Berwyn, Pa. — As Trinseo S.A. enters its second decade, sustainability has become the single most important focus at the global supplier of raw materials to the synthetic rubber, plastics and latex binder industries.
"Industry and society have reached a pivotal crossroads on the path toward a more sustainable future," Walter van het Hof, global industry affairs and sustainability leader at Trinseo, said in the company's recent 2020 Sustainability Report. "Intense consumer and regulatory pressure, rapid climate change, shifting societal norms, the threat of plastics in our oceans and, most recently, the global devastation of COVID-19, have coalesced and thrust us into a new era of sustainability."
Trinseo's synthetic rubber production plant in Schkopau, Germany, which produces both SSBR and ESBR, will be at the heart of these environmental efforts to "close the circle," according to Francesca Reverberi, newly named vice president of engineered materials and synthetic rubber at Trinseo.
The plant supplies about 250,000 metric tons of synthetic rubber per year, of which about 90 percent goes to the tire industry. As such, sustainability goals need to be established throughout the entire synthetic rubber-to-tire supply chain, and will require collaboration between mid- and downstream players as well as partnerships between raw material competitors at the top, Reverberi said.
"The mission to achieve a sustainable future will never be achieved alone," she said. "We understand that the challenge ahead of us is great, and tackling it requires a unified approach from the entire value chain. Like Trinseo, our customers have long-term sustainability strategies and we are dedicated to contributing to the transformation of our industry."
Reverberi noted that many of Trinseo's customers have embraced the use of recycled feedstocks for tires. The work of major manufacturers is helping scale up the amount of rubber from worn tires that can be returned to the value chain rather than entering a landfill.
However, the industrialization of recycled materials to make synthetic rubber will be a more significant threshold, she said, identifying several pillars toward closing some of the gaps in this circular model for sustainability.
"First and foremost is performance, especially as it relates to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the tire-use phase due to our focus on rolling resistance reduction," she said. "The next challenge is the composition and the way we make our products. We are exploring various options especially in the area of future raw materials, ranging from bio-based to recycled materials ... such as bio-butadiene or recycled styrene monomer.
"We do not just consider the sustainability efforts of our customers and partners, but the overall sustainability impacts and eco-balance of the raw materials we use," she said.
Reverberi joined Trinseo in June 2010, when the company was carved out of Dow Chemical Co. She first served as business director of basic plastics and global business director for synthetic rubber, and most recently as global business director of performance plastics.
Her new appointment comes following a recent reorganization of the executive team at Trinseo designed to "drive efficiency" and make the organization "flatter."
"In a difficult economic environment, we continue to look for opportunities to drive greater focus on business process optimization and efficiency," Frank Bozich, president and CEO of Trinseo, said of the restructuring.
The main manufacturing plant for SSBR and ESBR remains in Schkopau, as does Trinseo's SR pilot plant and main R&D center. As a cost-cutting measure, Trinseo earlier this year decided to close a polybutadiene rubber (nickel and neodymium-PBR) unit in Schkopau by the end of 2020.
Reverberi also leads the company's Engineered Materials business, which has production facilities in Europe and Asia. In that capacity, she will continue to lead her business segments from Horgen, Switzerland, where she has lived with her family for the past 15 years.
"Once travel restrictions are lifted, hopefully in the months to come, I will resume regular travel to meet Trinseo employees around the world," she said. "I equally look forward to visiting our customers again. Although I very much enjoy interacting and collaborating virtually, I do miss in-person contact with my team as well as our long-standing partners."
Tires drive innovations
SSBR and ESBR find their highest demand in vehicle tires.
SSBR, produced through polymerization, coagulation and drying/finishing, allows for "very high functionalization levels" for all types of tires—meaning SSBR allows Trinseo to tailor its products according to the specific performance needs of customers.
Trinseo's SSBR portfolio covers eco tires for small city cars, all the way to ultra high-performance car and SUV tires for all weather conditions. The company's SSBR also is used in tires for light commercial vehicles such as vans and pickup trucks, and in performance motorcycle tires.