Industry joins RSC taskforce to chart a greener path for PLFs

Article by Adam Duckett

UNILEVER, Croda and Crown Paints have joined a taskforce convened by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to help recycle polymers in liquid formulations (PLFs) – a waste stream measured in millions of tonnes.

PLFs are used as thickeners, emulsifiers and coatings and have a wide range of applications including ingredients in household cleaning and personal care products to industrial applications including lubricants and wastewater treatment. They also include a wide range of polymer types within the categories of acrylic, epoxy resins, polyesters, polysilicones, and polyurethanes.  

The RSC says there are few ways to recycle PLFs and more than 36m t/y are not recovered.

Tom Welton, President of the RSC said: “Currently, these valuable chemicals are produced in huge quantities, used, and then never recovered. We simply must develop new technologies and apply circular economy principles to collect them, reuse them as new products and raw materials, and offer further bio-based and biodegradable alternatives.”

The taskforce includes Unilever, Croda, Scott Bader, Crown Paints and Afton Chemical. It will launch a plan for action in 2022. This will focus on a number of key areas including establishing collaborations between industry, academia and policymakers; and investigating opportunities to use chemistry to develop a circular economy for the likes of paints, adhesives and sealants.

Ian Bell, Senior Research and Development Director at Afton Chemical, said: “Polymers in liquid formulations are a critical constituent to many materials and substances used in society, often without any real awareness of their presence, role or criticality. This is true within the lubricants industry, where this class of materials plays a key role in maintaining the chemical and physical properties necessary to keep vehicles moving effectively and efficiently. Establishing a sustainable long-term future for such solutions is critical.” 

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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