Tropical waters near the Bahamas are producing an all-natural calcium carbonate that's finding a home as a plastics additive.
U.S. Aragonite Enterprises LLC is marketing the material as Oshenite, an oolitic aragonite material that's harvested off the shores of Ocean Cay, an island that's part of the Bahamas and is near the Florida coast.
Salem, Mass.-based U.S. Aragonite is sourcing the material through an agreement with the island's owner, said Executive Vice President Gary Miller in a May 17 phone interview.
The material naturally forms near Ocean Cay as warm and cool waters combine. From there, Oshenite is shipped to Florida, where it's taken by truck to toll grinding sites in Texas and Alabama, added Miller, who owns U.S. Aragonite along with several business partners.
Oshenite then makes its way to Bayshore Industrial Inc. in La Porte, Texas, where it's used to make compounds based on polyethylene, polypropylene and other resins. Oshenite also is available in ground form for special applications.
“This could change the way the industry works with calcium carbonate,” Miller said of Oshenite. “It's a heck of a story. This material has been out there for a long time, but no one knew what to do with it.”
Miller added that Oshenite can be used in loadings of as high as 50 percent, and can offer faster cycle times, shorter cooling times and improved stiffness when compared with standard calcium carbonates. He credited the material's “purity and crystalline structure” with its enhanced performance.
On the firm's website, U.S. Aragonite officials add that Oshenite “represents a performance foundation for bioplastics.” The material “replaces resins at high concentrations in product applications and because it is created naturally, there is less carbon footprint, less energy expense involved,” they said.
In August, Aragonite will introduce grades of Oshenite aimed at uses in the film market. Miller and his partners began working on the Oshenite project in 2010.