Ever have that moment when time, space and opportunity align? Remember the feel of a home run off the bat, or a seven iron to the pin? That’s the sweet spot. J.D. Foster, Senior VP, Economic & Policy Division, and Chief Economist of the US Chamber of Commerce, thinks that’s where our economy is now, and will be for some time with stable growth and lots of opportunity.

It was a nice start to two days of great presentations and networking at the 29th Annual Compounders Conference, hosted by the PLASTICS Flexible Vinyl Products Division (FVPD), over July 14 – 16.  

With great, if hot, weather, Charleston, South Carolina did its part too, as a very nice place to be. The Belmond Charleston Place was an excellent venue in the top ranked destination city in the United States. Attendees enjoyed world class food in dozens of restaurants, sunny skies and impeccable service. The Compounders Conference has never repeated a site. This year we did, returning after five years. And it was worth it.

Attendees enjoyed informative and thought-provoking sessions looking at markets, supply and innovation:

Supply Chain sessions:

  • Ana Lopez (IHS) provided an update on chlor-alkali cycles and the balance in world supply.
  • David Peters (Shawnee), Glenn Riggs (Odyssey Logistics) and Perc Pineda (PLASTICS) gave a very informative talk about trucking, rail and shipping challenges. More demand and less supply – fewer trucks on the road – mean higher prices and logistical juggling. 
  • Russ Miller (Formosa) provided a specialty PVC market update, discussed production issues and echoed the remarks of Ana and the trucking panel.

Technical sessions:

  • Paul Daniels (former ExxonMobil, now retired) drew upon decades of experience and spoke, in his own inimitable way, about problem solving in flexible PVC.
  • Dave Klein (Thompson Research) presented on anti-microbials in PVC.
  • David Reece (Huber) addressed  third flame retardants and smoke suppressants in plastisols, expanding and wrapping up the series.
  • David Faherty (Troy) talked about OBPA antimicrobials in flexible PVC.
  • Peter Gail (Mexichem) spoke about his company’s specialty PVCs.

Regulatory sessions:

  • Chris Wallace (ExxonMobil) provided a global regulatory plasticizer review, including developments here in the United States and the European Union.
  • Mike Easter (EnSight) updated the group on the revised labeling and supply chain requirements going into effect now under California Prop 65.

Plastics industry initiatives:

  • Bill Carteaux (PLASTICS) discussed the current issues of the day including straw and bag bans, and challenged members to get involved in the This Is Plastics program.
  • Cristian Barcan (Vinyl Institute) updated on the Vinyl Industry Sustainability Initiative and its goals for a branded and action-challenging certification program.
  • Ashley Hood-Morley (PLASTICS) provided an update on the sustainability work at PLASTICS including the recently released sustainability and marine debris statements, stewardship programs Operation Clean Sweep and Zero Net Waste, and addressed demonstration projects developed to increase end-market demand for recycled plastics.
  • Perc Pineda (PLASTICS) anchored the conference program with an analysis of the vinyl market and the outlook for the coming year, confirming much of J.D. Foster’s remarks with data specific to the industry.

It was a strong and well-diversified program, with attendees staying in place through all the sessions, right up to the closing supplier table top reception. 

While several speakers talked about the challenges of labor and fresh faces in the industry, our Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) program brought in dozens of new faces. The renewed enthusiasm in sessions and receptions was palpable.

As always, PLASTICS participates in strong industry coalitions. The Flexible Vinyl Alliance, a group of fifteen associations and corporations that focus on regulatory issues in the flexible vinyl market, held a working luncheon to update on the retirement of certain phthalates by the Food and Drug Administration.

All of this was supported by generous corporate sponsorships for breaks, boat trips and breakfasts as well as – new this year – a comfortable lounge where attendees could recharge and refresh. 

As Amelia Nucup from International Coatings noted, “The vinyl formulator's conference is an exciting event. Good source of information about plastic and a good connection to the leaders of the industry.”

Much was accomplished in two and a half days, as PLASTICS FVPD presented great information for business planning. Folks also renewed old friendships and made new ones in a classic city. This was a sweet spot.

We hope you will plan on joining us next year on the Florida Atlantic coast, July 14-16, 2019.