Technical Polymers - Sustainable Solutions
Consistent with Arkema's Social Commitment Charter, we offer a range of sustainable solutions driven by innovation and responsible management of our activities and social impact. We do this in close collaboration with our stakeholders.
Driven to Meet the Challenges Listed by the United Nations
The Technical Polymers sustainability offer addresses 10 of the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations Global Compact. Our "Big Three" relate to (1) Climate Action, (2) Sustainable Cities and Communities, and (3) Responsible Consumption and Production.
These are complemented by our activity in Affordable and Clean Energy markets, our commitment to Environmental Stewardship (Improved Life On Land and Below Water), and our Health and Well-Being enhancing involvement in health and sports markets.
Our 6 Main Sustainability Themes
The six main themes of our sustainability offer are:
- Bio-based - we are global leaders in high performance polymers derived from sustainable castor oil
- Durability in Use - our polyamide, polyketone, and fluoropolymer families are generally highly durable in their intended applications; Unlike disposable plastics, our Technical Polymers generally offer very long lives in their specified applications
- Lightweight - this is particularly true of our specialty polyamide grades; Lighter materials can save tremendously in vehicle fuel consumption
- Recyclability - virtually all of our polymers are recyclable and reusable
- Sustainable Markets - our polymers play enabling roles in many applications that are key to global sustainability - such as, water filtration, solar energy, electric vehicle batteries, cool roofing, life-saving medical catheters, and sports technology that encourages healthy lifestyles for all
- Responsible Stewardship - for example, many of our emulsion-process fluoropolymers are uniquely produced without the use of fluorinated surfactants
1. Pioneers & Innovators in Bio-Based
Unlike fossil fuel-based polymers, whose carbon content is derived from millions of years of organic decomposition, the carbon content of bio-based, renewable polymers is derived from atmospheric CO2, which is incorporated into bio-molecules by plant photosynthesis to produce longer chain organic chemicals. Over 70 years ago, Arkema developed Rilsan® polyamide 11, an ultra high performance resin derived entirely from renewable castor oil. Today, we are still the leaders in high performance bio-based polymers, with an expansive portfolio of grades and innovations (molding, extrusion, filled, transparent, rigid, flexible etc.) These bio-based polymers are marketed under our flagship trademarks Rilsan® and Pebax® Rnew®.
Recently, Arkema announced a major expansion in Asia to produce polyamide 11 and its unique monomer, amino 11 (also known as amino-undecanoic acid) in a brand new state of the art facility. Further, Arkema is recognized as a strategic partner for many globally leading manufacturers in the joint commitment to use only recycled and/or renewable materials.
Arkema is a founding member of Pragati, the sustainable castor initiative. The goals of Pragati are to enhance castor productivity in India, where the majority of the world's supply originates.
This is accomplished by training farmers to build capacity, improve yields, and reduce environmental impacts, thus helping them to cultivate castor beans effectively and ecologically. The initiative also provides educational materials to improve the skills and knowledge of the local farmers, to improve their income, and to ensure better health and living conditions.
The 4 member organizations in the Pragati initiative are Arkema, BASF, Jayant Agro-Organics, and Solidaridad, an international civil society organization.
Pragati means 'progress' in Hindi.
Some of the first wave of farmers to receive their sustainability certificates.
Some of the key accomplishments of the Pragati initiative to date, are:
- Over 2,700 farmers have been educated (involving more than 1,000 hours of classroom training)
- More than 2,000 hectares of castor farming are now in accordance with the principles of the initiative
- 3 Independent certification bodies have been empanelled as certification agencies
- 5 Demonstration plots have been set up to showcase the benefits of implementing good agrcultural practices
- 41 Villages have participated in soil and water testing regimens
- A yield increase of approximately 55% has been realized compared to a baseline study conducted in 2016
Some of the key features inherent in the castor crop as a favored renewable feedstock for polymers:
The castor crop is:
- Naturally drought resistant - requires little irrigation
- Not in competition with human or animal food chains
- Resistant to many insects
- Considered to be a profitable crop with low inputs and high returns
- Harvested 4-6 months after planting
- Grown mainly in India (75% of the world's supply) - Primarily in the state of Gujurat
- Grown by approximately 700,000 farmers in India alone!
