Afton joins RSC initiative to create a PLF circular economy

Afton joins RSC initiative to create a PLF circular economy

Afton Chemical has joined a task force organized by the UK-based Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to plan a strategy to make better use of unrecovered polymers in liquid formulations (PLFs) and create a PLF circular economy. Other members of the task force include Unilever, Crown Paints, Scott Bader, and Croda.

PLFs, valued at an estimated worth of USD125 billion, have a number of practical uses and are found in millions of products from paints, adhesives and sealants to fertilisers, lubricants and cosmetics. They are also used in water treatment, ink production and even household cleaning products such as washing detergent.  

There are very few ways to recycle PLFs, with more than 36.25 million tonnes not recovered after use every year — enough to fill 14,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The task force will look to plan a way to tackle this poorly known waste stream and drive innovation to tackle the issue, improve waste management and introduce a circular PLF economy.

“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,” said Professor Tom Welton, president of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

“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 to 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.”

“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,” said Ian Bell, senior research and development director at Afton Chemical Ltd.

“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.”

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