Specialty Materials for Enhanced PE Recyclate

At least three major PE suppliers are targeting PE post-consumer recyclate with specialty materials and technologies that target high-value reuse.

Yet another growth market opportunity for polyethylene resins, in addition to those addressed in our cover story, “Hot Half-Dozen Applications Driving Development in PE,” are specialty grades that enhance post-consumer recyclate as shown by the following activity.

ExxonMobil Chemical has been offering its “Rethink Recycle” with Vistamaxx performance polymers, which have been proven to allow for low-cost recycling, targeting high-value uses. Their use to compatibilize PE and PP recycle reduced the need for costly materials separation and allows for higher PCR content, while enhancing end-product performance.

Nova Chemicals has formulated Novapol PF-0118-FI, a 1.0 MI butene copolymer LLDPE, the first in a new family to come,, to be more forgiving and robust under the rigors of recycling. Either it can be recycled more often, or it can be used to enhance a higher percentage of lower-quality PCR. It is targeted for blending, trash bags, liners, general packaging, heavy-duty bags, stretch wrap and garment film. Collaborative work is underway on incorporation of PCR into packaging and goods now made typically of 100% virgin material.

Braskem’s Wecycle platform involves different recycling technologies for all polyolefins. The one used for LLDPE, LDPE and PP are undergoing lab trials; the technology for HDPE is in the validation stage with customers who are testing the recycled resin as the raw material in small-volume thermoformed packaging. This technology allowed for the creation of recycled HDPE with high quality and a high percentage of recyclate.  It boasts stress-cracking resistance, tensile strength similar to virgin resins, and 70% higher mechanical properties than the current recycled HDPEs.