- Also used to make ingredients for lubricants, coatings, pharmaceuticals
Arkema was one of three suppliers chosen by BMW to receive a 2018 Supplier Innovation Award in the field of sustainability. BMW specifically applauded Arkema for their work in sustainable castor farming and bio-based polymers.
2. Durability In Use = Making Things That Endure = Responsible Use
A common theme across the Technical Polymers product range is durability in use. Simply put, they are specified in extreme applications requiring longevity of service. They are generally not employed in disposable systems that quickly end up in the waste stream.
There are many examples.
Kynar® fluoropolymers are frequently specified in the following:
- Industrial piping systems that are resistant to extreme chemicals
- Fire resistant cables and wires that save human lives by preventing flame and smoke spread during catastrophic building events
- Long life solar panels that resist the harsh weather environments of deserts for several decades
- Water filtration membranes that endure harsh chemical cleaning and sanitizing without the need to be scrapped and disposed of
- Factory-applied paints and coatings for buildings (including IR reflective 'cool building' paints) that endure for many decades, without the need for re-coating
- Field-applied building paints and cool roof coatings that protect underlying substrates from weather-related failure, thus dramatically lengthening their service life and delaying their entry into municipal waste streams. Their extreme durability also allows tremendously longer re-coat intervals, thereby lowering VOC emissions
- High density lithium ion batteries that enable electric vehicles to thrive (replace internal combustion alternatives)
Extreme resistance to weathering enables building materials to last dramatically longer.
Arkema specialty polyamides, in addition to often being bio-based, also offer the following:
- Typically much more durable than traditional short chain polyamides (nylon) - far greater hydrolysis and chemical resistance i.e. long life hydraulic tubing
- Typically 20% lighter than traditional polymers, allowing substantial weight reduction in vehicles, particularly when replacing metals; also, lighter weight generally means lower consumption, lower usage rates
- Pebax® elastomers enable athletes and their sports shoes to perform at a higher level (many world records and gold medals so far); Arkema's Pebax Powered® consumer branding program encourages everyday athletes to embrace a healthy lifestyle
- Pebax® elastomers also enable life-saving heart surgeries (angioplasty) to millions of people across the globe. Once considered a highly invasive procedure available mainly to wealthy individuals, angioplasty is now frequently performed on an outpatient basis at much lower financial cost, and with spectacularly high success rates
3. Lighter Weight = "Use Less"
To state the obvious, using lightweight materials, generally means you are using "less material" gravimetrically. For example, a molded part made from a polymer that is 20% less dense than another, by simple definition is 20% lighter.
For this same simple reason, world record setting athletes across the globe have insisted that their shoes are made from Rilsan® and Pebax® polymers, each of which are typically up to 20% lighter than their commodity counterparts. In sports, lightness equals speed. Following on this same simple principle, vehicles that are lighter consequently require less fuel (fossil fuel or electric energy). This is the basis of the general theme of metal replacement and lightweighting in the automotive and aerospace markets where Rilsan® polymers are frequently specified due to their unique combination of bio-based origin, tremendously light weight, general ease of processing, recyclability, and tremendous durability properties. Arkema's Kepstan® PEKK resins, similarly are specified in highly demanding aerospace applications - mainly for weight savings, and favorable flame, smoke , and toxicity ratings.
Another significant innovation axis in terms of weight reduction lies in Arkema's ability to foam their polymers.
Through in-house development and strategic customer partnerships, Arkema has demonstrated a proven ability to dramatically reduce the density of Pebax® elastomers, and Kynar® fluoropolymers while retaining essential performance features and long term durability.
Ask your Arkema representative today about our wide array of finished foams (supplied by our partners), as well as our foaming concentrates and chemical foaming technologies.
