Trend report

Advanced Materials for a Sustainable Tomorrow

Around the world, people, companies and governments are demonstrating their belief in the importance of reducing unnecessary plastic packaging and waste.

Real-Time Transformation

China has committed to reducing plastic waste by 2025, for example by cutting the use of disposable plastic tableware in cities by 30%. (2) The US and Australia are also thinking of similar policies in support of a circular economy. More stringent regulations, combined with increasing consumer awareness, have accelerated the drive for innovation in advanced materials.

Key players in the industry are realising their responsibility to lead the way with sustainability and are rapidly responding to the push for greener solutions. Some are prioritising advanced lightweight polymers to reduce the weight of cars for greater energy efficiency, or high-performance polymers for food packaging, or advanced additives for recyclable pellets. Others are committing to sustainable packaging in an effort to reach zero waste and carbon-neutral operations. (6)

Trend Spotlights

Our sustainability experts identified the four global trends impacting the advanced materials industries. Scroll to read them all or click to jump to what's most interesting to you.


Marta Clavero
IMCD Spain
Sales Manager Flex Pack
Iberia & EMEA 
Packaging Expert Team Leader

 

 

 

 

What challenges do customers and suppliers face
when it comes to improving recyclability?
Click below to find out the answer


What's next for recyclability?
Click below to find out the answer

Mechanical Recycling


Currently, mechanical recycling is the most common approach within the advanced materials industry. This is the process of collecting plastic waste from various sources, grinding it together and then washing, melting and drying into a new raw material that can be used in a new process.

This is ideal for recycling mass quantities of plastic.

Why? Because even though the chemical structure of the materials degrade slightly when reworked, we can upgrade it again with antioxidants and other additives to increase the quality.

Chemical Recycling


Chemical recycling, also known as feedstock recycling, is a new approach that is rapidly growing in popularity as a complementary technology that can help to divert certain plastic waste from landfills, which could not otherwise be sustainably recycled through mechanical processes.

With chemical recycling, plastic debris is sorted and separated for chemical processing. The chemical structure of waste is transformed, converting it into shorter molecules that can be used for completely new reactions.

ENERGY RECOVERY RECYCLING


Some plastic-rich waste materials cannot currently be recycled in a way that is eco-efficient. 

In such cases, energy recycling comes to the rescue as the most resource-efficient solution: a material that cannot be recycled sustainably can still be disintegrated in a process that creates usable energy.

This process takes place in modern combined heat and power recovery plants (CHP Plants), where waste plastics and other highly calorific materials are used to generate heat and power. At such CHP plants, exhaust treatment technologies are additionally implemented to reduce gaseous emissions.



Shane Weeks
IMCD Australia
General Manager Advanced Materials 

 

 

 

 

What challenges do customers and suppliers face
when it comes to improving recyclability?
Click below to find out the answer


How does IMCD provide support for suppliers and customers when it comes to managing advanced material waste?
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Have questions for our experts?

Whether you're looking to learn more about recyclability or aren't sure where to start with your sustainability journey, our experts are here to help. 


Jan Hostettler
IMCD France
International Product
Manager

 

 

 

 

Where should businesses start when it comes to producing reusable products?
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How does IMCD help its partners to overcome these challenges?
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ENSURING QUALITY EVERY TIME

An essential aspect of reusability is ensuring that the quality of a product is maintained even while additives are  brought into a formulation to extend its lifetime.
This is crucial for the end-user to enjoy the same experience every time they reuse the product.
Such additives include antioxidants, UV stabilisers, UV absorbers and polymers that are tailored towards reusability and can be swapped in for existing, less durable polymers.

RAW MATERIALS TO WATCH


Innovation in reusable materials is accelerating.
 
Right now, a handful of companies are developing sustainable materials which come in a pellet form that transforms into a hard plastic durable enough to stand everyday wear and tear, for example with daily use around the home.

 

Such materials also have the highly desirable benefit of removing BPA (bisphenol A – a synthetic organic compound) from the formulation, which may be added when other processing techniques are used.


Kunimitsu Yamamuro
IMCD Japan
Business Unit
Manager

 

 

 

 



Which challenges do manufacturers often
encounter?
Click below to find out the answer

A BIO-BASED REVOLUTION?


Bio-based technologies and approaches could be seen as the next great leap towards a circular economy.

