MicroGreen introduces plastic sheet stock made using recycled water bottles

By David Ward, San Diego Thursday 08 September 2011

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Looking to provide printers with a sustainable alternative to traditional resin-based printable plastic sheet stock, Seattle-based MicroGreen Polymers has launched InCycle, made in part from recycled water bottles.

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"We hear from printers regularly that customers are looking for greener substrates — but frequently in that conversation, we also hear, 'Oh by the way we don't want to pay anymore'," MicroGreen CEO Tom Malone told PrintWeek, adding InCycle currently costs about 15% less than traditional polystyrene for the same application.

InCycle sheets are also thinner, which Malone said translates into cheaper transportation costs. "Our shipping advantage is quite significant as polystyrene traditionally is a heavy product," he added. "We can get three times the amount of goods in a truck load or container load compared to solid polystyrene sheets.

MicroGreen recently introduced a new Printing Starter Kit designed to help printers showcase InCycle to their clients. The kit includes 10 blank 28"x40" 30mm sheets, 10 28"x40" 40mm sheets and 10 28"x40" 60mm sheets, along with InCycle informational/promotional materials.

Malone said MicroGreen is targeting both the offset as well as the digital flatbed market, noting. "It's pretty clear the smaller-run digital high quality output is a strong growing market."

InCycle has already attracted a host of high-profile users, including the warehouse chain Costco, retailer Macy's and several supermarket chains on the US West Coast. "We're very excited about our early adopters," Malone said. "The real beauty of plastic versus paper is that every time you recycle paper the fibers break down so you can only get a couple of uses. But with plastic you can recycle it again and again."

Each InCycle sheet has an integral skin that can be printed directly on both sides with excellent ink adhesion and a natural dye level of 40-45, so it does not require a top coat. The integral skin is naturally 92 bright white without the addition of pigments. It is also UV resistant, waterproof, and does not blister, swell or warp, making it ideal for outdoor conditions.  

InCycle contains about 25% recycled materials and Malone said, "What we're finding is that recycled plastic is actually costing more than virgin plastic, though that's probably a temporary anomaly.

One thing that doesn't concern Malone is getting a getting enough recycled plastic. "A significant minority owner of MicroGreen is Waste Management, the largest recycling company in North America, so we have a direct connection to the source of supply for recycled bottles," Malone said.

Even though InCycle only recently made its debut, MicroGreen is already looking at expanding beyond its current Seattle facility, which has the capacity to generate 250m sq. ft. of graphics substrate annually. "We have plans to build another plant in the US either in the Midwest or closer to the east coast and we are also developing plans to put a plant in England," Malone said, adding that in the UK, about 50% of water bottles are currently being recycled, compared to about 23% in the US.

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Does the UK need a major print show every four years?

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