Creating a Circular Economy for Plastics: Problem Solving Through Design

Since establishing our first recycling policy in 1901, sustainability has been a driving force in the way Milliken does business as a diversified global manufacturer. Our goal to create a healthier future means adopting sustainability goals that touch our planet, our products, and our people. Just to name a few, by 2025, we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and solid waste by 25%. That’s the equivalent of taking more than 5,000 cars off the road every year. We’ll make zero environmental violations, and we’ll convene thought leaders and scientists to address the most pressing issues facing our planet.

As we strive to positively impact the world around us for generations to come, we challenge ourselves to use innovation as a way to enhance the sustainability of our planet. We tackle everyday problems head-on through research and design across industries.

At Milliken, we challenge ourselves to have the courage to think big. This is true in all we do, but perhaps most importantly at the moment in the way we address our relationship to plastics. Plastics are behind many technologies and products that make our lives safer and easier every day. But the fact remains that only about 5% of plastics get recycled each year; and Milliken is committed to creating solutions in recycling technologies so that plastics are reused rather than put in landfills, burned, or set adrift in our oceans.

What to do with plastics after they serve their initial purpose, or how to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics in general, is a major industry conversation—one that requires a collaborative effort to address with real solutions, without losing the everyday benefits that plastics provide.

One way to approach a solution is through the manufacturing of more sustainable plastics. DeltaMaxTM Performance Modifiers from the Milliken Chemical division is revolutionizing how more sustainable plastics, like polypropylene featuring recycled content, can be more easily produced.

Much of the plastic we use today—think, automotive and industrial parts, home goods, or lawn and garden products—is made of polypropylene. Its durable and impact-resistant features make it an ideal choice in a variety of applications, leading the plastic substance to be among the fastest-growing plastic in the world. Outside of plastic PET bottles, polypropylene is the most widely recycled plastic worldwide, so it is a more sustainable alternative to other less recycled polymers. Plastic parts, however, are a difficult material to manufacture. It requires finesse in production and, until now, this forced manufacturers to prioritize characteristics like stiffness over using more recycled content in products.

DeltaMaxTM Performance Modifiers, through an all-in-one solution, represents a breakthrough in the long-standing struggle to simultaneously optimize the melt flow of polypropylene impact copolymers for easy production without affecting the stiffness and durability of the finished product. Traditional methods also greatly limited the amount of recycled content incorporated in new polypropylene impact copolymer production, so these plastics historically used substantial resources with very little recycling or repurposing.

Increased recycled content

Because of the manufacturing process, impact and melt flow properties are diminished when using recycled content in polypropylene—which leads many manufacturers to trade recycled content for finished performance. DeltaMaxTM Performance Modifiers restores impact and melt flow properties, enabling recycled resin to mirror or even surpass the properties of virgin polypropylene in strength and application. This, in turn, allows manufacturers to incorporate up to 100% post-consumer and post-industrial recycled content in new plastic products.

Significant energy savings

Injection molding production requires all types of resources, most notably high operating temperatures to achieve the right flowability as plastic is poured into molds. Once added, DeltaMaxTM Performance Modifiers help lower operating temperatures, energy costs, and injection molding equipment cycle times for less environmental strain when producing plastics. It also leads to faster material throughput for greater manufacturing efficiency.

Enhanced usability

As an all-in-one solution, DeltaMaxTM Performance Modifiers requires no formulating and no additional step in manufacturing, which makes creating sustainable plastics simpler and easier.

DeltaMaxTM Performance Modifiers help us consider how we can use resources responsibly in the creation of plastics. By designing DeltaMaxTM Performance Modifiers with multi-faceted benefits, manufacturers can contribute to a more circular economy by diverting plastics into new uses and by better utilizing resources during production.

This is just one Milliken innovation that encourages our world to consider their role creating a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow. Explore more examples of how problem solving through design is driving Milliken innovations to lead in sustainability and user benefits across a range of industries.

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