|From: Sam Citron||12/7/2007 10:48:55 AM|
|No Plastic Bags Please, We're British Gets Brown to Mull Ban|
By Alex Morales
Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- The sight of a Hawaiian beach covered in trash and seabirds choking on plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean turned Briton Rebecca Hosking into an environmental activist in her own backyard.
Hosking, a documentary maker for the British Broadcasting Corp., showed footage of the damage to retailers in the village of Modbury, southwestern England. That prompted all 43 shops in town to stop giving away plastic bags in May and triggered a campaign that's putting pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to roll out restrictions nationwide.
Animals ``through millions of years of evolution have learned that anything colorful on the ocean surface is a food source,'' Hosking says. ``Plastic bags are problematic because they mimic jellyfish.''
Britons use 13 billion carrier bags a year, each of which takes 400 years to break down, according to London Councils, which represents the capital's 33 local governments. Ireland in 2002 imposed a tax on plastic bags -- now 22 euro cents (32 U.S. cents) a bag -- that has cut use by 90 percent, the country's Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government says.
Hosking's campaign is a ``great example of grassroots action leading the debate,'' says Mike Webster, a consultant at Waste Watch, a London-based group that promotes recycling. ``What's encouraging is that it's spreading and politicians are sitting up and taking notice and being braver as a result.''
More than 70 U.K. towns and villages plan to adopt voluntary plastic bag bans, encouraging shoppers to shift to reusable carriers or cornstarch bags, according to the Marine Conservation Society, which campaigns to clean up U.K. beaches. As small retailers join with city governments to cut plastic bag use, Brown last month said he would push for a nationwide phase- out.
``All over the country campaigns have been formed to get rid of disposable plastic bags -- one of the most visible symbols of environmental waste,'' Brown said in a Nov. 19 speech in London. ``I am convinced that we can eliminate single-use disposable bags altogether.''
Brown said he wants the U.K.'s largest supermarket chains, including Tesco Plc, J Sainsbury Plc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Asda unit, to expand their pledge to reduce their use of plastic bags by 25 percent by 2008. While supermarkets promote recycling, only one in 200 plastic bags is recycled, the government says.
On Nov. 13, London's 33 local councils voted to demand that Parliament restrict the use of plastic bags in the capital. Proposed legislation would bar retailers from giving away bags for free. The law wouldn't take effect before 2009.
``This is not pie in the sky,'' says Merrick Cockell, chairman of London Councils. ``It's readily possible.''
Others are moving faster. Hebden Bridge, a village in the county of Yorkshire, followed Modbury's example in September. On Nov. 30, Borough Councilor Elaine Still declared Overton plastic bag-free at the town's Christmas light ceremony.
Overton shopkeeper Peter Baker rallied more than 60 businesses that gave away a total of 33,000 plastic bags a month, to shift to renewable alternatives after reading about Modbury's effort. Retailers will switch to biodegradable cornstarch bags, with most outlets charging 10 pence (21 cents) each.
The campaign is changing consumer attitudes.
``I hadn't thought about it before, and every time I used to go out I would come back with loads of plastic bags and chuck them all away,'' says Jane Ford, 60, toting one of the cloth bags Overton retailers now sell. ``Now I use this all the time.''
Paper Bag Costs
Abandoning plastic bags may not be as environmentally friendly as people think, says David Tyson, chief executive officer of the Packaging and Industrial Films Association, a U.K. trade group whose 70 members sell about 300 million pounds ($617 million) of plastic bags annually.
Production and transport of paper bags, which are 10 times heavier than plastic, produces more of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming than the lighter alternative, he says.
``It's important that we work together to protect the environment, but it isn't helped by these knee-jerk suggestions that we ban products,'' Tyson says. ``The best approach is to try and develop a responsible attitude in the use of bags.''
Hosking, the Modbury activist, says plastic bags are just a small part of a larger environmental crisis.
In her travels she's seen turtles eating trash and an ``avian apocalypse'' in the Midway Islands, where albatrosses starve because their stomachs are filled with plastic.
East of Hawaii, ocean currents form a ``gyre,'' or giant eddy, that dumps rubbish from around the world on the islands. At Volcanoes National Park, Hosking saw chest-high piles of waste along a beach.
