Materials maker Envalior and distribution firm Nexeo Plastics are helping processors navigate the sustainability market.
"We want to dispel confusion," Taylor Burnham, Nexeo health care and sustainability product manager, said on a recent webinar hosted by Plastics News. "The sustainability market has been constantly and quickly evolving for several years."
Burnham explained that, in some cases, consumer and legislative approaches have affected sustainability. She added that circularity often is tied into recyclability, while a carbon mass balance approach focuses on energy, scrap and weight reduction.
Processors also are looking at part design optimization, as well as at compostable or bio-based polymers. Even within recycled materials, processors often have to choose among mechanical or chemical recycling processes or from post-consumer, post-industrial or ocean bound recycled resins.
In the recycling market, high density polyethylene is in good supply, according to Burnham, but for most other resins, the quality of recyclate "gets vastly reduced."
"Some legislation has specified the use of post-consumer resin," she said. "But to accomplish that, we're going to need other [recycling] streams to meet demand."
Bio-based versions of PE and polypropylene can offer similar performance to standard petrochemical grades, Burnham added. Other sustainable options are bio-based resins such as PLA and PHA or resins that use bio-based fillers such as sugar cane, corn starch or potato skins.