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By the time you read this we will be into the 21st century and it would be well to examine the history of plastics up to the year 2000 in order to anticipate the future. Herewith a timeline for our industry.

1910 - General Bakelite Corporation begins large scale production of the synthetic plastic, Bakelite, a phenolformaldehyde resin.

1920 - Standard Oil of New Jersey starts a plant to produce isopropyl alcohol from refinery propylene at Bayway, NJ -- the first commercial U.S. petrochemical unit.

1921 - Union Carbide begins commercial cracking of natural gas and light petroleum fractions, signalling the birth of the petrochemicals industry.

1930s - IG Farben develops styrene butadiene elastomers and begins to make styrene in commercial quantities and develops polystyrene.

1933 - BF Goodrich receives patent to make plasticized PVC.

1935 - Rohm & Haas begins industrial production of Plexiglas polymethyl methacrylate.

1936 - Union Carbide starts production of Vinylite, a copolymer of vinyl chloride and vinyl acetate.

1937 - Dow Chemical develops a process for commercial production of polystyrene.

1938 - DuPont starts commercial production of the polyamide nylon 6/6.

1939 - ICI discovers the begins production of LDPE.

1943 - Dow Corning begins industrial-scale manufacturing of silicones.

1944 - DuPont produces Teflon.

1950 - Naugatuck Chemical, subsidiary of US Rubber makes the first ABS copolymer. Borg Warner later improves ABS properties.

1953 - Ziegler and Natta develop catalysts leading to production of HDPE and PP leading to commercial production by Hoechst, Grace, Hercules, Phillips and Montecatini.

1959 - Bayer starts first commercial production of polycarbonate.

1972 - Celanese establishes first PBT plant.

1997-1999 - Deal making mania. Many new names join the roster and historic companies such as Courtaulds,Hoechst and Union Carbide disappear.

Thanks to CHEMICALWEEK for the above history.

Now to the forecasts for the next century (all my own).

2000 - Inflation continues and consolidation of the supply chain increases.

2001 - E-commerce business to business accounts for 30% of all plastic materials. Manufacturers buy distributors.

2002 - New products abound. The "perfect" blend of properties in a new engineering plastic is introduced. Only continuous cast and extruded acrylic remain as commercial products.

2003 - Manufacturers and distributors consolidate with only three of each remaining as factors in the sheet, rod, tube, film business. Fabricators merge with three national ones remaining as factors. Materials remain in each of the market segments; graphic and display; engineering plastics; and high performance plastics. Inventory is simplified.

2008 - Biotechnology produces biodegradable plastic materials which have a built in life after which they disintegrate. This causes large replacement market.

2009 - Distributors function only to cut-to-size and to deliver product or become a pick-up point. UPS runs several distribution centers for manufacturers. Virtual ordering becomes 100%.

Some final perspectives: Demand for our products is at an all time high and investment in new plants will begin to produce additional capacity in the decade ahead. Balancing the supply - ratio is imperative for all manufacturers and distributors - working together with information systems and technology which transformed the retail business in the 90s. We can do no less in the plastics distribution-fabrication business.

Read about the above as they happen in The Global Plastics Letter, and check out the accuracy of the above predictions.

Neither The Plastics Distributor & Fabricator Magazine, nor KLW Enterprises Inc., is responsible for the contributed information or opinions contained in this magazine. All such information and opinions are those of the authors.

For more information, click on the Authors Biography at the top of this page.

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