``There was all this plastic: everything in your house made of plastic, kid's toys, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, toiletries, DVDs, CDs, parts of TVs,'' she says. ``Knocking out plastic bags is a really tiny thing to do, but I hope it starts to get people thinking about the bigger picture.''
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Sam Citron||2/4/2008 11:38:15 AM|
|Motivated by a Tax, Irish Spurn Plastic Bags [NYT]|
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
DUBLIN — There is something missing from this otherwise typical bustling cityscape. There are taxis and buses. There are hip bars and pollution. Every other person is talking into a cellphone. But there are no plastic shopping bags, the ubiquitous symbol of urban life.
In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.
Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.
“When my roommate brings one in the flat it annoys the hell out of me,” said Edel Egan, a photographer, carrying groceries last week in a red backpack.
Drowning in a sea of plastic bags, countries from China to Australia, cities from San Francisco to New York have in the past year adopted a flurry of laws and regulations to address the problem, so far with mixed success. The New York City Council, for example, in the face of stiff resistance from business interests, passed a measure requiring only that stores that hand out plastic bags take them back for recycling.
But in the parking lot of a Superquinn Market, Ireland’s largest grocery chain, it is clear that the country is well into the post-plastic-bag era. “I used to get half a dozen with every shop. Now I’d never ever buy one,” said Cathal McKeown, 40, a civil servant carrying two large black cloth bags bearing the bright green Superquinn motto. “If I forgot these, I’d just take the cart of groceries and put them loose in the boot of the car, rather than buy a bag.”
Gerry McCartney, 50, a data processor, has also switched to cloth. “The tax is not so much, but it completely changed a very bad habit,” he said. “Now you never see plastic.”
In January almost 42 billion plastic bags were used worldwide, according to reusablebags.com; the figure increases by more than half a million bags every minute. A vast majority are not reused, ending up as waste — in landfills or as litter. Because plastic bags are light and compressible, they constitute only 2 percent of landfill, but since most are not biodegradable, they will remain there.
In a few countries, including Germany, grocers have long charged a nominal fee for plastic bags, and cloth carrier bags are common. But they are the exception.
In the past few months, several countries have announced plans to eliminate the bags. Bangladesh and some African nations have sought to ban them because they clog fragile sewerage systems, creating a health hazard. Starting this summer, China will prohibit sellers from handing out free plastic shopping bags, but the price they should charge is not specified, and there is little capacity for enforcement. Australia says it wants to end free plastic bags by the end of the year, but has not decided how.
Efforts to tax plastic bags have failed in many places because of heated opposition from manufacturers as well as from merchants, who have said a tax would be bad for business. In Britain, Los Angeles and San Francisco, proposed taxes failed to gain political approval, though San Francisco passed a ban last year. Some countries, like Italy, have settled for voluntary participation.
But there were no plastic bag makers in Ireland (most bags here came from China), and a forceful environment minister gave reluctant shopkeepers little wiggle room, making it illegal for them to pay for the bags on behalf of customers. The government collects the tax, which finances environmental enforcement and cleanup programs.
Furthermore, the environment minister told shopkeepers that if they changed from plastic to paper, he would tax those bags, too.
While paper bags, which degrade, are in some ways better for the environment, studies suggest that more greenhouse gases are released in their manufacture and transportation than in the production of plastic bags.
Today, Ireland’s retailers are great promoters of taxing the bags. “I spent many months arguing against this tax with the minister; I thought customers wouldn’t accept it,” said Senator Feargal Quinn, founder of the Superquinn chain. “But I have become a big, big enthusiast.”
Mr. Quinn is also president of EuroCommerce, a group representing six million European retailers. In that capacity, he has encouraged a plastic bag tax in other countries. But members are not buying it. “They say: ‘Oh, no, no. It wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t be acceptable in our country,’ ” Mr. Quinn said.
As nations fail to act decisively, some environmentally conscious chains have moved in with their own policies. Whole Foods Market announced in January that its stores would no longer offer disposable plastic bags, using recycled paper or cloth instead, and many chains are starting to charge customers for plastic bags.
