Guangzhou, China — Eastman Chemical Co. launched a new bioplastic material at the Chinaplas trade show that's made 50 percent from trees from sustainably managed forests.
The company said its Treva material has chemical resistance and flow properties similar to engineering thermoplastics, and said it chose a launch in China because it anticipates that country could become the largest market for the material, which it said is similar to its Tritan copolyester.
Kevin Duffy, manager of business development for specialty plastics, said Treva will be available initially in grades for injection molding and extrusion, with target markets in eyeglasses, electronic displays, electronics and cosmetic cases.
Medical applications are a possible future target, he said: "That is something we can seek out in the future if there is interest in the medical community."
Company executives said when the company launched Tritan 10 years ago, it did not see China as becoming its largest market region. But now it expects the country could provide similar potential for Treva.
"There is so much Tritan sold here [in China], more than anywhere else in the world," said Randy Beavers, Asia Pacific and global sales director, and regional business director, at a Chinaplas press conference. "We expect Treva to follow the same path."
In an interview at Chinaplas, held in mid-May in Guangzhou, he said China is a major center for eyewear manufacturing, for example.
"If our hypothesis is right about ophthalmic then we'll sell more in China than anywhere else in the world for ophthalmic, because the ophthalmic world is in China and in Italy," he said.
For other applications, he said, "it's going to be fun and a lot of work finding out that answer. It depends on the market mix and the application mix but we'll know five years from now."
Eastman said that the Treva's properties have stood up to engineering thermoplastics, including offering higher chemical resistance to some sunscreens and household cleaners.
Tests also showed that Treva's flow rates were similar to ABS and surpassed polycarbonate and polycarbonate/ABS blends, the company said.
In an interview at Eastman's booth at the show, Beavers said the initial reaction is positive.
"Typically, you don't think of a bioplastic as being tough or chemically resistant and you definitely don't think of the dimensional stability," he said. "The fact that we're bringing a product with this kind of property profile — it's a bit overwhelming, the interest [being shown].
"From an engineering bioplastics material, it's our entry into a really serious set of bioplastic materials," he said.
Company executives said the material is 50 percent biobased, with the rest being traditional petrochemicals to get the "backbone" performance needed for cellulosic materials.
Beavers said he believes Treva's biobased profile will meet a growing demand in China.
"China followed pretty quickly on the [bisphenol A] trend," he said. "If you look at sustainability and material reduction, China is not far behind.
"If they are not leading than they are following pretty quickly," Beavers said. "I would expect that with bioplastics they are definitely going to be looking into how to incorporate that into everything that is made here."