Exploring new routes renewable polymers

Exploring new routes for renewable polymers

9:23 AM, 27th November 2017
Exploring new routes for renewable polymers
Total is developing innovative solutions that widen the use of recyclates in collaboration with European recycling companies, enabling the development of a new grade of high HDPE.

By Jean Viallefont

Plastics lifecycle management is a central issue for the entire value chain and Total is developing some innovative and technological solutions for both feedstock and end-of-life.

The growing interest in recycling from plastic value chain stakeholders is indisputable. Plastics recycling development must accelerate in order to help prevent plastic waste landfilling. Currently, the recycling rate for plastics is significantly lower than that of other materials - such as glass, steel, aluminium, paper - and the availability of quality plastic recycling is limited. The quality of conventional recyclates generally available today limits its use to the least technically demanding applications.

Recyclates performance enhancement is required to enlarge the accessible market and to meet demands not satisfied with current materials. To do so, collaboration within the value chain is a key success factor.

Total is developing innovative solutions that widen the use of recyclates in collaboration with European recycling companies, enabling the development of a new grade of high density polyethylene (HDPE). This HDPE matches the requirements of the packaging segment whereby the performance of conventional polyethylene recyclates is “boosted” by associating them with specifically designed virgin materials. Equivalent levels of mechanical performance, processability and product consistency as in virgin plastic are achieved even in technically demanding applications.

This product covers manufacturing needs for blow moulded bottles and heavy-duty containers for household and industrial liquids with approximately 50% of post-consumer recyclate (PCR), which originates from post-consumer household waste collected in Western European countries. A deep decontamination step in Total’s Antwerp plant transforms the PCR into a fragrance-free resin, which is then compounded with HDPE virgin products in order to compensate for any lack of performance and consistency. Thus, associating recycling science with polymer science enabled the design of these circular compounds to meet many plastic converters’ requirements.

Collaborative partnerships within the value chain play an important role in promoting sustainability initiatives for the plastics industry. Total is a founding member of several programs that advance the principles and practices of the circular economy

Pellet containment programs such as Operation Clean Sweep® (OCS) raise awareness in member companies’ manufacturing plants on how to properly manage and prevent plastic pellets and other particles, at each step of the production and supply chain, from entering the environment.

Total is also a founding member of the Polyolefin Circular Economy Platform (PCEP) - an enhanced collection and sorting system to increase the reuse and recycling of polyolefin-based products and the use of recyclates as raw material – and the Polystyrene Industry Initiative - converting post-consumer polystyrene waste into virgin polystyrene. The target is to generate high-quality polystyrene to meet the most demanding standards, ultimately for food contact applications.

We are continually developing new recipes to address other HDPE markets as well as Polypropylene markets.

An innovative collaboration on a new application for recycled plastic is developing plastic roads* as a sustainable added alternative to traditional asphalt roads. The aim is to use as much post-consumer plastic as possible whilst still maintaining a highly technical product capable of withstanding long-term repetitive loads. Total can achieve this by combining the booster material, which compensates for differences in the properties of recyclates, with recycled plastic and thus creating a circular compound of high quality. 

Total is also developing solutions for converting large volumes of post-consumer polystyrene waste. In an industrial-scale test run, recycled polystyrene was incorporated into virgin polystyrene up to 20 wt% with a resulting product of equivalent properties to a virgin polymer. Total is pursuing these developments in order to handle complex post-consumer recycled streams of diverse qualities on its production lines.

“Polystyrene is one of the easiest polymers to recycle,” explained Jean Viallefont, Vice President Polymer Europe. “This demonstration highlighted that polystyrene will be a significant contributor to the Circular Economy. The virgin plastics industry must step into a new yet essential role as ‘circularity enhancer.”

Total also has a development program on renewable resources. The creation of Total Corbion PLA*, a 50/50 joint venture is a good example. The company produces high heat and standard PLA grades for a wide range of markets, from packaging to consumer goods, fibres and automotive. PLA has numerous end-of-life options in addition to recycling, such as reusing, renewable energy recovery (incineration), compost/biodegradation, anaerobic digestion and feedstock recovery.

The science of polymers and the expertise of producers and recyclers will offer a range of original solutions required to meet the challenge of plastics lifecycle management.

Author: Jean Viallefont is Vice President at Total Polymers Europe.

* PlasticRoad concept by KWS, Dutch producer of asphalt and specialist in road construction, with Wavin, producer of plastic products for rainwater drainage.

**Total Corbion PLA is a global technology leader in Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) and lactide monomers.

© Chemical Today Magazine


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