Renewable raw material turns
into green polyethylene
An important trend reversal and a welcome innovation sees the light of day as polyethylene can now be made from renewable raw material. Trioplast has from an early start participated in international development projects which now enable the company to offer the market products made of green polyethylene.
Research that has been focused on the manufacture of plastic from renewable raw material has been ongoing for some time. With regard to renewable development, new material must replace what is currently being manufactured from fossil raw materials. The availability of finite resources is diminishing and their use results in carbon dioxide emissions with a substantial impact on the environment as a consequence. The interest in new alternatives is increasing like wildfire at the same time as the obvious demand is becoming all the more clearer.
Trioplast has taken an active part in the development work since discussions about green polyethylene began. Anders Spetz, Divisional Manager at Trioplast, already has good contacts with the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology. He participated in the discussions that started in 2005 and took place at Chalmers, at which Trioplast, in conjunction with Tetra Pak, were major interested parties in their capacity as significant users of polyethylene in their production.
“What is interesting is that green polyethylene has exactly the same chemical structure as the traditional polyethylene manufactured from fossil raw material”, explains Anders Spetz. “We can therefore purchase exactly the same raw material as before, but manufactured in a new way.”
“At Trioplast we have a long tradition of developing solutions that reduce the environmental impact. Once we were able to establish on a scientific basis that this is a better alternative in an environmental perspective, than traditionally manufactured polyethylene, the management team at Trioplast took the strategic decision to invest in green polyethylene”, says Anders.
Now it is a reality
Since autumn 2010, green polyethylene is being manufactured on a commercial scale. The manufacturing facility in Brazil is so far the only one in the world. The manufacturing capacity is limited to 200 000 metric tonnes per year while the demand is enormous.
“We are both proud and delighted that we have been involved early and can now contribute at the launch of products manufactured from green polyethylene”, says Anders Spetz.
For the manufacturer in Brazil, Trioplast is one of the interesting industrial companies that have a profound knowledge and supply the market with the type of highly processed products the manufacturer preferably wants green polyethylene to be used for.
Same product with new raw material
The purpose of the process has remained the same; to further refine ethylene into polyethylene. The difference lies in the new way of manufacturing ethylene. New technology has made it possible to manufacture ethylene using sugar cane as the raw material. This is the basis of green polyethylene and the producer makes a point of emphasising its comprehensive view of the ecological connection in the manufacturing process.
The adopted ethical stance is of vital importance for the whole of this new industry as the rest of the world follows the developments with interest. A Code of Conduct is applied in dealings with suppliers and this is based on continuous improvement and in compliance with Brazilian legislation. Among the good business practices referred to in this document is for example the high requirement that the sugar cane should be harvest mechanically.
The engagement in a sustainable development with reduced environmental impact has since a long-time set its mark on the work within the Trioplast Group.
“We were involved in the start-up of Svepretur, the organisation for recycling plastic from agriculture”, says Anders Spetz. “We have since assisted in helping to start up similar operations in Australia and New Zealand.”
The work to reduce the environmental impact of the company’s operation forms a natural part of daily life in the group. Streamlining of production to achieve reduced electricity consumption, print technology that saves ink and material consumption and investment in wind power are examples of this.
Another successful initiative is the company’s technical platform, Pretech, which reduces transports as well as consumption of material and the amount of waste by 30%. Projects that make it possible to reject unnecessary packaging, optimise freight, cut down pallet handling and reduce storage losses of fodder are other examples of positive result of deliberate efforts.
Plastic from Swedish forests
The actual outcome of the intense development work that has resulted in green polyethylene gives reason to be optimistic about the future.
“Technology is advancing and we are learning all the time,” says Anders. “In a longer perspective, it is not unreasonable to imagine manufacturing polyethylene where our Swedish forests provide the raw material. And meanwhile, we proceed with the launching of our Triogreen programme, i.e. products manufactured from green polyethylene. An important message to anyone who wants to invest in products for a sustainable development is that green polyethylene is a better alternative than earlier launched bio-polymers, both in terms of price and quality”, concludes Anders Spetz, Divisional Manager at Trioplast.