But such ad hoc efforts are unlikely to have the impact of a national tax. Mr. Quinn said that when his Superquinn stores tried a decade ago to charge 1 cent for plastic bags, customers rebelled. He found himself standing at the cash register buying bags for customers with change from his own pocket to prevent them from going elsewhere.
After five years of the plastic bag tax, Ireland has changed the image of cloth bags, a feat advocates hope to achieve in the United States. Vincent Cobb, the president of reusablebags.com, who founded the company four years ago to promote the issue, said: “Using cloth bags has been seen as an extreme act of a crazed environmentalist. We want it to be seen as something a smart, progressive person would carry.”
Some things worked to Ireland’s advantage. Almost all markets are part of chains that are highly computerized, with cash registers that already collect a national sales tax, so adding the bag tax involved a minimum of reprogramming, and there was little room for evasion.
The country also has a young, flexible population that has proved to be a good testing ground for innovation, from cellphone services to nonsmoking laws. Despite these favorable conditions, Ireland still ended up raising the bag tax 50 percent, after officials noted that consumption was rising slightly.
Ireland has moved on with the tax concept, proposing similar taxes on customers for A.T.M. receipts and chewing gum. (The sidewalks of Dublin are dotted with old wads.) The gum tax has been avoided for the time being because the chewing gum giant Wrigley agreed to create a public cleanup fund as an alternative. This year, the government plans to ban conventional light bulbs, making only low-energy, long-life fluorescent bulbs available.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|To: richardred who wrote (18)||2/24/2008 9:51:17 PM|
|Polyester maker Wellman files for Chapter 11|
Friday February 22, 5:44 pm ET
Wellman Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
Along with the filing, the polyester maker has received a commitment from its revolving credit-facility lenders for up to $225 million in debtor-in-possession financing.
The funds, combined with cash from operations, will be used to fund future operating expenses, including employee and supplier obligations.
"Although the company has taken numerous steps to reduce its debt and strengthen its balance sheet through the disposition of certain businesses, headcount reductions and other cost reductions, these actions were not sufficient to offset the deterioration in business conditions and the cost of our substantial debt obligations," says Thomas Duff, chief executive.
The bankruptcy filing allows Wellman (OTCBB:WMAN - News) to operate "while continuing to pursue our previously announced strategic-alternative process," Duff adds.
In October, Wellman hired Lazard Freres & Co., an investment bank with extensive experience in mergers and acquisitions for chemical companies, to explore its options.
Wellman sells polyester to the apparel, home-furnishings, nonwovens, industrial and fiberfill markets. The company is based in Shrewsbury, N.J., but most of its management and corporate staffers work in northern Lancaster County.
Published February 22, 2008 by the Charlotte Business Journal
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)|
|From: richardred||2/27/2008 1:18:17 PM|
|Metabolix Still in Development|
Wednesday February 27, 9:44 am ET
By Jason Napodano, CFA
Metabolix, Inc. (NasdaqGM: MBLX - News) is a biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of environmentally sustainable, economically attractive alternatives to petrochemical-based plastics, fuels and chemicals. We are pleased to see the company's progress with its lead technology platform, PHA Natural Plastic.
Metabolix is set to commence commercial production of Natural Plastic in December 2008. However, the company is several years away from achieving profitability.
Metabolix is working on the development and commercialization of environmentally sustainable and economically attractive alternatives to petrochemical-based plastics, fuels and chemicals. Metabolix has a key strategic alliance with Archer Daniel Midland (NYSE: ADM - News), one of the world's largest agricultural products processors and industrial fermentors, for the development and commercialization of Natural Plastic.
Metabolix is working on a second technology platform which is being developed for the co-production of Natural Plastic and biomass feedstock. However, this program is still in an early stage of development. It is difficult to value MBLX shares, given its little revenue and negative EPS. Based on our long-term earnings model, we do not see MBLX posting positive EPS over the next several years.
We rate the shares a Hold with a price target of $18. The stock is currently trading at $16.97. A suitable strategic partnership for the switchgrass program could provide upside to the name.
Arpita Dutt, CA, contributed to this report.
