The next step could be global expansion. Heritage already exports to 23 countries, and Lewis said he is aggressively looking at global locations for a new plant.
The key consideration in picking a new plant location will be the quality of the local ore. Calcium carbonate is a natural mineral based on limestone, marble or chalk deposits. Heritage also will look at locations that are near existing and potential customers.
Hansen said processors are aware of some of the benefits of calcium carbonate primarily the cost advantage vs. using straight resin.
The company has been working to get the word out about some lesser-known advantages. For example, processors using the concentrates report that the enhanced thermal conductivity of the mineral allows the resin to heat up faster and then the finished parts to cool more quickly, resulting in faster cycles and lower energy consumption.
Heritage said a thermoformer of food-service products using 76 percent calcium carbonate in high-impact polystyrene reported a 6 percent improvement in productivity. And a large-part blow molder reported a 16 percent improvement in cycle time when using the concentrates in linear low density PE.
Heritage revealed a case study involving customer CeDo Ltd., a Telford, England-based film and bag maker that started using calcium carbonate concentrates from European suppliers in 2004.
CeDo typically used materials limited to 65-70 percent chalk, Heritage said, but was able to maintain or improve product strength using Heritage's higher-loaded concentrates. The concentrates helped CeDo boost cost benefits while improving the carbon footprint of finished products and maintaining the performance of its film, Heritage said.
In 2009, Heritage commissioned a life-cycle analysis by Boustead Consulting & Associates Ltd. that favorably compared the carbon footprint, emissions, greenhouse-gas creation and energy use for processors using calcium carbonate concentrates vs. straight resin.
Customers were skeptical because of all of the green claims out there. They needed the third-party life-cycle analysis, said Larry Bisio, vice president of sales and marketing.