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March 29, 2005


"You got it! I should be done today."

Famous last words, and I do mean last. I was recently forced to ship unusable plastic product to the end of the line, the final destination, the last ditch option (*Note: The name Mary means: ‘Last Ditch Effort’ in ancient England) - the landfill. A single tear streaked my face as the last of the trucks pulled out of our yard - but I was not lamenting over the waste I had just shipped, I was crying over the catastrophe that resembled a routine non-hazardous waste remediation project. Let's start from... well... the start.

I had approximately 250 tons of unusable product, and I wanted it disposed of. So I started phoning around looking for the best rates. Eventually I found what I was looking for. The disposal and freight was bundled into one tight little package that was simply irresistible. After a pleasant bout of planning (and further pricing pressures) I booked them. The date for the first run eventually arrived. It was a cold (and foggy?) Canadian day; one of those days where suicide seemed like an option when you considered leaving your warm bed. I did drag myself out and slugged off to work. As per my morning I was completely incoherent. I fell into my chair and stared at my computer wondering how I managed to get there in the first place, when logistics called.

"You have a truck here to pick up garbage."

At first I was pleasantly surprised and was thinking 'What an excellent company, affordable and on time.' Then the fun began:

"You have another truck here to pick up garbage."

Okay, two trucks lined up outside is manageable, and slightly convenient. I might clear my garbage out before the end of the week.

"You have another truck pulling in now. How many trucks did you book?"

I only booked one. And by the time I reached the logistics office there were four in the yard. I cringed as I walked past my boss’s office. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him rubbing his forehead considering my employment. It turned out there were seven booked by the waste company that day. And when your company has over 30 docks an extra seven vehicles in the yard do what they do best: screw the schedule.

The next time I booked a truck nothing showed up. The time after that the truck mysteriously appeared a few minutes after I put down the phone. My luck with logistics has been similar to any mentionable super villain with an island fortress: The hero always seems to find the 'forgotten drain-pipe’ that opens into the main control room.

And Remember: Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

March 16, 2005


Plastic Traders (or Traitors?)

    As some of you may know on May 27, 2005 PP and LDPE will hit the open market as a commodity featured on the London Metal Exchange (LME). This is an exciting time for the plastics industry; besides international acknowledgment we will actually have access to a set market value for the material we work. It also means a new generation of Traders will be injected into the local marketplace.
    These Traders will most likely be one of two things: A) A former commodity trader. or B) A plastics processor trying to grab a bigger piece of the poly-pie.
    I am looking at the pie from the recycling/processing (post consumer/industrial) aspect. Here ‘s what I predict:
    Needless to say we (in the recycling industry) are all bound for a year of fumbling. Rejected loads will fly around like beach balls at a KISS concert, and miscellaneous parcels of material will multiply in every dark corner of our grand Continent. After
approximately one year (yes for all you veterans, I've only been around for about 400 days) I know one thing for certain: Plastic is different from coffee.
    Let’s say you have 100,000 lbs. of "Genetically Engineered Caffeine Bean Coffee" ready to be traded on the open market. While the coffee was in production in some dreary third world country a poor peon dropped a pocket full of "Star-Bux Value Brew Coffee Beans” into the parcel. The coffee gets sold to Finland (Note: One of the biggest coffee consumers in the world) and chances are, no one in a million years will ever be able to tell. But with plastic, let's say I have a parcel of ABS, and the same poor peon drops a handful of PVC into a box of regrind. No doubt I will get a friendly phone call from a secondary plastics processor to the tune of "I'm not paying you, and you owe me X amount of money for ruining an entire melt." Suddenly writing for Plastics.com is my only past time. Similar issues like this will soon run amuck in the recycling sector.
    How can I make such predictions? Well to start I've had plastic rejected from China, India, Korea, Taiwan, America, and the local Canadians. Simply due to the fact I was looking at plastic from a metal traders point of view, which is a viral problem right now (giving everyone fair warning). If you’re a processor, and considering to purchase recycled material, do what you can to ensure you product.
    Also, I beg of my audience, don't judge all recyclers by my blunders. I am now a year older, and wiser - meaning I've learned to add the term "Sorting Goods" to the end of my product descriptions.

And Remember: Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.

March 08, 2005

I stained my hands bright yellow today.

Nitric acid is eating through my pants.

    Well here I am saying my first 'Hello' to the international plastics community; allow me to introduce myself. I am a young plastics trader working out of a recycling facility in Ontario, Canada. I've been given a simple, yet broad directive to simply figure out how to sell and manage co-mingled post consumer plastic scrap.
       For the past week I've been stationed in our most recent addition to the plant: Assay Lab. It is a modern set up with all the toys (including a new ICP Spectrometer).  I'll be updating everyone as I go along, but I can add this little bit of insight: Nitric Acid Stains your hands yellow, and eats through clothing at a terrific rate. If I had spilled any more of the digestion solution on myself, I would have A) Been charged with indecent exposure. or B) Forced to finish the day wearing only a lab coat (which would probably give the wrong impression to any bystanders). Basically my work for the week is set out for me: find rubber pants, and fight the fear of Nitric acid staining anything under my pants bright yellow.
    My problem of the month is simple: I'm attempting to figure out all the ebb and flow involved in 'Plasphalt'. An interesting asphalt hot mix development that was worked on in New Mexico during late nineties. Basically you mix 10% volume (by weight) of commingled plastic regrind into a hot mix asphalt recipe. Your results: asphalt that is 25% more flexible and considerably more resilient to freezing and thawing. The down swing is that it is also 25% more expensive to produce. But in Canada where (estimated number warning) approximately 65% of all road damage can be blamed on the harsh weather conditions it makes a lot of sense. And for all you sticklers out there no I haven't actually run the numbers through with Statistics Canada yet - So to wrap it up, the idea 'in theory' looks quite nice. If anyone out there has any experience in anything to do with this topic please feel free to contact me. And if your wondering why plasphalt isn’t smoothly running over your pitted, cracked excuse for an avenue, it’s the same reason so many good ideas go astray: The shortest distance between two points (being start and finish) is under construction.
And Remember: The fact that no one understands you doesn't make you an artist.


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