Jun 07, 2023

What is the definition of 'plastics resin'?

The April 15 fire at a Pinova Inc. chemical plant in Brunswick, Ga., prompted a lot of discussion among the Plastics News editors.

The New York Times and other media described the factory as a "plastics plant," or even more specifically a "plastic resin plant," and reported on the evacuation order as if it's part of a trend of plastics fires. News stories made a connection between the Pinova fire and the fire at My-Way Trading Inc. in Richmond, Ind., as if they were related.

At PN, we were prepared to cover the Pinova fire. But then we took a closer look and realized that calling the Brunswick factory a plastics plant is a pretty big stretch. Pinova uses pine tree waste to make chemicals and additives used in a wide variety of applications, including adhesives, tires, chewing gum — and plastics.

I understand the media wants to explain business and technology stories in language that the public can understand. Perhaps local officials call the factory a plastics plant. Maybe seeing "plastics" mentioned as an end market for Pinova's plant-based polyterpine resins, rosins and additives was just a shortcut to make the story relatable.

I suspect it also fit into a narrative that plastics are hazardous and flammable, which is easy to do after the East Palestine rail accident and the Richmond fire. It's an adage in the newspaper world: Three stories about similar topics makes it a trend.

We're more careful and more precise. For example, in our stories about the My-Way Trading fire, we haven't called it a plastics recycling plant. Warehouses that store plastic waste aren't recycling plants. It's a fine point, but important for many PN readers.

Finally, I encourage you to read Robert Render's Perspective column on the right way for plastics recyclers to work with local fire and emergency responders. Render has decades of experience in plastics recycling — you may recall that his company used to recycle all the scrap plastic from NPE, back when the shows were in Chicago's McCormick Place.

On the Richmond fire, Render says he is "quite angry about this fire and the black mark it placed on plastics recycling, plastics operations and the entire industry," and he offers solid suggestions for ways to improve.

The 100-year-old Waterloo passenger rail station in London is getting a much-needed facelift.

Britain's Network Rail announced that its engineers have begun work on a two-year project to refurbish the station roof that overlooks the main concourse and was rebuilt in 1922.

The project calls for 10,000 new glazed panels that will cover 12,000 square meters of roof — an area that Network Rail describes as almost twice the size of the pitch at Wembley Stadium. (I love the soccer comparisons.)

The lightweight polycarbonate glazing material will reduce stress on the structure, "future-proofing it for decades to come," Network Rail said in an April 19 release. Travelers will also benefit from "a lighter and brighter station, making journeys more welcoming and pleasant."

If you've ever driven on I-75 through Lima, Ohio, no doubt you've seen the massive United States Plastics Corp. factory with the "Christ Is the Answer" message in giant letters.

The man behind that company was R. Stanley Tam, who died April 16 at age 107.

Tam opened his first business in 1936, recycling silver from developed film. Eventually plastics surpassed silver recovery, and today the company supplies industrial plastic products including tanks, bottles, labware, buckets, sheet, rod, tube, pipe, tubing and fittings.

Tam's death is getting a lot of news coverage because of his dedication to the church. He described himself as "God's employee," and he donated more than $100 million to Christian causes.

Do you have an opinion about this story? Do you have some thoughts you'd like to share with our readers? Plastics News would love to hear from you. Email your letter to Editor at [email protected]

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