Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) is a key part of our daily lives and now plays an integral role in the circular economy.
PMMA has played a key role in society’s advancement since it was developed in the early 1930’s and has emerged as an important material that meets today’s sustainability objectives. Known by the brand names ALTUGLAS™ and OROGLAS™ in Europe and Asia Pacific and PLEXIGLAS® and SOLARKOTE™ in the Americas, PMMA is helping to save fossil resources, reduce our carbon footprint, and support a circular economy.
PMMA is inherently sustainable. It can be reground, remelted, and extruded into new products, which helps reduce the need for virgin raw materials and limits waste. Its performance properties also make it attractive from a sustainability perspective. The durability, clarity, and light weight potential of PMMA offer OEMs and brand owners opportunities to rethink their applications to minimize potential environmental impacts.
PMMA also has the potential to be infinitely recyclable. One of the polymer’s unique advantages is that its simple chemistry allows PMMA waste to be depolymerized and converted back to its original methyl methacrylate (MMA) monomer. Processed MMA can then be repolymerized and used in a wide variety of applications while claiming the same mechanical, aesthetic, and optical properties as virgin material. The material is versatile, with opportunities to be used again and again, making the possibilities seem endless.
Trinseo’s Sustainability Commitment
Trinseo is committed to sustainable solutions innovation. Our approach is centered on pursuing advancements in mechanical and chemical recycling, the development of bio products, and product design to meet sustainability objectives. We are focused on developing circular solutions and are recognized for our achievements in this area.
In 2020, Trinseo introduced its 2030 Sustainability Goals, a series of strategic, ambitious, and achievable goals that drive our sustainable solutions development efforts. By 2025, 30% of our technology and innovation and R&D efforts will be aimed at circular solutions and, by 2030, 40% of our products will be sustainably advantaged.
Now, with Altuglas International and its suite of PMMA products as part of the Trinseo family, we look forward to leveraging our expertise with sustainable rigid and soft plastics and continuing to advance our sustainability efforts with PMMA.
The following are a few ways we’re supporting the sustainable evolution of PMMA and the material’s many applications.
R-Life Sustainable Solutions
In 2021, Trinseo introduced its first sustainable acrylic to the marketplace with ALTUGLAS™ R-Life, which joins Trinseo’s broad portfolio of sustainably-advantaged materials.
ALTUGLAS™ R-Life is an umbrella brand that will include chemically and mechanically recycled, reused, and bio-based polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) for cast sheets, resins, and compounds.
Today, ALTUGLAS™ R-Life is produced at two of Trinseo’s plants, Rho, near Milan, and Saint-Avold, in northern France. Plans for the R-Life brand are to make it globally available as more high quality PMMA waste streams can be verified.
Sustainable Application Design
Across all businesses, Trinseo supports customers’ efforts to meet sustainability objectives by providing innovative materials that allow design and manufacturing for sustainable advantage. One example of a PMMA material that supports that effort is SOLARKOTE™ acrylic capstock, which is a maintenance-free acrylic veneer that is co-extruded with a substrate. This eliminates the need for maintenance and the resulting VOC exposure from repeated paint processes in applications including mullioned windows, porch decking, and residential home siding.
Another example is mold-in-color technology available in both ALTUGLAS™ and PLEXIGLAS® acrylics for exterior automotive trim to eliminate the time, cost, and the additional process of painting. The mold-in-color grades are offered in deep, jet-black and with high gloss, making them ideal to replace painted or coated components in demanding exterior applications such as pillar garnishes, appliques, and mirror shells.
Value Chain Partnerships
Trinseo, as a global supplier of innovative PMMA materials to a variety of industries, is in an ideal position to collaborate within the value chain and to share our expertise in producing materials from recycled content. We are proud to be involved in two influential value chain initiatives supporting the sustainable potential of PMMA:
- Trinseo is part of the MMAtwo Project, a European Union funded initiative consisting of 13 partners representing all stages of the PMMA value chain. The group is focused on developing an effective way to convert post-industrial and post-consumer PMMA waste into high quality raw material, contributing to a circular economy. With expertise in PS depolymerization, Trinseo plays the unique role as the developer of a viable concept for PMMA waste recycling through depolymerization with capabilities to handle both post-industrial and contaminated end-of-life waste.
- Trinseo participates in the European Union funded REVOLUTION project. This project supports the electric vehicle (EV) revolution by exploring recycled plastics and advanced materials as strategies to maximize EV range and enable circularity in the automotive industry. The main goals of the initiative are to determine ways to reduce weight of vehicle components and to incorporate sustainability and circularity principles in car components increasing recyclability and reuse up to 80 percent.
To learn more about the sustainability of PMMA and how Trinseo can help you meet your sustainability goals, contact us through the form on the right and a Trinseo representative will be in touch.
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- Trinseo is dedicated to building a sustainable product portfolio while providing customers with materials that provide performance properties comparable to their virgin counterparts. As a potentially 100% recyclable material, PMMA contributes to Trinseo’s goal of 40% of products being sustainably advantaged by 2030.
- According to the European Chemical Industry Council, “current estimates suggest that circular acrylic PMMA will reduce the CO2 footprint by about 70% compared to virgin acrylic.”1
Trinseo has aligned its 2030 Sustainability Goals with the UNSDG and prioritizes five of these goals based on our ability to make an impact. PMMA contributes to four of these goals in the following ways:
7. Affordable and Clean Energy
- PMMA helps reduce energy use and encourage light efficiency through its light management properties, such as optical clarity. Whether it’s streetlights or headlights, better clarity means a reduction in energy use in lighting.
12. Responsible Consumption and Production
- PMMA is a unique polymer that could be infinitely recycled through the depolymerization process. Through its circularity, it promotes a sustainable and efficient use of the material by eliminating the need to tap into fossil resources. With the release of Trinseo’s R-LIFE acrylics, recycled PMMA can be used to create resins and sheets of equal quality to virgin materials.
13. Climate Action
- Trinseo’s PMMA combats climate change through multiple properties: as a lightweight alternative to conventional materials, it helps reduce CO2 emissions in transportation by eliminating weight in the vehicle; through optical clarity, it enables less energy consumption for efficient lighting; and as a circular product, it eliminates the need to tap into fossil resources.
14. Life Below Water
- Trinseo is taking steps to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution. PMMA helps drive our realization of a circular economy, as it has the potential to be 100% recyclable. By establishing the recyclability of PMMA, we are reducing waste that would otherwise end up in our waterways.
17. Partnerships for the Goals
- Trinseo is actively involved in several partnerships and industry initiatives to progress sustainability for PMMA. This includes the MMAtwo consortium, to develop and execute a sustainable circular value chain for PMMA in Europe, and the Revolution project for the automotive sector, within which Trinseo is developing PMMA resins made from recycled materials for new automotive applications.