ParaStar Stars for Eastman

The new ParaStar plant of Eastman Chemical, which is being touted by the company as a major technological advance in the processing of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), received its official grand opening in April in a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by local officials, company officers and the media.
The plant, an addition to Eastman’s 40-year-old PET facility in Columbia, S.C., started production at the beginning of 2007 and currently is producing at a rate of about 350,000 metric tons a year. By mid-2008, annual production should reach 450,000 metric tons, says Thomas Stevens, Eastman’s vice president and general manager for the performance polymers business.
Eastman is calling ParaStar a “next generation” PET with improved clarity and reduced amounts of acetaldehyde, which can impart off-flavors to foods and beverages. ParaStar is made through a new process Eastman calls IntegRex, which significantly reduces the processing steps required to make PET resin. Much of this comes from the elimination of “solid stating,” or requiring the resin to solidify before it can be crystallized and purified. By crystallizing and purifying the plastic while it’s still liquid, the IntegRex process achieves significant streamlining in steps and equipment.
This and other improvements allow the resin to be made in a smaller plant with less energy. The Columbia ParaStar plant is half the size of the older facility but has twice the production capacity, company officials say.
Sustainable advantage
The environmental impact of ParaStar is a major part of Eastman’s sales pitch. Company officials say it takes 40 percent less energy to make ParaStar than to make an equivalent amount of PET. In addition, not only can bottles made from ParaStar run on existing blow-molding and filling equipment with no modification, but bottles can be blow-molded faster, with less energy, because the resin heats up and processes more quickly.
Company officials hope ParaStar’s “environmental footprint” will be recognized by companies like Wal-Mart, which is implementing a sustainability initiative that encompasses packaging. But Brian Ferguson, Eastman Chemical’s chief executive officer, says it’s hard for a packaging material supplier to insist on recognition by a retailer like Wal-Mart.
“This is a delicate area because Wal-Mart is not our customer; they are our customer’s customer,” Ferguson says. “I think Tom [Stevens] is very sensitive to working with his customers as to how they want to approach their customer, as opposed to us marching into Wal-Mart and saying, ‘I’ve got an answer, and you need to demand it of Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola.’”
— Eastman Chemical, 103 N. Eastman Road,
Kingsport, Tenn. 37662;