Environmental aspects of polymer materials
HEXPOL’s manufacturing processes are mainly based on the use of rubber and plastic polymers and a large number of chemical substances. The rubber compounds include various types of synthetic rubber, process oils used as softening agents, carbon black and other fillers, as well as chemicals and additives. Some compounds include natural rubber. In addition to that, significant amounts of polyurethane plastics, thermoplastic elastomer compounds (TPE), metals, solvents and dyes are used.
Synthetic rubber compounds are products of the petroleum industry and HEXPOL’s experience is spread over a large number of polymer types.
The environmental impact from the production and use of synthetic rubber derives primarily from energy usage, use of fossil raw materials, emissions to air and water, and waste products. The positive environmental aspects of synthetic rubber are, for example, associated with products that contribute to energy saving and reduction of noise and vibration.
The rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis requires a tropical climate. Today, more than 90 percent of the natural rubber comes from South-east Asia, although there are also plantations in South America and Africa. Nearly 70 percent of natural rubber production is used in the tire industry.
The production process for natural rubber are associated with clearing of forest, the use of energy, chemicals, nutrients and biocides, and from emissions to water. HEXPOL has no rubber plantations of its own. The photo shows a supplier sustainability audit in Sri Lanka.
Thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are a family of rubber like materials that combine the performance of thermoset rubbers with the processing ease of plastics, to deliver enhanced design possibilities for a diverse range of markets including household, automotive, industrial, medical, construction, electronics, sports, toys and caps and closures.
Conventional TPEs are produced from fossil petroleum products and the main environmental aspects are the use of non-renewable raw materials, emissions of climate-changing gases and generation of waste. One thing that TPEs have in common is that they are recyclable in closed-loop systems. Next generation TPEs incorporate renewable and non-virgin feedstocks, Dryflex Green TPEs contain bio-based raw materials and Dryflex Circular compounds contain recycled polymers. Read more about TPEs at HEXPOL TPE.
A thermoplastic (TP) is a plastic material that can be repeatedly softened by heating and hardened by cooling. Examples of thermoplastics include polythene (polyethylene), polypropylene and polyamide nylon. Thermoplastics are fully recyclable and in ideal situations thermoplastics can be repeatedly melted and remolded into new products.
Conventional thermoplastics are produced from fossil petroleum products (environmental aspects see above). Composite materials can be obtained from the combination of recycled thermoplastics and biodegradable waste, for example, rice husks and recycled cotton. Such composites exhibit a reduced environmental impact compared to virgin thermoplastics. The RheVision line utilizes bio-fiber reinforced polypropylene and the result is a lower carbon footprint compared to traditional thermoplastic products. Read more about thermoplastics at RheTech.com.
Our Sustainability contact
Torbjörn Brorson, PhD
Director Sustainability Affairs