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Some surprises in your most popular stories of 2015

I took a close look at the most-read stories of 2015, and I found a few surprises.

Let's count down the top 20, and I'll share some of my thoughts on the stories that our readers were most interested in this year.

20) Newell Rubbermaid buying Jarden in consumer products megadeal. This story is just two weeks old, so I expect the readership is going to continue to climb for a few more weeks. PN readers love big M&A news — it impacts competitors, customers and clients — and $15.4 billion deals that involve some of the biggest names in plastics don't happen every day.

19) Parker Hannifin consolidating divisions, closing two plants. This story from our colleague Chris Sweeney at Rubber & Plastics News was a major scoop from July. He got a hold of a letter from Andy Ross, president of the company's Engineered Materials Group, that explained the changes to the group’s employees. We were happy that RPN shared the scoop with us.

18) Putting plastics to work in top designs. This was a mild surprise. Roger Renstrom, our West Coast correspondent, has been writing stories for years about the plastics-related highlights in the IDSA's annual International Design Excellence Awards. I don't remember any of his previous features cracking our year-end Top 20. But considering the amount of work that he puts into tracking down all the relevant plastics-related details, and the amount of story-sharing by our friends at IDSA and in the industrial design community, it's great to see Roger's effort recognized this year.

17) Davis-Standard buys Gloucester Engineering. A mild surprise here. We were first to report the news, which was announced late on the afternoon of Sept. 4 —the Friday before the long Labor Day weekend. The surprising part is that Bill Bregar's better follow-up story on the deal, Davis-Standard to consolidate Gloucester production, retain name, didn't get the same level of readership. If you haven't seen it, now's a good time to catch up.

16) Formosa Plastics announces plans for new PP capacity in Texas. The first new polypropylene capacity in North America in quite some time was big news in July.

15) Sabic closing Pennsylvania compounding plant. This story is related to one of our top stories. (How's that for foreshadowing?)

14) Ashland to split into two public companies. News that Ashland Inc. plans to split into two publicly traded companies, one of which will include several plastics-related products, attracted a lot of attention in September. Maybe the folks at Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont were paying attention?

13) Chinese compounder Pret snaps up US recycler Wellman. PN's Nina Ying Sun had a big scoop in January, with news that Shanghai Pret Composites Co. Ltd. was acquiring one of the largest recyclers in the United States, Wellman Plastics Recycling LLC of Johnsonville, S.C., in an all cash deal. Being first with a major plastics deal is a recipe for good page views.

12) Falling oil prices push PE prices down. This is the first of two resin pricing-related stories that made our Top 20 list this year — both chronologically and in position on the countdown. Falling commodity resin prices was one of the biggest trends in the North American plastics industry in early 2015.

11) DuPont and Dow confirm 'merger of equals.'  We had two big stories on the proposed Dow-DuPont merger in the same week in early December, but I'm not going to combine them because they're significantly different. This is the "second-day" story, with detail on the deal. If I did combine the number of reader clicks for the two stories, this would be our third most-read story from 2015. But for now, it's No. 11.

10) First new vinyl record presses hit the market after a 30-year break. This feature from Catherine Kavanaugh is definitely worth a read, if you missed it the first time. It's about recording artist Jack White (of the White Stripes) building a mini-factory in midtown Detroit that will actually manufacture vinyl records, using machine built by a new company in Germany, Newbilt Machinery GmbH & Co. KG. So it's an interesting story with all the plastics-specific details that our readers love. And it just made the Top 10.

9) VW finds quick plastic fix for 1.6 liter diesel engines. If you've ever wondered if people read news from trade magazine websites on Thanksgiving day, here's your answer. This story, shared by our colleague David Vink from Plastics News Europe, was posted on Nov. 26 — Thanksgiving in the United States. But we sent a news alert anyway, and the story got very heavy reader traffic over the long holiday weekend.

8) Thieves steal truck bound for NPE. Less than two weeks before NPE, and a truck with a key piece of Wittmann Battenfeld's exhibit was stolen from a locked staging area north of Daytona Beach, Fla. We we worried that this was going to be a harbinger of bad news for NPE 2015, but it turned out to be more like a hiccup. Wittmann Battenfeld recovered from the setback, and the show went on ... well, not without another glitch, but everyone seemed to think it was an excellent show.