Read the full analyst report on MBLX.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)|
|To: richardred who wrote (49)||3/4/2008 3:07:16 PM|
|From: Sam Citron|
|Today MBLX hit a new yearly low ($14.85) and is getting closer to becoming just another broken IPO. I have seen no significant news since the prospectus. It has been and will remain a development stage company for some time to come. Everything depends on their transition from using expensive to corn to cheap cellulose as a feedstock for biodegradable plastics and energy.|
I have been long and short in the past, but have no present position in the stock. Given the state of investor sentiment, it is not surprising to me that most speculators have fled these shares, not for "greener" pastures, but for more traditional energy and agricultural stocks that are making profits in today's uncertain environment. Perhaps a leadership change in the White House may provide the next catalyst to move MBLX higher, with a change in environmental and energy policy. Until such a change occurs, it wouldn't surprise me to see MBLX trade in single digits, given the financial climate and investors tendencies to throw babies out with the bathwater.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (2)|
|To: richardred who wrote (52)||3/19/2008 8:05:13 PM|
|From: Sam Citron|
|I wouldn't get too excited about it although it was strong in a very weak market today, especially for commodities.|
I'm trying not to even look at it until October when tax loss selling kicks in. The kind of bear market we are in, it could lose half its market value by then, before the Clinton plant is even completed. Depends partially on their cash burn rate.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|To: richardred who wrote (48)||3/31/2008 12:52:53 PM|
|Eastman Sells PET, PTA Assets in Europe|
Monday March 31, 11:32 am ET
KINGSPORT, Tenn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Eastman Chemical Company (NYSE:EMN - News) today announced it has completed the sale of its European PET and PTA assets to Indorama. Included in the sale are Eastman’s PET facility and related businesses in the United Kingdom and its PET and PTA facilities and related businesses in the Netherlands. The total cash proceeds of the transaction are €224 million or approximately US $354 million, subject to adjustments in working capital. The transaction will result in a gain on sale in the Company's consolidated financial statements for first quarter.
"This transaction completes Eastman’s divestitures of its non-strategic PET and PTA assets located outside the U.S.,” said Gregory O. Nelson, Eastman executive vice president and polymers business group head.
Eastman announced in December 2007 that it had entered into an agreement for the sale, subject to customary approvals.
About Eastman Chemical Company
Eastman manufactures and markets chemicals, fibers and plastics worldwide. It provides key differentiated coatings, adhesives and specialty plastics products; is a major supplier of cellulose acetate fibers; and produces PET polymers for packaging. As a Responsible Care® company, Eastman is committed to achieving the highest standards of health, safety, environmental and security performance. Founded in 1920 and headquartered in Kingsport, Tenn., Eastman is a FORTUNE 500 company with 2007 sales of $6.8 billion and approximately 10,500 employees. For more information about Eastman and its products, visit www.eastman.com.
Eastman Chemical Company
Tracy Kilgore, +1-423-224-0498
Greg Riddle, +1-212-835-1620
Source: Eastman Chemical Company
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)|
|To: richardred who wrote (54)||4/15/2008 11:53:45 AM|
|From: Sam Citron|
|Adored, Deplored and Ubiquitous [NYT]|
By NATALIE ANGIER
Come next Tuesday, in a move flagrantly timed to coincide with Earth Day, the Whole Foods supermarket chain will no longer offer its customers the plastic bag option. Seeing that “it can take more than 1,000 years for a plastic bag to break down in a landfill” and that “in the U.S. alone, about 100 billion plastic bags are thrown away each year,” the company said it could not in good conscience contribute to the crisis.
Bravo. Now tell me this: What am I supposed to line my garbage cans with? I always use plastic supermarket bags, and the Whole Foods ones were by far my favorites — roomy and springy enough to hold a lot of sodden waste without fear of breakage, always a plus when one is disposing of, say, fish skins or cat litter. So if I have to buy plastic bags by the box, that’s better for the environment how? Forget about paper bags for this purpose. When we were growing up in the Bronx, my older brother recently reminded me, we lined our garbage can with newspapers, a solution satisfactory to none but the roaches.
A century ago, the Belgian-born chemist Leo Hendrik Baekeland ushered in a materials revolution with his invention of Bakelite, a synthetic resin that was molded into radio cases, lamps, buttons, dressers and other Antiques Roadshow reliables. We have been emotional bobbleheads about plastics ever since. We adore plastics for their versatility, lightness, strength and affordability, and it seems we can’t get enough: the United States produced 6.5 billion pounds of raw plastic in December alone, up 2.3 percent from a year earlier. We deplore plastics for being cheap petroleum products and fear we’ll never get rid of them.
