Garbage-based polymers spring from GE Plastics “ecomagination”
Sci-fi film buffs can probably recall Michael J. Fox racing around in a garbage-powered DeLorean sports car in the 1985 movie Back to the Future. And while the idea may have seemed far-fetched at the ...
Sci-fi film buffs can probably recall Michael J. Fox racing around in a garbage-powered DeLorean sports car in the 1985 movie Back to the Future. And while the idea may have seemed far-fetched at the time, the concept of replacing petrochemicals with garbage has been realized through GE Plastics’ US$700 million ecomagination line of resins, which uses post-consumer waste as an alternative to petrochemicals in the manufacture in this line of polymers.
Other resin materials suppliers, like DuPont, are also seeking petrochemical alternatives, but DuPont is focusing on polymers derived from cornstarch.
However both GE and DuPont have the same goal: Manufacturing resins using less energy, produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions and depend less on petrochemicals.
GE has had two ecomagination products available in North America since 2005: Flexible Noryl, a replacement for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) for automotive wire and cable applications; and Lexan SLX, a polycarbonate (PC) film that replaces paint for automotive applications.
Replacing paint and PVC reduces the toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere when these materials are incinerated, GE said.
And Lexan SLX has already received accolades from the industry. Earlier this year, the OPEL Zafira Panoramic Roof, featuring GE’s Lexan SLX, won first prize in the Body Exteriors category at the automotive innovation awards from the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) in Central Europe.
Two new additions to the ecomagination line will be released in North America by year’s end. Valox iQ and Xenoy iQ grades, which are manufactured using 85 per cent post-consumer waste, are polybutylene terephthalate (PBT)-based polymers designed for both automotive applications such as connectors and lighting bezels, and non-automotive applications such as consumer electronics.
According to GE, using waste products during the manufacturing of Valox iQ and Xenoy iQ cuts carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by about 1.7 kilograms (kg) of CO2 per kg of resin, and can save up to 8.5 barrels of crude oil per 1,000 kg of resin.
“If all PBT was made using [these resins], it would represent an annual reduction of 1.4 million metric tons of CO2 emissions,” Nicholas Eisenberger, a manager of the New York City-based environmental strategy firm GreenOrder, which audited the resins, said. “This is equivalent to planting a forest 650 square kilometres in area, which is greater than the area of Tokyo.”
And GE is currently developing a new Valox iQ resin, manufactured using a combination of a bio-based feedstock with a post-consumer-waste feedstock, that will further reduce CO2 emissions and decrease dependence on petrochemicals, the company said.
And while we can all feel good about GE’s quest for eco-friendly resins, here’s hoping that none of the resin developers try to realize any of the scenes from the Aliens movies.
GE Plastics Canada (Mississauga, Ont.);