Monday, December 28, 2009

How to Improve Margins on Polypropylene

Having any sort of margin at all in resin production is tougher than usual these days, especially for commodity polymers such as polypropylene [1]. Adding something to the polymer, such as glass fibers (either long or short), colorants, is a standard manner to increase the price per pound and hopefully the profit margins, but here is something that I never thought of adding: cocaine. 750 kg of cocaine were mixed in with 25 tons of PP resin. I do not have any experience with this, but I would think that this was just a physical blend and that the cocaine was not compounded into the PP [2]. Recovering the drug a would be so much easier, as it would just be a filtering step, although I imagine that a not inconsiderable amount of powder would stay statically attached to the beads.

Let's run some math: At $100/g[3], the coke was worth $75,000,000. 25 tons of PP at $1/lb. is $50,000 (assuming this is the normal English (short) ton). The combined cocaine/PP blend is worth $75,050,000, with a combined mass of 51650 lbs. This works out to $1453/lb. Quite a markup; not something to blow your nose at (sorry, couldn't help it).

[1] The performance of PP is constantly improving, so much so that some people consider PP an "engineering" resin, but in terms of volume and closeness of the polymer's price to the price of a barrel of oil, it will always be a commodity resin in my mind.
[2] Just looking at the structure of cocaine suggests that it has way too much polarity to dissolve in a low polar thermoplastic.
[3] Again, I've never worked with the stuff, so I'm forced to use highly reputable sources.

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