MD+DI Online is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Top five plastics packaging articles of 2019 so far

Top five plastics packaging articles of 2019 so far

One way to measure industry trending is to check what people are reading, which is something we do regularly at PlasticsToday. We sometimes do this monthly, but this time we uncover the top-read feature articles that caught readers’ attention through the first half of 2019 that ended June 30. As in prior assessments, one topic reemerges as a landslide winner: sustainability in all its green varieties and applications.Danimer PepsiCo compostable bag bioplastics winner

The first of our top-read articles perfectly sets up the sustainable packaging features that follow. Coming in at #5, it lists recent news headlines including among others single-use plastics that dominated global headlines in 2018, scattered plastic bans including in Seattle, at Walt Disney Co. parks and within the European Union.

What does this all mean?

For Phil Van Trump, Chief Technology Officer, Danimer Scientific, it means that manufacturers and suppliers have responded in considering the environmental impact of petrochemical plastics and invested considerable resources in developing eco-friendly alternatives. Specifically from his view in this Op-Ed feature, it means that the industry seeks a way to create resins that will reliably biodegrade at the end of their lifecycle without sacrificing the durability of traditional plastic.

Van Trump outlines the value and unique benefits polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) products as having a role in the wider discussion. Better known as PHA, this polymer not only biodegrades in ocean water, tests show that it effectively biodegrades in both aerobic and anaerobic environments. Also, the company’s compostable next-generation snack bags that earned it and PepsiCo a joint Innovation in Bioplastics Award from the Plastics Industry Association are mentioned as an example.

For more, see Why 2019 may be a promising year for PHA, which was published in January.

Next: Paper vs. plastic


The thing about myths is that once they are made, sometimes they are busted.

During an industry gathering, veteran plastics reporter Clare Goldsberry noticed a coffee cup at the table made of “eco-friendly” paper next to a juice cup made of plastic, in this instance polypropylene. Paper versus plastic cups

In her words, “I was reminded of how uninformed people making these choices really are. Someone at the Hilton Santa Fe Plaza had decided that EPS foam coffee cups were not recyclable and, thus, purchased paper coffee cups with the accompanying paperboard wraps to keep consumers from burning their hands.”

That’s all it took as a jumping off point for one of her trademark blogs pointing out the inaccuracy of a follow-the-herd mentality when facts about plastics and alternative materials are either ignored or not considered at all.

Read the story in Myth-busting the belief that paper is more environmentally friendly than plastic, published in April.


Next: All you need to know about biodegradable packaging


It’s said that knowledge is power, and in this breezy and authoritative piece sustainable Biodegrade showing tractor at biodegradable compost heap packaging expert Robert Lilienfeld will help give anyone interested in the topic of degradables, biodegradables and compostable things a far better grasp sorting through the subtle or not-so-subtle the differences in these critical terms. He elaborates on eight key highlights of what you need to know:

  1. Biodegradation is a process, not an end result.
  2. Disintegration and fragmentation are not biodegradation.
  3. The certification process is complex, timing consuming, and costly.
  4. Certification for compostability requires that the entire structure and/or all of its components be tested and certified.

Read about the details on these four and the rest of the eight in Top eight things to know about biodegradable packaging, published in March.

Next: Flaws in plastic bag bans


Editor Goldsberry again struck a nerve with sustainable gold in this blog wherein she deftly punches holes in the logic of plastic grocery bag bans. She starts with “when I hear the term ‘single use’ applied to plastic retail bags, I cringe. I reuse those plastic bags to hold trash and cat litter. I reuse them to carry things to take to people. I’ve discovered that most people reuse the plastic retail bags for a number of things, which means they are not single-use.

plastic bags at checkout counterAbout 20 years ago, a woman in Phoenix invented clips to hold plastic bags on garbage cans so you can put trash in them easily. I interviewed her and she gave me several of her newly invented garbage can clips. I use them to this day!”

Along the way to laying out her science- and fact-based position, Goldsberry references a study done by University of Sydney economist Rebecca Taylor that found bag regulations in California resulted in a classic tale of unintended consequences.

In fact, she cites a number of studies that found that paper bags are actually worse for the environment than plastic.

To read more, see The unintended consequences of plastic bag bans from April.


Next: #1 winner(s) so far


Why was this feature the most popular over the past six months?

For one thing, at 14 pages it’s one of our longest features, an aspect that multiplies the PageViews that underly the website metrics and determines quantifiably how many people read what. FPA 2019 Molson resize 22 percent

For another, it’s a vetted review of the best in flexible packaging, which is in the midst of a lengthy bull-market run. One of the contributing factors to flexpacks’ success is the tremendous amount of innovation, an attribute that’s put on full display in the Flexible Packaging Association’s 2019 edition of the annual awards competition.