7) Ampac Holdings to merge with Prolamina. PN's Bill Bregar covered this deal, another major acquisition involving big plastics processors.

6) Reports say Dow Chemical and DuPont near merger. What do journalists do when they find out late at night that a major deal is happening in their coverage area? They write a story and share it with as many readers as they can. That's exactly what happened on Dec. 8. PN's Frank Esposito, Jeremy Carroll, Rhoda Miel and I were burning through emails and text messages about the big pending deal. I put the story together, but Frank deserves all the credit for feeding me some excellent insight into the companies and personalities involved. It was a true team effort. And as I mentioned earlier, if we combine the reader "clicks" from this story with our No. 11 follow-up, it would easily be our No. 3 story from 2015 — and less than 150 shy from the No. 2 spot.

5) Keurig to transition to recyclable PP for K cups. PN's Jim Johnson gets the scoop this time, on a story that's been getting attention from environmentalists for years — what to do with all those plastic coffee pods. Monique Oxender, chief sustainability officer at Keurig Green Mountain Inc., announced at our Plastics Caps & Closures Conference that the company will transition the highly popular, but somewhat controversial K-Cup product line, to fully recyclable polypropylene.

4) Berry leaps into medical with Avintiv acquisition. Catherine Kavanaugh cracks the Top 20 again (she's competitive that way, she's keeping score if you're not) with another megamerger in the packaging sector. She has a knack for writing popular stories.

3) Vikings tackle stadium problems with plastics. Another story with big reader number for Kavanaugh, with the scoop on how plastic materials are going to make the new Minnesota Vikings stadium more comfortable, fan-friendly ... and bird-friendly, too. Even the Vikings PR machine shared this story with its followers, with full credit to Plastics News.

2) Resin prices continuing to tumble. Depending on how you keep score, this could qualify as the No. 1 most-read materials story from 2015. Its about how falling oil prices were contributing to plummeting prices for commodity resins – polyethylene, polypropylene, suspension PVC and solid polystyrene. Not a surprise, I suppose, that one of the biggest materials news stories of 2015 was tied to the biggest trend.

1) Sabic dissolving Innovative Plastics unit, leaving Pittsfield, Mass., HQ and Sabic move 'the end of an era.' Unlike the Dow-DuPont merger stories listed earlier, I'm going to combine these two stories (plus a third version that essentially is the same as one of these, but with a slightly different headline) because they're all about the same event — Saudi Basic Industries' announcement that it was shutting down Sabic Innovative Plastics and closing the unit's headquarters in Pittsfield, which was the longtime home of predecessor company GE Plastics. On its own, the "Sabic dissolving" story would be No. 3 on our list. Adding the version with the different headline moves it to No. 1. And adding the "end of an era" second-day story makes it a runaway winner.

So those are the Top 20 stories of 2015, and there are a few surprises, to be sure.

But that's not all. I've got two more "surprise" categories on this list.

First there are a number of 2014 stories that I didn't include, because this is a countdown of the top stories from 2015. But some older stories are continuing to get significant traffic on our site, and one would still be in the Top 10 based on 2015 traffic. That's the Plastic balls protect California reservoirs story. You may recall the surge in online clicks that I wrote about in August (Positive plastics news gains traction). The surge hasn't ended. Again, a strong story from Kavanaugh.

Finally, there are some 2015 stories that should be on the list, but didn't make it because of a technical glitch. In April and May, our reporters were doing great work (as usual), and we were sending breaking news alerts for some of their best stories. But the alerts weren't going to most readers. So these stories all got good readership in 2015, but they didn't make the Top 20. They include: Stork races to repair press damaged en route to NPE Citadel purchase will nearly double A. Schulman's US sales, Milacron announces plans to go public and NPE to stay in Orlando.

I hope I didn't get too carried away with my news junkie persona on this post. For those of you who read to the end, thanks for being a loyal (and Plastics Blog) reader.