Dr Geoff Mackey FRSC, BASF UK & Ireland Sustainability Director said: “At BASF, our corporate purpose is ‘We create chemistry for a sustainable future’. We want to contribute to a world that provides a viable future with enhanced quality of life for everyone. We do so by creating chemistry for our customers and society and by making the best use of available resources.
"Polymers in liquid formulations is a theme that cuts across many of our core markets and technologies. Whether it’s dispersions for paints and adhesives, crop protection products, home and personal care ingredients, or the many other applications in which they are formulated – we want to ensure that we continue to benefit from their use without impacting on the planet or its people.”
Professor Roy Sandbach said: “Polymers are important building-blocks for a myriad of everyday products, but unlike plastics they’re hidden from ‘sustainability view’. We need to change this. We need a concerted multi-sector and supply chain effort to look for technical innovation that reduces polymer impact and we need to drive a clear strategy to action. Now.
“The task force needs to establish open and common goals. A first and crucial task for me and my colleagues. We can’t dabble on this, we need to think big and act big. For me there are challenges along two vectors, technology innovation and business model innovation. Action on both will be the only way to ensure that innovation is delivered, to benefit us all.”
There are very few ways to recycle PLFs, but with more than 36.25million tonnes not recovered after use every year – enough to fill Wembley Stadium 32 times – the task-force’s aim is to develop ways to recover, reuse and remake these materials as well as developing biodegradable or naturally sourced alternatives.
Professor Tom Welton, President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “Welcoming BASF to a task force that already counts Unilever, Croda, Scott Bader, Crown Paints and Afton Chemical among its members is a huge indicator of the strength of our collaborative approach. We’re looking forward to giving PLFs the attention they’re long overdue with this globally influential group.
“Until now, PLFs have not been focussed upon because they are ingredients rather than products, which makes them technically challenging. It is their flexibility and usefulness that makes them so prevalent – and it’s that prevalence that drives our call to develop solutions that fit within a circular economy model and creating sustainable alternatives. Doing so would offer colossal sustainability benefits – but this will require the concerted action of academia, industry and civil society.”
More about PLFs...
PLFs are incredibly useful. As ingredients, they are often soft and rubbery, and have several practical applications, such as helping paints stick to surfaces and enabling detergents to wash clothes at 30oC rather than 40oC, reducing energy consumption.
As such, the market is technically diverse and complex, comprising hundreds of different polymer types within the categories of acrylic, epoxy resins, polyesters, polysilicones, polyurethanes, radiation curable, vinyl, water-soluble and other low volume polymers. Because of their usually high molecular weight, in terms of toxicity polymers are generally considered as being of low environmental concern. They are currently exempt from registration and evaluation within REACH, but this exemption is currently being reviewed by the European Commission.
Driven by the RSC’s report Polymers in Liquid Formulations: opportunities for a sustainable future, the task force will map out a sustainable future for PLFs and establish clear industry leadership regardless of regulatory drivers. It forms part of the RSC’s Synergy programme to unite businesses around complex chemistry based challenges affecting multiple industries and supply chains.
The task force will convene this year to launch a plan for action in 2022, initially focusing on five key areas:
1. Establish new innovation networks that promote collaboration between academia, industry and policy
2. Identify and champion key research themes and priorities that will support researchers and businesses to tackle PLF innovation challenges
3. Explore the emerging need for a consistent approach to PLF biodegradability and stability testing
4. Investigate opportunities for chemistry-based innovations in developing circular economy solutions in key markets such as paints, adhesives and sealants
5. Engage with key stakeholders to ensure that a science- and evidence-based approach is used to develop future policy for PLFs.