OUR STRATEGY IS TO PRODUCE POLYMERS THAT ARE AT LEAST 30% RECYCLED.
Alongside its involvement in MMAtwo, Arkema launched another ambitious program in October 2019, dedicated to PVDF and the high-performance polyamides it produces for customers. “This program is called Virtucycle®, and it aims to develop circuits for the collection and regeneration of our products, in partnership with Agiplast, the world leader in the regeneration of this kind of polymer,” explains Guido Donà, Director, Planning and Strategy, High-Performance Polymers. In the short term, the most accessible driver is located in the Group’s customers’ production sites, i.e. transformers who make parts out of our materials, including pipe extruders, molders and manufacturers of 3D printed parts. Scraps and shavings can represent up to 20% of volume consumed, depending on the technology and type of part. Arkema and Agiplast approach their manufacturer customers on a case-by-case basis, to jointly build virtuous cycles, either closed circuits (the recovered scraps are ground and purified before being directly reinjected into the production of the plant), or open circuits (Arkema pro-vides the customer with grades of recycled polymers, that may come from other markets or applications). The regeneration processes developed by the two partners are based, in this case, on mechanical recycling, and stages of physical separation. “This is perfect for our polymers, which have the capacity to recover their original properties, minimizing CO2 compared to any other recovery technology. Our strategy is to produce polymers that are at least 30% recycled, which provides excellent quality for industrial applications,” continues Guido Donà. “This allows us to offer a performance guarantee at the same time as higher volume under a recycled label, which responds to a genuine market expectation and a solid contribution to sustainable development in the polymer industry.”
Within the context of Virtucycle®, Arkema is already working with some major brands on projects for the recovery of end-of-life products, which involves the creation and optimization of cost-effective collection networks. What is really critical in developing this model is the design process for finished products. Currently, products often have several materials of different kinds either glued or molded together, and fulfilling different functions (in a sports shoe or multilayer car pipe, for example) and this makes them very hard to recycle. The same applies to the additives and quantities used. “We are lobbying for a simplification of design processes, with the use of materials in the same family, for example – solutions that are perfectly achievable using our polymers,” insists Guido Donà. “This is a message we are actively selling to major sportswear and automotive brands that understand this necessity.” This cultural change is vital if we want to move manufactured products towards a circular economy.
Turning the polymer back into its monomer uses 70% less energy and creates 70% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, than producing the monomer.