Resin distribution firms are encountering a range of reactions in how their customers approach sustainable materials.
In recent interviews, some distribution execs said their customers were pushing hard for access to biopolymers or materials with recycled content. Others said there was some interest but not a lot of sales activity just yet.
"The recycled side has always been good for us," said Michael Bernich, president of Jamplast Inc. in Ellisville, Mo. "More injection molders and extruders now have sustainability goals."
"There's also been an increase in fresh ideas from their idea people," he added. "Sometimes the idea might have been on the shelf for five years."
"You have to ask where the stem of the push [for sustainability] is. You have to have to educate [customers] on what they need, whether it's recyclable or sustainable."
Jamplast founder John Moisson added that the firm has been offering bioplastics since 2002.
"There's been an ebb and flow over that time," he said. "At times, people thought [bioplastics] were a niche product, but this past year the interest level has been crazy.
"There are a lot of large brand owners looking to meet sustainability goals."
The distribution business of Avon Lake, Ohio-based PolyOne Corp. is focused on sustainability as a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. The firm also ranks as one of North America's largest compounders and concentrate makers.
"Plastic is everywhere, in places that save lives and reduce energy usage, but it's also in places it shouldn't be, like our oceans and rivers," PolyOne Distribution President Scott Horn said in an email. "We certainly recognize that we need to be part of the solution to this problem."
PolyOne currently has more than 30 materials that have been designated as sustainable that are available to customers. Horn added that his firm's sustainable solutions portfolio "contains dozens of materials from multiple suppliers that can enable customers to reach their sustainability goals."
Recycled content polymers offered by PolyOne include PC/ABS, acrylics, polypropylene and other styrenics. The firm also features bio-based acrylics, cellulosics and nylon grades based on castor oil.
"At a corporate level, PolyOne has been focused on sustainability for over a decade … and we've been certified by the [American Chemistry Council] as a Responsible Care company," Horn said. "Our mission also involves enabling our customer's sustainability and innovation with world-class products and services."
Greg Boston has seen interest in sustainable grades of polyolefin compounds, nylons and styrenics at General Polymers Thermoplastic Materials in Auburn Hills, Mich.