Here, too, sustainability plays a role—it’s something that’s permeates throughout the wide world of packaging in terms of geography, markets and types.
Our 14-page slideshow presentation kicks off with the Highest Achievement award for Miller Coors’ 12-pack cooler bag and 13 packages later concludes with a “Sustainable Pouch with Easy-Lock (APLIX) Reclosable Feature” that won silver in Sustainability for St. Johns Packaging Ltd.

We think you’ll enjoy a quick—if you like pictures of pretty packaging—or not so quick if you want to read all the information found in this visually driven review of the best in flexible packaging in Fantastic flexible packaging: FPA winners 2019 from March.


ROS 101: An Intro to the Robot Operating System

First released in 2007 by two Stanford PhD students who observed their colleague’s lack of entry into the robotics field, the Robot Operating System (ROS) was developed to be a distributed and modular open-source platform for robotics software development. Makers, engineers, researchers, and educators can use as little or much of the modular library functions for their robotics designs and projects. The distributive abilities of sharing modular software component packages is the major appeal of ROS within the robotics community. And there are currently over 3,000 software component packages contributed by the Open Robotics community, creating thriving ecosystem for ROS.

Although ROS is not operating system in the vein of Windows 10 or Linux, the software development platform provides a system of nodes that allows interprocesses to occur within the target’s intelligent platform. These interprocesses allow the sharing of functional messages to occur within a robotic architecture. The architecture of a ROS system consists of five components: a ROS Master, nodes, publishers, subscribers, and topics.

Here is a brief primer on ROS system components:

A typical ROS Model: System components.


ROS Master:

The ROS Master is responsible for managing names and registration services to the nodes within a ROS system. Publishers and subscribers are monitored by the ROS Master to ensure associated topics, as well as services, are provided within the robotic system. The ROS Master also enables location and communication between nodes within the robotics system. Finally, the ROS Master commonly initiates the node communication function using the roscore command. The roscore command is used to load the ROS Master with the essential software components to allow communication between nodes.


An executable file within the ROS system to allow communication among another node.


A message that is transmitted by a node or topic within a ROS system is known as a publisher.


A message that is received by a node or topic within a ROS system is known as a subscriber.


The publishing and subscribing of a message of a specific name type is known as a topic.

Each of these software components allows a robotic system to move, sense, monitor, and process a variety of signal and imaging data.

Hello World ROS Project

To get started in exploring ROS, we need two essential parts: Ubuntu Linux distro (version 18.04 LTS), and a host computer. The host computer can be a desktop PC, laptop computer, or a Raspberry Pi 3 or Model 3 B+. The Hello World project will illustrate how these two essential parts create a simple desktop robotic system.

In this example a Raspberry Pi 3 was used as the host computer. To use Ubuntu Linux on a Raspberry Pi 3 (RPi 3), the Mate version 18.04 LTS is the recommended distro to install on the single board computer.

Ubuntu Mate supports the Raspberry Pi single board computers.

Once the Linux distribution is installed on the RPi 3, the ROS distro library is required. There are several ROS distro libraries known as (ros_lib) packages to select from at the website. Each revision level has new library packages, services, and software bug corrections to improve the user experience with the ROS. For this project build example, ROS Melodic was installed on the RPi 3. Before proceeding with the ros_lib installation, a workspace directory is required. Creating a workspace directory requires opening a Linux terminal. The directions to create a workspace directory can be found at the website. The Linux commands required to install Melodic onto the RPI3 are below (you can copy/past them into a Linux terminal screen to save time):

sudo sh -c 'echo "deb $(lsb_release -sc) main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ros-latest.list'

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver 'hkp://' --recv-key C1CF6E31E6BADE8868B172B4F42ED6FBAB17C654

sudo apt update

sudo apt install ros-melodic-desktop-full

sudo rosdep init

rosdep update

echo "source /opt/ros/melodic/setup.bash" >> ~/.bashrc

source ~/.bashrc

sudo apt install python-rosinstall python-rosinstall-generator python-wstool build-essential

Linux installation commands for ROS Melodic desktop. Image source:

This installation build includes the commonly used robot programming and simulator packages of turtlesim and Gazebo.

The turtlesim simulator allows Python robot algorithms to be developed and tested using a 2D turtle.

The turtlesim simulator allows testing of robot code using C++ and Python programming languages.

