Monday, March 17, 2014

A Most Unusual Case of Stolen Plastic - It's In the Bag

Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote of thieves in England stealing plastics for personal gain. In that particular case, the plastics bread baskets were being ground down for recycling. But that time of crime is getting to be rather normal. For an unusual case, look at what Plastics News is reporting.

In this incident from Runcorn, England, the thieves made off with $1 million of virgin resin pellets, high density polyethylene (HDPE) about 500 metric tons (and in fact Marlex grades 5502BN, 50100 and TR131 were even called out by Plastics News). The crooks, who have already been arrested, were not opportunistic but in fact looking for the plastic from the get go.
"According to Frank Keddle, of claims assessor Wendt & Company, the gang that carried out the robbery clearly had knowledge of the plastics market. 'They cleared away salt, which was being stored in the warehouse, to get the plastic, so they were looking for it specifically,' he explained."

But that is not what makes this case so unusual in my mind. Instead, it was the fact that the resin was in 25 kilogram bags! 500 metric tons of HDPE in 25 kilogram bags is 20,000 bags. What company has that many bags of any resin?

For those not familiar with large-scale polymer processing, bags are good for pilot plants where you might go through one every 15 minutes or so. 25 kg is about the limit of what a worker is expected to lift on a repeated basis.
Makes a Swell Playhouse
A Gaylord Container
If you are in production running hundreds or thousands of kilograms and hour, you need better options, ones that won't require so many workers and generate so many waste bags. Gaylords for starters (such as the box shown on the right which hold about 1100 lbs - I believe that the name was given to a standard container first popularized by the Gaylord Container Company) with a suction tube. But the really big operations use hoppers with pneumatic lines to move stuff around and even bring it in by railcar (each car holding about 50,000 kilograms). Which is another way to look at it: 500 metric tons is about 10 train cars full of plastic pellets.

But it was all in bags! That's weird. So weird that it almost makes me suspicious of why they had so much bagged resin in the first place. I can't imagine a nefarious angle to all these bags, but maybe a reader can.

Previous Years
March 17, 2010 - Why I Hate PVC


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John said...

My bad.

Someone posted a comment here which in a fit of manual non-dexterity, I deleted.

The comment mentioned how having large quantities of bags is not that unusual, that they will be shipped to China and manually opened and transferred into other containers.

This accidental deletion is a first in my 7+ years of blogging, so again, to the commenter (an anonymous individual) I apologize. If you feel like reposting your comment, I promise to be much more careful with it.

Anonymous said...

Not to worry.

What I said was that since polymer is now being produced in Asia, in this particular case it would be Qatar where marlex is made in a joint venture plant. The simplest way to get the product to European customers is to ship in 25kg bags in standard containers. Upon landing in Europe the product is unloaded at a convenient warehouse for storage until it is sold. This warehouse in Runcorn woulld suggest the port of entry as Liverpool.

When the product is sold it is "rip and tipped" into a road tanker by means of casual labour with Stanley knives and a floveyor. This is actually quicker than it sounds a well practiced crew of 3 can do a 25000 kg load in under 2 hours. The polymer will then be delivered to the end user in bulk. This is happening hundreds of times per day all across western Europe. Interestingly the end user has ordered a bulk consignment to be pressure delivered into a silo and may well never have any idea that his goods made most of their journey in 25kg bags.