Yet scientists point out that the class of substances lumped together under the plastics postmark is so broad and diverse that to condemn or condone them categorically makes no sense. Moreover, the field is evolving rapidly, as researchers strive to spin plastics from renewable sources like sugar cane and grass clippings in lieu of fossil fuels, and to outfit their creations with the chemical grace to decay once discarded. “We can do a lot of interesting things, but there’s more research that needs to be done,” said James A. Moore, a professor of chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The biggest catch in reaching the new, greener stage of the plastics age, he said, “is that we have to accept that it’s going to cost money.”
Glancing around my office, I see how difficult it would be for me to live plastic-free. I’m typing on a computer keyboard made partly of molded polyvinyl chloride, which also serves as the source material for that ultimate plastic item, the credit card. Some components of the two black telephones on my desk are built of injection-molded acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a material that has the strength and toughness to resist cracking when dropped, and hence is also used in motorcycle helmets and luggage. My earrings are made of Lucite, a lightweight acrylic that is embarrassingly popular among jewelry makers now. A cottontop tamarin doll on my bookcase stares down through beady brown eyes — probably acrylic as well — and its chirpy fake fur is woven from polyester fibers. My desk and bookshelves are made of particle board, a composite of wood chips and a plastic resin. Lining my wastebasket is, yes, a plastic shopping bag, this one from Safeway, and like most plastic bags it’s made of polyethylene, “the largest-volume plastic” of all, said Richard A. Gross, a professor of chemistry and biology at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn. In fact, all my views arrive as though Saran-wrapped, for I’d be blind without the blend of plastics from which my rigid gas permeable lenses are cast.
Uniting these and the hundreds of other plastics that pad our mattresses, elasticize our comfort-fit jeans, suture our wounds, plug our dental cavities, encapsulate our pills, replace our lost limbs, lighten our cars and jets and crisscross our Kevlar vests is the state of being a synthetic polymer. The term polymer refers to any long molecular chain made up of smaller chemical units, or monomers, which polymer chemists habitually compare to beads on a necklace or, when they’re going out for a nice dinner, to pearls on a strand.
Life abounds with polymers. DNA, proteins and starches are polymeric molecules, all concatenations of smaller molecules. Plastics are just polymers in which humans, rather than nature, string the beads. Granted, we’re still pretty crude jewelers by comparison. The synthetic polymers in the plastic skin of a garbage bag, for example, are monotonous skeins of a single type of chemical bauble, ethylene, while the protein polymers in a fish’s skin are intricate arrays of as many as 20 distinct amino acids, the monomers of which proteins are built.
What’s more, whereas nature knows how to make thousands of different polymers and can make them the same length and shape every time, chemists have yet to master such fine control over their product line. “The typical way a polymer is made is you throw your monomers into a big pot and let them all react, as opposed to building them up one piece at a time the way the body does,” said Elliot P. Douglas, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Florida. “When we make a mixture, it’s a mixture of all different lengths.”
But our bodies and our plastics are by no means antithetical beasts. The polymers in both cases tend to feature a lot of carbon atoms, carbon having a readily linkable structure that makes it an ideal component of life — of the lives we live now, and of the ancient, squeezed and subliminated lives that constitute fossil fuels. It’s also an ideal constituent for monomers you want to toss together into your pot and have a product with useful properties come out the other side, like stretchiness, stickiness, ductility, disdain for electrical flow.
The reason petroleum so often serves as the foundation for plastics production is that it offers an ultraconcentrated source of carbon, but carbon is carbon and with the right manipulations other handier biosources like lawn litter will do. Add chlorine to your carbon backbone for hardness and heat resistance. Tack little methyl groups to the carbon backbone for durability, compactness and a ropy indifference to chemical abuse. Extrude your melted mixture through die holes to form pipes, hoses, drinking straws and fibers. Inject it into moldings shaped like Barbie, Ken or a comb. Blow it out like a balloon and you’ve got a new bag. When you’re done, hand it over: I will put it to use.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|