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The Incredible Shrinking Sorbent

Did you know that the original bale of absorbent pads measured 17 x 19” and weighed 12 osy (ounces per square yard), which equates to 18.7 lbs? The original roll was 38” x 144’ and weighed 38 lbs. Those product dimensions optimized 40” wide meltblown machines, which was the original standard. The actual yield for a 40" machine is 38” (after slitting one inch of edge trim on each side).

Historically, polypropylene raw material cost has been very fluid, and it trended upward for quite a few years. To this day, buyers of virgin polypropylene resin do not actually know their cost until a week or two after purchasing said resin, which makes it impossible to pass along any price increases to their customers in an expedited manner. As margins tightened month after month, manufacturers decided to reduce the dimensions of bales of pads. 17 x 19” pads became 15 x 19”, yet raw material cost continued rising. The next specification to be compromised was density. 12 osy became 10.3 osy, and then it decreased again to 9.5 osy. That is where it settled for some manufacturers, and other manufacturers went even lower to 15 x 18” with a density of roughly 8.8 osy. There are even 15 x 17” pads in some markets. Actual package weights hover between 10 to 13 lbs, which is a 30 to 47% reduction from the original weight of 18.7 lbs. With that said, the package height is still somewhat similar to the original height, which is due to manufacturers having better loft control (ability to fluff up nonwoven media). Lofting actually improves absorption rate. A fluffier pad increases fiber surface area, which also allows fluids to more quickly wick into the center of the sorbent.

30" oil absorbent roll

Rolls are now 30” x 150’, which was not a reduction in width for the reason of cost savings. New meltblown machines are generally 62” wide, which lessens the percentage of edge trim (waste loss) and increases overall throughput. The yield is 60” (two 30” rolls). In regard to density, rolls followed the same trend as pads. 30” x 150’ rolls now weigh between 20 to 25 lbs.

The reduction in size and density is advantageous for end-users. It minimizes waste because most sorbents are not utilized to their maximum capacity prior to disposal. 12 osy density was overkill, and even the 8.8 osy density may be too much. Densities as low as 4.5 osy are now available in the sorbents marketplace.

In summary, there really are no true standards in the sorbents industry. Product dimensions and weights are all over the board. When comparing an offering from one manufacturer to the next, overall product weight is one of the most important factors. Just like most things, you get what you pay for.


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