Published 6 months ago.
About a 5 minute read.
The Sustainable Polymers in Liquid Formulation (PLFs) Task Force will collaborate to innovate throughout the value chain and across sectors including cosmetics, water treatments, lubricants and agricultural products.
Four more companies have joined an industry task force that the Royal Society
of Chemistry (RSC) has convened to improve the
sustainability of a ubiquitous, $125 billion class of ‘forgotten’ polymers.
The Sustainable Polymers in Liquid Formulation (PLFs) Task
seeks to provide leadership in creating a collaborative strategy to drive
innovation throughout the value chain and across diverse sectors including
cosmetics, water treatments, lubricants and agricultural products.
Dow, British utility providers Northumbrian
Water and United
Utilities, and global pharmacy chain
Walgreens Boots Alliance have just
joined existing members Afton Chemical,
Crown Paints, Scott
Bader and Unilever.
As a group of thousands of different chemicals, PLFs are typically used as
thickeners, emulsifiers and binders — and are key to the functionality of everything from inks, paints,
coatings and industrial lubricants; to adhesives and sealants, pesticides and
herbicides, household cleaners and personal care products. RSC established the
task force earlier this year after its research
that an estimated 36 million tonnes of PLFs — enough to fill Wembley Stadium
32 times over — are made and sold each year.
However, due to their huge variety of uses, PLFs are an often ‘forgotten’ group
of polymers with common challenges and solutions — which the RSC report
highlighted as particularly important when it comes to matters such as
collecting waste streams, recycling them or making them more
(they are currently made mostly from fossil fuels).
“Our report last year identified common sustainability challenges facing polymer
ingredients used in most households and workplaces — and said that we must
address this without delay,” said RSC President Tom
Welton. “Identifying how we can start to provide
solutions and giving these chemicals a collective name, Polymers in Liquid
Formulations, has allowed us to engage with some of the biggest companies in the
world to spearhead action through our task force.
“The seriousness and enthusiasm with which the chemical industry has approached
this from several sectors and parts of the supply chain drives home the colossal
impact that can be achieved through ambition and collaboration. I welcome our
new members, who bring a wide range of perspectives from the whole value chain —
which will be key to delivering a joined-up strategy.”
The RSC has outlined five key
to making PLFs ‘benign by design’:
De-fossilizing PLFs feedstocks, the building blocks of polymers.
Optimizing the functionality of sustainable polymers to equal or
outperform conventional options.
Developing sustainable formulation processes for manufacturing PLFs.
Understanding the diverse fate of the hundreds of types of polymers when
they reach the environment (the group is investigating solutions in
development for removing PFAS from
which could also recover PLFs for recycling or reuse).
Maximizing the futures of sustainable PLFs by developing governance
frameworks, infrastructure and monitoring mechanisms to support
Professor Roy Sandbach OBE
FRSC, independent Chair
of the Sustainable PLFs Task Force, 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.”
Last year’s RSC report, Polymers in liquid formulations (PLFs): Opportunities for a sustainable
examined the sustainability of these chemicals and found that leadership and
investment in innovation, waste management and circular models are urgently
needed to make this overlooked group of chemicals more sustainable.
The organization then launched a follow-up campaign to highlight how progress
can be made by establishing circular economies in the paint
— for which over 31 million metric tons of PLFs are sold each year — after
research from the British Coatings Federation revealed that 98 percent of
waste paint in the UK was either incinerated or sent to landfill. RSC research
revealed that every liter of household paint contains about 500ml of PLFs, and
that UK households were stockpiling more than 50 million liters of
— with 67 percent of adults admitting they didn’t know if their local recycling
facility accepts waste paint. This has led to several parliamentary questions
being raised across the UK — and is just the beginning in this multistakeholder,
“Making a shift towards the circular economy and more sustainable polymers in
liquid formulations will require close collaboration across the chemical,
formulated goods and waste industries,” said Dr Jason
Harcup, Global VP of
Research and Development at Unilever. “By bringing together actors from across
this value chain, the RSC task force can help to support changes in the ways
polymers are designed, produced and cycled at end of life — leading to products
that are better for both consumers and for the planet.”
Published Aug 8, 2023 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST