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Soft Elastic News 09/2020 | TPE and sustainability
Sustainability is increasingly becoming society’s central concern. Conserving resources during production, being kind to the climate and the environment and consciously choosing sustainable products are all moving upwards on the scale of importance and are major purchase criteria.
Focus on sustainability
Sustainability means that the current generation must be able to satisfy its needs in such a way that subsequent generations are also able to satisfy theirs. The chemical sector recognizes this obligation and promotes sustainable development by its companies. After all, sustainability is an opportunity for a successful long-term future strategy which combines economic success with social responsibility as well as environmental protection.
Conserving resources, avoiding environmentally harmful waste, reducing emissions optimizing processes and saving time and money are also important concerns here at ACTEGA DS and are systematically implemented. It is only possible to enjoy economic success over the long term by retaining a focus on ecological and social aspects and firmly anchoring them within the company. But also topics and aspects such as occupational health and safety, economic performance, emissions, waste water and waste, customer health and safety, products, energy, materials, water, procurement, expenses, and investments in environmental protection.
TPE is a good choice compared to other materials, not only for environmental and sustainability reasons. Complete recyclability is naturally one of the most important aspects here. Neither PVC nor thermosetting rubbers or latex can be easily or completely recycled and silicone is hard to break down. Latex and thermosetting rubbers can only be processed with a high input of energy and time. The production of silicone is very complex. Furthermore, latex can provoke allergic reactions in some people, a feature that is also true of silicone.
There are additional doubts with regard to possible extractables and leachables and in many cases an unpleasant smell is also detected. PVC and thermosetting rubbers already produce large quantities of waste in their manufacture and processing; plasticizers can leach out of PVC and – at high temperatures, for example - pollutants can leach out of silicone. All this argues in favor of TPE as an alternative material. Furthermore, these PVC-free compounds correspond to the Gold level of the EPEA rating Cradle to Cradle. This is a concept which strives to develop eco-effective products that are part of a sustainable cycle in which there are no problems with refuse or wastage. The materials used in these cycles should be recyclable or compostable.
Formulation is the key
TPE exhibit tremendous flexibility and are resistant to a very wide variety of media. They possess a wide range of mechanical properties. For this reason, individual customization is possible and the range of potential applications is enormous. The key is to compose the formulation correctly. ACTEGA DS uses exclusively biocompatible, food-safe raw materials when composing the formulations for its TPE portfolio; the formulations often involve mixing together and homogenizing ten or more components.
The choice of components allows the completed material to be precisely formulated for the intended application. By combining the ingredients in the TPE compound in specific ways, it is possible to define the hardness, Young’s modulus, tensile strength, surface properties and appearance. The same goes for the properties required of materials destined for direct contact with blood and medications. Further improvements, for example of the chemical or mechanical properties, can be achieved by modifying the formulation, perhaps by using additives. In this way it has been possible to produce TPE that are ADC-free or have optimal adhesive or antimicrobial properties and also formulations that are free from oil or TPE materials with high scratch resistance. By deliberately composing the formulations of thermoplastic elastomers, in particular, their property profiles can be much better parameterized for the intended application and can thus be optimized for the planned use.
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