Arkema also provides a portfolio of recyclable thermoplastic composite solutions. These lightweight solutions offer the design engineer a whole new set of options when replacing metals and/or thermoset materials.
4. Recycling, Reusing
The vast majority of our grades are fully recyclable - either alone or in combination with fresh/virgin resin. Due to the specificity associated with each grade (filled, colored, formulated, treated etc.), recycling must be discussed and evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Contact us today to begin this discussion.
Arkema's VirtucycleTM program can bring many interesting aspects, including recycling options related to post-consumer and cross-industry collaborations (in other words, reworking parts from one industry to make recycled feed for another).
5. Sustainable Markets and Applications
Arkema's technical polymers are used extensively in markets and applications that are considered to be inherently sustainable (or green). Frequently, they play an "enabling role" - i.e. the application may not exist without our polymers' specific features. Often, they play a further "enhancing role" - i.e. our polymers make those applications more effective or longer lasting. In other words, we frequently make "green applications" "greener".
- Drinking Water: Water filtration membranes made from Kynar® PVDF are extremely durable. Their extreme chemical resistance enables them to withstand frequent and aggressive cleaning cycles/sterilization cycles without degradation in physical integrity. The result is longer service life and higher productivity.
- Solar Energy: Solar modules protected by Arkema's patented KPK® backsheets (pure PVDF outer surface layer) enable those modules to function effectively for several decades in extreme environments like deserts and urban solar farms. Again, longer service life means fewer solar panels being retired and scrapped.
- Electric Vehicles: It's no secret that the key to success for the expected e-vehicle revolution is the safety, integrity, and long-term efficiency of the battery. The electrochemical environment within the battery's electrode assembly is an extreme environment in which only the most durable materials can endure. Kynar® HSV and Kynar® LBG grades ensure high efficiency cathode binding and separator coating efficiency and safety respectively.
- Cool Roofing / Cool Buildings: Kynar 500® and Kynar Aquatec® resins play an enabling role in reducing urban heat island effects as well as in cool roofing and cool building applications. Buildings that were originally painted over 30 years ago with paints containing Kynar 500® PVDF resin look virtually unchanged today. Architects around the world know that such paints practically eliminate the need for recoating (thereby reducing periodic VOC emissions dramatically). Also, while the benefits of traditional cool roofing are well publicized and well understood, the need for frequent recoats has limited their adoption. Cool roof coatings formulated with Kynar Aquatec® resins greatly improve the solar reflectivity of the roof while also lengthening the service life of the underlying roofing materials and minimizing the need for periodic recoats. This results in dramatic energy savings and reductions in VOC emissions - a double win!
- Healthy Lifestyles: The UN Global compact also strives for improvements in healthy lifestyles within the global community. Arkema's Pebax® polymers play an enabling role in high performance catheters used in life-saving heart surgeries (angioplasty procedures) that are now widely available to patients on an outpatient basis - unlike the invasive and expensive procedures of yesterday. Millions of lives are saved each year by this advancement in modern medical technology. Arkema is pleased to have played a role!
- Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) / Digital Design: Arkema offers a wide portfolio of high performance polymers designed for each of the primary methods of 3D printing (www.3d-arkema.com). These modern manufacturing techniques enable a minimization of material usage through optimal design and reduced scrap rates. They also enable a drastic reduction in supply chain inefficiency - i.e. "make what you need, and only what you need - when you need it".
We are eager to explore new sustainable opportunities.
6. Responsible Stewardship
Arkema does not use PFOA/PFNA/PFOS in the production of its fluoropolymers. Further, the substantial majority of Arkema’s PVDF resins are produced using a patented process that does not involve the use of fluorinated surfactants.
Arkema has a strict policy regarding the use of its materials in medical devices.
Download the Technical Polymers Sustainable Solutions Brochure
In this brochure you will learn more about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and how TPA solutions directly contribute to 10 out of the 17 goals.