Gazebo provides a 3D simulation environment where motion planning, object detection and sensing algorithms can be validated using 3D-based robotic systems and mobile platforms.

The Gazebo simulator is 3D robotics simulation package for testing motion planning and kinematic algorithms.

The final stage of the ROS project is the execution of the software code on a RPi 3 and an Arduino Uno.

The Arduino Uno will be functioning as a publisher whereby the chatter topic will be advertised through the ROS system. The topic message to be published is the infamous hello world text. To run the publisher code, the ros_lib hello world sketch will be installed on an Arduino Uno. The RPi3 and the Arduino Uno will share the topic by using USB serial communications. Therefore, the Arduino Uno and the RPi3 are attached to each other using an USB cable as shown:

Serial communication between the RPi3 and an Arduino Uno.

Running the entire project requires the use of multiple terminal screens initiating specific ros_lib commands. The first Linux command to allow the ROS Master to monitor and manage communication with the Arduino Uno node is “roscore.” The roscore command allows the hello world publisher code to be sent from the RPi 3 to the Arduino Uno. The chatter topic encapsulates and sends the publish hello world message to a Linux terminal screen.

The roscore command (service) being executed on a RPi3 using a Linux terminal.

The second Linux terminal screen will display the chatter topic of hello world.

The Arduino Uno (client) publishes the chatter’s topic hello world to a second linux terminal screen.

The initial ros_lib hello world Arduino Uno sketch (code) can be modified to publish new messages. Although the transmission message rate is set for one second, the publishing time can be change appropriately within the hello world code.

There are also other examples provided within the ros_lib package that can be explored on the Arduino Uno. Some examples include: blinking an LED; monitoring an electrical pushbutton; and operating a servo motor. Additional, information on ROS, ros_lib, the system model, and using the Arduino Uno can be found on the website.

[All images courtesy Don Wilcher]

Don Wilcher is a passionate teacher of electronics technology and an electrical engineer with 26 years of industrial experience. He’s worked on industrial robotics systems, automotive electronic modules/systems, and embedded wireless controls for small consumer appliances. He’s also a book author, writing DIY project books on electronics and robotics technologies.

Drive World with ESC Launches in Silicon Valley

This summer (August 27-29), Drive World Conference & Expo launches in Silicon Valley with North America's largest embedded systems event, Embedded Systems Conference (ESC). The inaugural three-day showcase brings together the brightest minds across the automotive electronics and embedded systems industries who are looking to shape the technology of tomorrow.
Will you be there to help engineer this shift? Register today!


Ascend outlines growth initiatives, specialty products at pre-K press conference

Ascend outlines growth initiatives, specialty products at pre-K press conference

Ascend Materials PA66 resin

Ascend Performance Materials (Antwerp, Belgium) will debut its new specialty polymers and detail its expansion plans at K 2019 in Düsseldorf, Germany, in October. At a pre-K press conference, Ascend announced growth plans, including new specialty polymers initiatives, capacity expansions and global developments, as well as details on its sustainability efforts. Ascend claims to be the largest fully integrated producer of polyamide (PA) 66 resin. The company will exhibit at stand A07 in hall 6 at the K, which runs from Oct. 16 to 24.

Among the company’s new products are high-heat, long-chain polyamides; an inherently antimicrobial polymer for fiber production; expanded recycled-content offerings; and additional flame-retardant grades of its Vidyne PA66.

“We have always been focused on meeting our customers’ needs,” said Scott Rook, Senior Vice President of Ascend’s commercial divisions. “Our adiponitrile expansions will keep pace with increasing demand for PA66 and support our growing specialty polymers and chemicals businesses. We are developing new products to help our customers meet new challenges.”

Ascend recently announced progress on a 90-kt adiponitrile expansion plan at its facility in Decatur, AL. The company continues to expand globally, adding technical capabilities in Europe and Asia to develop solutions with customers in the regions. Ascend began operating its first production facility outside the United States after purchasing a compounder in Tilburg, Netherlands, last year.

“We continue to invest in local resources to be closer to our customers. We have reorganized our regional teams and expanded our supply chain to address the increasing global demand,” Rook said.

Ascend is also intent on reducing its environmental footprint. The company’s 2018 sustainability report highlighted energy and emissions reductions, and Rook reiterated the company’s commitment to sustainability. “We are in advanced discussions to implement co-generation units at our Decatur plant, and we’ve expanded our recycled-content product portfolio,” Rook added. “We have an obligation to our employees, their families, our neighbors and our customers to use resources responsibly and add value where we can.”