Sustainable development, carbon footprints, the circular economy, GWP reduction: Jill Bradford, Global Marketing Manager, HEXPOL TPE discusses the support for and acceleration towards transformation.
To create a real system change there needs to be a shared value between us, our customers, and our supply chains. We’re working to build that value from a support package which combines our materials and R&D capabilities, as well as knowledge around carbon literacy and sustainability practices, and importantly providing evidence such as product carbon footprints.Decoupling from fossil and switching to renewable feedstocks
I remember when we first launched the Dryflex Green Biobased TPEs back in 2015. At the time, it felt that we were a front-runner and initial demand was fairly niche. Bioplastics weren’t new, but as most of the raw materials were quite hard on their own, it had been a challenge to develop soft materials with high renewable content and low hardness, all while maintaining mechanical properties.
Since then, interest in renewables and biomaterials has grown exponentially as companies look to decrease fossil-based dependency. Constant investigation into potential raw material sources and R&D activities testing new polymer combinations has allowed us to expand what is possible. Now Dryflex Green Biobased TPEs are available with amounts of renewable content to over 90% (ASTM D 6866) with hardnesses from 15 Shore A to 60 Shore D. The portfolio includes grades based on Styrenic Block Copolymer (TPS), Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO), and we’ve just added Thermoplastic Vulcanisate (TPV) technologies. Keeping valuable materials in circulation
One circular economy principle particularly relevant to our role as polymer compounders is to circulate materials as long as possible. This helps to reduce the demand for virgin fossil-based materials and is why we created the Dryflex Circular TPE portfolio.
We’re working hard to source reliable post-industrial (PIR) and post-consumer (PCR) recyclates, diverting materials from potential landfill or incineration.
Our PIR source includes very clean and well-controlled recyclate from hygienic and medical applications. This opens up possibilities for the TPEs to be used in demanding areas such as automotive interiors. Materials have been tested for odour and emissions performance. A representative Dryflex Circular TPE grade, a 65 Shore A material for inlay mats with a recyclate content of 20%, showed a very low amount of VOC (60 ?g/g) and FOG (594 ?g/g).
We’ve also recently added a series of TPE materials containing recyclate from post-use maritime ropes. We’re working with PLASTIX A/S, a Danish plastic recycling company specialising in sorting and recycling plastic fibre waste from the maritime industry. They convert used fishnets, trawls and ropes that would previously have ended up in the ocean or on landfill into high-grade and virgin-like raw materials. The Dryflex Circular MWR TPEs are available in 40 Shore A to 50 Shore D hardnesses with 10-60% recycled content. They are available in black, blue, green and mint colours.What is the mass balance approach for polymer compounding'
One of our latest technology pillars to enable a shift away from fossil feedstocks is to use the concept of mass balance.
This chain of custody model makes it possible to mix fossil with recycled and/or biobased raw materials whilst keeping close track of the respective quantities. Mass balance allows for a gradual increase of the sustainable share using existing infrastructure with the target to reduce the use of fossil raw materials step by step.
So far, this has been adopted by our Swedish site, which received the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC PLUS) earlier this year. ISCC PLUS is a global certification scheme providing traceability along the supply chain and guaranteeing correct and transparent use of the mass balance approach. Certified companies must meet specific environmental and social standards, creating a chain of custody. Each company along the chain needs to be certified, and sustainability declarations follow the material.
Mass balance is an example of systems transformation. Ensuring the required traceability standards needs engagement with our supply chain and a co-ordinated approach from our purchasing, production, R&D, sales, logistics and IT teams. But the result is that we’re proud to be one of the first TPE compounders to achieve ISCC PLUS certification and to bring further possibilities for our customers to reach their sustainability goals.Soft, safe, sustainable
How do we design our TPEs to meet performance and aesthetic requirements while ensuring regulatory status and, at the same time, supporting ecodesign principles and under a carbon footprint reduction lens'
I’m sure my product safety colleagues would explain how working with recycled and bio feedstocks has brought new challenges. Indeed, transparency about material sources and regulatory compliance is needed more than ever throughout the supply chain. But our product safety approach and standards remain the same.
When developing our TPEs, we need a deep understanding of regulatory and industry standards and international and national legislation. We must carefully manage each step of the process, from sourcing the correct raw materials and suppliers, managing production to the knowledge about the final application requirements and end-of-life. After all, if a material doesn’t serve its purpose or isn’t compliant with the standards required of it, it’s not the right material for the job.
Working with the various technologies; bio, recycled content and mass balance, allows us to widen the scope of what’s possible. For example, we would not offer a TPE with PCR content for a medical device. But it becomes possible to meet medical requirements with a TPE material with bio-circular feedstock allocated via the mass balance approach, as there is no change of properties. A toy manufacturer may take the biobased TPE route to meet toy or food contact regulations, while an automotive Tier 1 will work with a TPE containing recycled content to reduce the product carbon footprint of their part.Evidence-based approach to sustainable development
How can we know that what we do is making a positive change' As an organisation, as individuals and with the products we make'
Our goal is to do what’s right, not necessarily what’s easy – meaning we challenge ourselves to create robust systems and in-depth assessments. For the last twelve months, we’ve been building the HEXPOL TPE methodology for calculating cradle-to-gate Product Carbon Footprints, which we can now offer to customers.
We’re also working with organisations such as EcoVadis, which provide an independent assessment that evaluates our sustainability performance. Their methodology is based on international standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). Our UK site received the Platinum medal, putting them in the top one per cent of companies in our industry.
And with proposals such as the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) to consider, we and our industry will need to continue this work on calculating and communicating environmental impact data for our materials and operations. To give our customers and us the knowledge necessary to make informed choices and enable that shift in how we use, value and respect our natural resources. Back to Search Results