How does a shortage in resin apply to the plastic industry?
Plastic resins are the main base of all plastics. It is a composite blend, that can be molded into strong products to mimic the look of any material at a more affordable cost and a fraction of the weight. Since plastic can be made into millions of things, we need to understand the similarities and differences in types of resins and/or plastics.
Different types of plastics
Different heating processes are used to crack the hydrocarbons, the large molecules of resin such as ethylene and propylene. This process is called cracking. After cracking the hydrocarbons, the different compounds created are formed in a chain or polymer and rolled out into plastic sheets. These polymers have different end uses such as soft drink bottles, medical equipment and even milk jugs.
A lot depends on the density of the polymer. For example, food packaging and grocery bags are made of plastic and are thin and weak. But a garden planter from your local hardware store is also made from plastic. The planter is typically made from a high-density polyethylene, which tends to be lightweight but stronger.
Another is LLDPE (or Linear Low Density Polyethylene) and it is a true resin blend that begins as a powder. This blend can liquefy when superheated then be poured into a mold. LLDPE can withstand all kinds of wear, tear, weather or abuse.
Each material is best suited for a different purposes. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is a good general purpose thermoplastic while TPO is engineered for high impact strength even at low temperatures. ThermoPro works with a large variety of materials.
We have all been affected by the pandemic in one form or another, from wearing masks to kinks in the supply chain. What many of us don’t realize is how the resin supply chain got so backed up.
Many industries experienced shifts in production due to COVID-19 disruptions. Factories needed to abide by new safety standards and regulations caused a drop in production. The resin manufacturing industry is no different.
Most resin manufacturers are located in Texas and Louisiana. Many of these plants ran into staffing issues due to the pandemic. To add to complications, shipping ports and logistics all saw a slow down while factories removed days of labor to keep employees safe during the pandemic causing more delays.
Then The Cold Weather Rolled In…
Texas made national news in the middle of February 2021 when the United States was hit with Winter Storm Uri resulting in power outages across the country. The Arctic blast swept across the lower 48 states, bringing record cold temperatures and interruptions to electricity and water services. Texas is prepared for heat, not freezing temperatures. Much of the states infrastructure simply froze.
Winter Storm Uri ended up being one of the largest winter storms since 2014. The storm delayed shipments and shut down operations. Some regions of the country were digging out the snow to try to avoid further disruption of well…everything.
Hello, Hurricane Ida!
These past few years have been full of “kicking-you-when-you’re-down” moments. Near the end of August of 2021, coincidently the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana as a Category 4 storm. It was one of the strongest storms to ever hit Louisiana, leaving more than 1 million people without power and several casualties.
The damage from Hurricane Ida compounded an already overwhelmed supply chain from the pandemic. The storm temporarily shut down several ports and the recovery efforts also put a massive strain on the trucking industry. In addition to resin, the storm impacted the availability of products such as oil, food, electronics, toys and furniture.
Trying to Recover
With hits from the pandemic to record breaking weather, Louisiana and Texas plants are working hard to recover from all the shut-downs. Subsequently, there is more demand than supply for thermoplastics.
According to Plastics Today, availability should continue to enhance as producers further ramp up operating rates. Also, new capacity has come online in Texas with more expected to appear in November. However, a large amount of domestic resin producers are still in force majeure. Polyethylene, ABS, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Acetal, Polycarbonate and Nylon are several major polymers affected by the crises.
Texas creates 85% of Polyethylene for the US supply chain. Without Texas plants able to produce and ship these essential plastics, we are seeing significant plastic shortages across the board.
What does this mean?
We are now experiencing higher prices and longer lead times for orders. Polypropylene resin prices alone rose an average of 34 cents per pound and are expected to continue going up as a result of the strong global demand and short supply.
Our team at ThermoPro anticipates this crisis will last a bit longer. But, our customer service team is ready to work with you on your orders, deadline dates and shipment times. We are dedicated to assisting you with quicker product response times. Lastly, remember, resin crisis or not, the more lead time you can provide our team, the better we are prepared to handle your order.
The demand for resin isn’t expected to change any time soon so we will keep seeing cost increases around raw materials. As the US works to bounce back, ThermoPro will work with you to make sure we stay your top choice in custom thermoforming.
Throughout these months, it is important that we plan ahead when we can. Working together will get us through these hard times.
At ThermoPro we will always try to create a better “mold” for our future.