“There’s a great future in plastics”

03 February 2015

A sad loss in 2014 was the death on 19 November of Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky. Better known as Mike Nichols, he was a comedian who became a notable director, winning an Academy Award for the cult film “The Graduate” in 1967. As an incorrigible engineer, the thing that always stands out for me about that movie is the prescience of Mr. McGuire’s comment to new graduate Ben Braddock; “There’s a great future in plastics.”

Nearly 50 years on and the wisdom of that remark is clear; plastics have become ubiquitous. From the latest smartphone to industrial storage; where there’s an application, there’s a plastic structure. While consumer electronics have a lifetime of a couple of years at most before being discarded for the latest and greatest replacement, industry is more demanding, and plastic products may be required to retain their integrity for decades.

Unfortunately, plastic tanks used in industrial heavy engineering applications have typically been regarded as “fit and forget” items, with their lifetime based purely on manufacturer’s recommendations. This often does not take into account the specific conditions of tank usage, leading both to premature tank failure in service, and the unnecessary early scrapping of serviceable tanks. EEMUA Publication 159 – Above ground flat bottomed storage tanks - a guide to inspection, maintenance and repair has become the de facto standard for owners and operators of steel tanks worldwide, but there is no comparable guidance for users of plastic tanks.

EEMUA Working Group 20 is writing EEMUA Publication 225 which will address the inspection and maintenance of plastic storage tanks, giving practical, pragmatic guidance for owners and operators of plastic tanks, helping to reduce the risk of failure in service and enable the extension of service life where appropriate. This will also improve the image of plastic tanks, too often thought of as the “low cost, low quality” option, when the true issue has been the quality of the in service care, rather than the quality of the equipment. The working group comprises experts from the user community, manufacturers and wider industry, brought together and supported by EEMUA. It has been hard at work over the past year, and some useful information has already emerged from the process, which will be the subject of a seminar at EEMUA’s Collaborate 2015 event in March. While the full publication is still a little way off, there is no doubt that Mr. McGuire’s advice remains as relevant now as it was in 1967: “There’s a great future in plastics.” 

Stefan Kukula
EEMUA Chief Executive