Our work with industry to set a sustainable course for millions of everyday products
Today we are announcing the launch of a sustainability campaign that could impact all our futures.
Very few outside of the chemical industries will be aware of polymers in liquid formulations, or PLFs as they are also known, but almost all of us interact with them on a daily basis.
Found in millions of consumer and industrial products, they are an intrinsic part of our lives – from ingredients in the paints on our walls to the shampoos and detergents in our cupboards. In fact, 36 billion tonnes of these materials, enough to fill 14,500 Olympic sized swimming pools or Wembley stadium 32 times over, are made and sold for $125 billion each year.
Despite their importance, the way that PLFs are made, used and disposed of is putting unnecessary strain on our environment by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, using up the earth’s finite resources and generating physical waste. These issues create risks for all parts of the value chain, from monomer producers to product formulators and waste management companies.
Professor Tom Welton, President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “PLFs haven’t had enough attention over the years because they are ingredients rather than products. It is their flexibility and usefulness that makes them so prevalent - and therefore implementing a circular economy for these products presents several technical challenges.
“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.
“There are technical challenges in creating sustainable alternatives, but overcoming these challenges would offer colossal sustainability benefits, which is why we are forming this task force. With some of the world’s largest players in this sector joining us tackle this issue, we have a fantastic opportunity to make real and lasting change. But these are just first steps – solutions will only come through the concerted action of academia, industry and civil society.”
This summary report is an important first step in addressing the challenges of sustainability and the
opportunities to maximise the economic value of PLFs and reduce their impact on the environment
Download the technical report for a deeper dive into the landscape view of the global PLFs' market,
sustainability issues and
recommendations for change
We have established a PLF task force that convenes key industry partners to prioritise and progress these opportunities:
Messages from our task force
Jason Harcup, Global Vice President for Research and Development Skin Care at Unilever, said: “Making a sustainable shift towards the circular economy requires close collaboration across the chemistry ecosphere, so we are delighted to join the task force and be part of the solution. By bringing together the latest material science and technology, we can create new innovations that further improve ingredients and formulations used in everyday products for the benefit of people and the planet.”
Ian Bell, Senior Research and Development Director at Afton Chemical Ltd, 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.
“With issues as complex and far reaching as the RSC initiative embraces, the engagement of multiple stakeholders and participating parties is essential, from academia and cross-segment industries in order to share capabilities and insights, collaborate and help to direct future actions in a more effective manner. Afton is delighted to be part of this initiative, support the RSC in this way and to collaborate with industry colleagues to make a meaningful impact in this area.”
Kathryn Tormay, Group Leader Wallpaints Research and Development at Crown Paints, said: “We have always known that post-consumer waste is an industry issue which is why we have many initiatives to take back and reuse paint were possible. However, we can go further which is why we have taken the opportunity to join the PLF task force. We believe by collaborating across industries we can tackle the key challenges set out by the RSC and be at the forefront of innovations and solutions to an industry wide issue.”
Mark Cooper, Group Chief Technology Officer at Scott Bader, said: “Polymers have a critical role to play in solving future challenges across society and we welcome this initiative to drive collaborative industry action to improve the sustainability of PLFs, enabling a more sustainable future for all."
Damian Kelly, Vice President Technology and Innovation at Croda, said: “Croda is committed to sustainability and the PLF Task Force is an excellent opportunity to bring industry together to set a sustainable course for thousands of polymers, with the RSC’s priorities providing a framework to drive collaborative leadership and innovation in this field. Croda is an active member of the RSC and we are excited to be part of this Task Force, as we believe our continued success and positive impact on the world is driven by the strength of our relationships, with sustainability at the heart of what we do.”
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