Sustainability in the Plastics Industry
By now, most people are familiar with the term sustainable. As individuals and businesses navigate the changes needed to keep rising global temperatures below the 1.5°C threshold, sustainability is talked about in most areas of our lives, from adverts to the news, political debates to social media.
The recently published Sixth Assessment Report from IPCC has painted a worrying picture for our future if climate change is left unchecked. More individuals and businesses than ever are looking to make conscious choices, but often, without guidance, they can easily fall into the trap of greenwashing.
At HEXPOL TPE, we’ve been working on a way to support our customers as they address the sustainability of their products, starting with our TPEs, and including so much more, to help them make informed choices.
Many brands want to use sustainable materials when developing their next product, both to reduce their impacts and to align with consumer demands, but how can switching a material really make a difference to the impact of a product? Of course, switching to a biobased or recycled alternative alone is a positive step. But what about the end-of-life of the product? What about the environmental impact of production?
What does make a difference is making that switch from fossil-based materials to renewable sources, all the while approaching a project with a holistic view.
As we were working on our biobased TPE family Dryflex Green and our recycled TPE family Dryflex Circular at HEXPOL TPE, we began to ask ourselves what sustainable materials really are. While switching the feedstock of a polymer from finite fossil fuels to renewable plant crops is fundamental to reducing the environmental impact of a TPE, it’s just one of many factors we take into consideration.
We work hard to source reliable post- and pre-consumer recyclates, diverting materials from potential landfill or incineration, all the while maintaining the reprocessability of our TPEs which allow them to be recycled in closed-loop systems. Our biobased raw materials are rigorously researched with strict supplier sustainability requirements. As well as the feedstock, we’re focusing on how our supply partners work too.
The performance, aesthetics, haptics and regulatory status of our products have always been our priority. 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.
Our vision when approaching new projects is widening though. We’re not only looking at supply-chain partners whose products can provide the technical performance needed, we’re considering their environmental impacts too. How energy-intensive is it to create the materials we purchase? What is the feedstock for a given material? Is there the possibility of creating this from existing, waste materials or renewable materials?
Our vision stretches out far beyond our factory doors. We’re considering how recyclable our product is and how to communicate on recyclability clearly. We’re measuring our energy, water usage and waste generation and working to reduce them. Developing TPE products now has another lens through which we view our materials: what impact do they, and their production, have on the world?
We’ve been working on a way to bring together our team’s knowledge of sustainability, our internal approach and our communications in a way that best serves our customers to make TPE material choices that really do reduce their impact on the environment. Sustainable Materials Lab @ HEXPOL TPE brings all of these elements together, meaning that our customers don’t only get innovative materials that fulfil all of their application’s requirements, but also the transparency and knowledge they need to make the best possible material choice. They can take into consideration elements like packaging, transport, material lifecycle and operational benefits.
You can hear more about HEXPOL TPE’s Sustainable Materials Lab at Interplas