SHANGHAI — The plastics industry in China is growing at a faster rate than its gross domestic product, and BASF SE officials believe there is growing consumer demand for sustainable products.
With the April 23-26 Chinaplas trade show approaching, BASF introduced some of the innovations it will highlight there at an April 10 news conference in Shanghai.
Frithjof Netzer, senior vice president for performance chemicals in the Asia-Pacific, gave a broad trend forecast. He said some new products reflected the company's intensified R&D activities in the region.
Netzer said Ludwigshafen, Germany-based company's growth plans require it to answer the needs of Asia Pacific that may be different from in other markets.
Zheng Daqing, senior vice president business and market development for Greater China, said changing consumer needs in China especially are creating challenges for consumers in energy use, consumer product safety and waste management.
“With the latest plastics solutions, we are collaborating with our customers on innovations to address these challenges that are developed in Asia Pacific, for Asia Pacific and the world,” he said.
BASF's product announcements spanned a wide range of applications, from polyurethane systems for shoe soles to antioxidants for linear low density polyethylene film.
The automotive market is important in China. At Chinaplas, BASF will showcase a new lightweight car seat concept developed with AP Solutions, an Incheon, South Korea, design and engineering firm.
Andy Postlethwaite, senior vice president performance materials for the Asia Pacific, said slim foam polyurethane can achieve a weight reduction of 20 percent compared to a standard car seat, and space reduction of about 20 millimeters.
“The entire automotive industry is under pressure regarding emission and fuel consumption,” he said. “One way to deal with that is to reduce the weight of the vehicle parts. And the more advanced we get, with plastics, the more parts we can replace.”
Two of the technologies that BASF showcased, coextruded PVC-polybutylene terephthalate window profiles with Ultradur and anti-run hosiery made with Elastollan thermoplastic polyurethane, were developed specifically for the Asia Pacific market at BASF's year-old innovation campus in Shanghai. The company recently announced that it will make an additional investment in R&D in the region, with a commitment to increase R&D by 3,500 jobs by 2020.
Other new products included flame retardants for electronics and light stabilizers for agricultural film. Netzer said the company is driven by customer demand.
“We will do whatever our partners in the markets, what they require us to do in terms of further growth and bigger success,” he said.
He added: “They tell me they need ideas that bring down costs in their plants and they tell me they need ideas that increase success in selling products in the marketplace.”
Reporters pressed executives to talk about growing concerns among Chinese consumers about the chemical industry's environmental and health record, but Zheng deflected the questions by stating that BASF is acting in accordance with local regulations and according to safety standards.
“We encourage enhanced understanding and dialogue. We think it shows people are more interested in the chemical industry and this is a good thing,” he said.