When we move away from materials that take millions of years to develop (like petroleum polymers) and embrace bio-based materials that only take a few years to develop (like corn) we open the doors wide for sustainable innovation. 

Over time, more and more new bio-based sources and methods are being discovered that can be used as an alternative to petroleum-based polymers. 

 


Frank Yang
IMCD China
Technical Service
and Business
Development Manager

 

 

 

 

For those just starting out on their bio-based journey, where do you recommend that they begin?
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How are attitudes and approaches to bio-based evolving across regions and industries?
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INCREASING BIO-CONTENT


Many companies now offer products that feature a combination of polymers, and bio-based content keeps taking a greater share of the mix. For example, today we might see a product developed with 50% bio-based content plus 50% petroleum polymers, supported by a package of relevant additives.

In the future, however, the proportion of bio-based content is set to jump even higher. 

LABELING & CERTIFYING


When it comes to advanced materials, labelling companies such as TÜV and DIN are paving the way for a more circular economy by determining which category a product belongs to depending on its specific polymer blend and the intended use of the application.

 

This ensures that a product is properly categorised depending on the end-user experience it provides, thereby preventing confusion and streamlining the end-of-life product journey. 


Raju Desai

IMCD India

Director, Advanced Materials India

 

 

 

 

 

What do you recommend for companies that have started their journey but still have further to go?
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Currently, bio-based choices may not be the most cost-effective. Do you expect that to change in future?
Click below to find out the answer

MANUFACTURERS MAY ALREADY HAVE AN ATTRIBUTE IN MIND

 
For example, manufacturers may already have decided that their product should be considered biodegradable. However, in order to give end-users what they are looking for, manufacturers need to be careful that the overall creation process doesn’t work out as being less sustainable than it was in the first place.

A key aspect of the challenge is understanding what end-users are looking for, while also communicating clearly with them to help them understand how a product should be used and disposed of. 

There are many approaches to reducing emissions and total energy consumption, and all are equally important to consider.

Tackling recyclability and reusability, or sourcing sustainable bio-based content already goes a long way towards achieving this goal. 
But in order to reach a truly sustainable future, we also need to deal with the problem of waste, to optimise product production, to make processes more efficient, and much more.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and in order to be truly successful, the challenge must be addressed holistically.

START TO FINISH CO2 REDUCTION


Reducing carbon dioxide starts with selecting the right raw materials, prioritising sustainable sourcing and energy-efficient extraction methods.

This should be followed up with careful chemistry, considering how you can adapt your formulation to make room for functional additives and sustainably-derived polymers. 


Dan Andersson
IMCD Sweden
Sales Manager & Global

Sustainability Coordinator

 

 

 

 

What’s next to come in the CO2 reduction conversation?
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What do consumers and businesses still need to understand when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions?
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Want to dive deeper on this with our experts?
Don't hesitate to reach out. Our experts are here to support any of your questions, whether they are more general about CO2 reduction or very specific to sustainable material selection. 

SETTING THE STAGE FOR MINDFUL PRODUCT DESIGN

Smart design is all about using fewer materials where possible to increase efficiency during the recycling process.

Ideally, this is an iterative process, with continuous experimentation and improvement, driven by innovation. Not to mention, great design is impossible without attention to process, taking care to ensure as little energy usage as possible during various production stages.

And this process doesn’t end when a product is shipped.

End of life enhancement is the final piece of the puzzle, which requires paying attention to detail during production to extend a product’s life and ensure that it lasts longer. 


Austin Watkins
IMCD Spain
International Product Manager
Purging Compounds

 

 

 

 



What’s next to come in the CO2 reduction
conversation?
Click below to find out the answer

What's next for Advanced Materials?

That’s what drives our passion to uncover the trends that are shaping the future across industries.

We’re excited to push the boundaries of material science, opening up new frontiers with our partners – supported by 25 years of expertise, consumer insight and market-leading technical capabilities. When it comes to putting knowledge into action and bringing trends to life, we’re here to help with our new Sustainable Solutions project. 
Designed as a one-stop resource for IMCD Advanced Materials customers, Sustainable Solutions is organised into eight key categories: Renewable Source, CO2 Reduction, Recycle, Biodegradable, Compostable, End of Life Enhancement, Waste Reduction, and Weight Reduction.  

Ready to dive into the sustainable future of advanced materials?