Advantages could extend to other high-performance applications like automotive plastics and help them close the recycling loop and use more recycled materials to make new products.
59 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases are emitted globally every year. To keep the temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees, emissions would have to be reduced by another 19-23 billion tonnes on top of the commitments achieved at COP26. Circular economies could reduce global emissions by 22.8 billion tonnes. That’s a 39 percent reduction from 2019 levels – and enough to close the emission gap.
The fact that 70% of all global emissions are tied to resource use and handling makes circularity all the more critical. But only 8.6% of the resources consumed globally ever year is cycled back into our economy. Circularity would have to double to 17% reach that goal.
Moving away from single-use plastics and focusing on high-performance plastics that can be recycled in a closed-loop system could play a significant role in getting there.
But there’s one problem: recyclability
Unfortunately, the compounds in high-performance plastic applications cannot be easily recycled without compromising performance – and recovering these properties often costs more than virgin materials.
Closed loop recycling isn’t very cost effective if the recycled material cannot meet the performance requirements to make new product. So, most thermoplastics are downcycled instead.
In fact, over 350 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated every year, but recycled plastics account for only 6% of the feedstock used to produce new plastics globally.
Fillers that come from more sustainable sources may not actually survive recycling any better, nor offer the same performance, processability, or compatibility with other compound components. All of which could result in a net loss in terms of sustainability.
In order to push the balance of properties in favour of sustainability, we must find new alternatives to fragile fillers that can be recycled without losing performance.
Smart EV battery casing goes green with CarbonX
CarbonX was recently approached by a smart battery manufacturer that wanted to switch to a more environmentally friendly flame retardant – but it wasn’t compatible with the carbon filler they were using.
Smart EV batteries are usually housed in hard, insulated plastic cases that contain flame retardants and other fillers to add strength and preserve the plastic longer.
Like many high-performance applications, conventional carbons are used here to provide coloring and UV/weather protection. But they also compromise impact resistance and recyclability. Other fillers are used to improve impact, but recyclability is still a problem.
The company found that CarbonX was not only compatible with the new flame retardant, but it didn’t affect impact resistance as much as the previous carbon.
Even at low loading, CarbonX was able to provide greater stability, impact resistance, processability and recyclability. Ultimately, CarbonX allows the manufacturer to make the battery casing more durable and easier to recycle at the end-of life stage.
The same success achieved in this case could also help myriad high-performance applications – from plastic pallets to automotive plastics – achieve greater recyclability and close the recycling loop.
Greater recyclability will have a lasting impact on mobility
Most automotive companies are integrating guidelines for recycled content in new products into their sustainability strategies.
In fact, the latest recommendation for post-consumer plastics in new cars is 25% by 2025, 30% by 2030, and 35% by 2035. But recycled plastics still account for only 2.5% of total plastics used in the automotive sector.
Using recycled content for components that don’t have performance requirements is easy. Plastic used in air ducts, for example, can be made from 100% recycled materials. But components with high performance requirements are limited in how much recycled content they can use. New bumpers, for example, can only contain 10% recycled bumper scraps.
The demand for lightweight plastics that can improve safety, durability, and make vehicles more fuel efficient – particularly in the case of electric vehicles – is growing. The average car contains about 180 kg of plastic materials, and that could rise 17% by 2030.
Get higher quality recycled material with CarbonX
The only way to increase the quantity of recycled material that can be used to make new products is to use materials that can undergo recycling and still retain a larger part of their original properties.
CarbonX® could offer manufacturers the performance and the recyclability they need to make closed loop recycling a cost-effective investment and meet the latest mandates for recycled content.
Is CarbonX® is the right fit for your application? Contact our team to learn more about this case study via our Product & Services page. To find out how CarbonX® breaks boundaries to improve both performance and recyclability, read this blog or watch our video.