A prime polymer is the natural source of the polymer; this means it will be the pure form of the polymer. Whereas when a prime polymer contains recycled content, it is using polymers that have been previously used.
Historically, recycled content meant the polymer would be traded at a lower value compared to the same prime pure polymers. This decrease in value is associated with a few key points:
- A change in the physical properties due to the thermal degradation.
- Contamination through the prior use of colourants and additives.
- Restricted application of the polymer, for example, products for food contact.
- Strong odours which can affect the final product.
The New Generation
There is now a new generation of recycled polymers coming to light. These contain recycled content but hold many of the benefits which pure prime polymers hold.
Large polymer producers are now starting to back these innovative projects to use more recycled content in polymers. They are now actively involved in the process and the production of recycled polymers.
A large advantage of the polymer producers getting involved in the production of recycled polymers is that they can bring their expertise to the process. This is allowing the polymers to keep some of their existing properties.
In order to keep these properties intact, they are using suitable stabilisers in the production process to stop thermal degradation taking place.
The Benefits of Recycled Content
Using recycled content in prime polymers holds many benefits to the industry and the future of using plastics sustainably.
Properties: The properties of the new recycled polymers are the same as the pure polymer and can sometimes even be enhanced from the prime polymer. This allows their applications to be similar and sometimes the recycled polymers can be more suited to an application than the prime.
Environmental: Using recycled content offers these polymers with more environmental credentials as well as helping to work towards a more sustainable and circular economy within the industry. It is much better for the environment to be reusing existing materials rather than discarding these and creating new polymers each time.
Applications: With the advancements in the process of creating recycled polymers there are more applications becoming available to the product. The latest application to approve the use of this polymer is actually for contact with food products.
The Value of Recycled Polymers
Recycled polymers are still being traded at a lower value compared to their prime counterparts, but this has no cost penalty or gains to any party involved in the manufacturer to user journey.
However, an increase in value may be seen in the acceptance of this product by the existing polymer manufacturing community, and this means that the industry is closer to moving towards a more circular economy and more importantly, sustainability.