Braskem brings sustainable materials to K 2022
Unpredictability is predictable in the polypropylene resin market.
"We're coming off a really good run, but now we're looking at a lot of volatility," industry veteran Mark Nikolich said at K 2022. Nikolich is CEO of Braskem America, a Philadelphia-based unit of materials giant Braskem SA of Brazil.
"The market is seeing destocking now, because people had been buying [PP] in an extremely tight market for all materials and had built inventory," Nikolich said. "And big-box stores have too much inventory of consumer products. Now the supply chain is going too far in the other direction."
Supplies of polymer-grade propylene feedstock have gone from short to long, he added. That move, combined with new PP capacity coming on, has led to lower PP prices.
Project Delta, a new PP production line that Braskem opened in late 2020, "is running well," Nikolich said. "We're happy with Delta. We invested at the right time and hit the peak."
With customers focused on sustainability, Braskem now offers six PP grades and two polyethylene grades with recycled content. "There's really not enough high-quality polypropylene to recycle," Nikolich said.
Braskem also is an investor in Nexus Circular LLC, a chemical recycling firm with a commercial site in Atlanta. In July, Nexus announced plans to build a second site in the Chicago area.
Earlier this year, Braskem's I'm Green-brand bio-based EVA polymer was commercialized in The Robbie, a line of kids' shoes from Native Shoes of Vancouver, British Columbia. The new shoes use Sugarlite, a sugarcane-based EVA-blend material, in the upper and midsole materials. The shoes also are fully recyclable via the Native Shoes Remix Project. Kids can mail their old shoes back to Native Shoes for free, where they'll be used for playgrounds for local communities in Vancouver.
Also in 2022, Braskem launched two new circular PP grades with recycled content based on post-consumer waste. Both grades have been approved for a wide range of U.S. Food and Drug Administration food-contact applications, including consumer packaging, caps and closures, housewares and a range of thermoforming applications.
Looking ahead, Nikolich said that plastics processors might rely more on local resin production to meet their needs. He added that they could carry more resin inventory than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Braskem ranks as Brazil's largest petrochemicals firm and as one of North America's largest producers of PP resin. The firm also is a major supplier of bioplastics. Braskem employs 8,000 and posted sales of almost $20 billion in 2021.