Vikram Chatur, Vice President, Global Resins, Engineered Materials
Plastics are essential to our everyday lives. Specialty Material manufacturers, like Trinseo, are constantly looking for ways to make materials sustainably advantaged to meet a growing customer demand for environmentally responsible products.
Sustainability is at the heart of Trinseo’s strategy, and our dedication to environmental responsibility is showcased in how we are reimagining materials and the processes for development and use. This growing need for sustainably advantaged materials has inspired our development teams to rethink the monomers and polymers we use to craft our product portfolios in order to explore replacing raw materials with recycled content or bio-based feedstocks. By questioning traditional materials and processes of production and use, we can reduce our reliance on fossil-based resources and potential substances of concern, as well as consider end-of-life scenarios in our product development.
At Trinseo, our R&D efforts have delivered solutions with similar performance properties to that of the prime material but with less environmental impact. By listening to our customers and collaborating to meet their needs, we are working to build a circular economy by redefining the materials used throughout essential industries.
In the automotive industry, we are constantly looking at ways to make products that drive sustainability forward. The automotive industry is rapidly moving toward electric vehicles to reduce emissions during the use phase and Trinseo has been developing innovative materials to support this objective. Now we’re looking at the processes to produce the materials used in a vehicle to make it more sustainable overall.
For example, polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) with mold-in-color enables original equipment manufacturers to achieve the same look and feel as conventional materials – such as painted metal or plastic – with sustainability benefits. This material eliminates steps in the production process by replacing parts, such as the ABC Pillar, that otherwise would need painting. By substituting PMMA, you remove harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Another benefit of Mold-in-Color technology is a more efficient and cost-effective production process, as you can reduce the number of steps to complete the vehicle build.
Our next step is to develop PMMA that utilizes Post Consumer Recycled feedstock as part of Trinseo’s efforts in developing a circular economy.
Building and Construction
Similarly, in Building and Construction, we looked at not only materials used in window trim but the process for making it as well. By doing this, we were able to reimagine the conventional materials used to meet current housing needs, like the trend toward darker colored windows.
Our acrylic SOLARKOTE™ Capstock material is a more sustainably advantaged solution that provides a protective layer on a substrate to impart all the advantages of an acrylic surface while maintaining the mechanical properties of the underlying material. By utilizing PMMA for this application, we eliminated steps from the manufacturing process by removing the need for paints or coatings, thus getting rid of VOCs. Additionally, SOLARKOTE™ helps the window maintain its flexibility, durability, and UV protection; ultimately its longevity.
Of course, we have other solutions that have been reimagined, such as incorporating recycled content into thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) for a more sustainable fashion solution. For footwear, bio-based TPU can play a significant role in providing a more sustainable alternative to traditional leather and fossil-based alternatives.
Trinseo’s APILON™ 52 BIO is made with up to 50% bio-based content, suitable for producing sustainable synthetic textiles. These bio-based plastics offer significant environmental benefits by reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases and saving fossil-based resources for future generations.
As we look ahead, sustainability will continue to be an ongoing concern for our customers. What’s required now is closer collaboration and customer feedback in order to get a perspective on the true circularity of a solution. By utilizing more sustainably advantaged materials in creative and innovative ways we can examine the full lifecycle of a product and support a circular economy. It is an exciting time to be in the materials industry as we work with customers to develop tailored solutions. Together, we’re on the verge of significant and lasting change for a more sustainable future.