Replacing metal parts in cars with plastic to save weight and therefore reduce fuel consumption can only be done if the plastic is sufficiently resilient and long-lasting. UV stabilizers not only achieve just that, but also enable an environmentally friendly ‘virtuous circle’ in the process. It’s circular economics in action!
Polymers are a versatile type of plastic with a virtually infinite number of applications. Polyolefins are one member of that family that you can find in car bumpers, outdoor furniture, greenhouse film covers, solar panels, kayaks… You name it. The problem is polyolefins age rapidly when exposed to light, oxygen and heat. But with proper protection, they can last longer; that’s where UV stabilizers, or additives, have an important part to play in polyolefins in durable items. “The lifespan of protected products increases from a few years to a couple of decades,” explains Alexandre Jacquier, Marketing Analyst for Polymer Additives at Solvay’s Technology Solutions global business unit.
By extending the lifetime of plastic parts in structural applications with outdoor exposure, UV stabilizers create significant advantages. With better UV resistance, they become a more competitive replacement for metal in the race for lightweighting that automotive manufacturers (among others) are engaged in. The higher the percentage of a car that can be made of plastic, the less fuel it will consume, and the less greenhouse gases it will emit. “Thanks to our latest UV stabilizers, the performance of plastic parts is higher while the cost to impart necessary UV stabilization properties has decreased,” explains Andrea Landuzzi, Global Marketing Director, Polymer Additives. “We’ve been leading the way with UV stabilizers for more than 60 years, but today, this improved performance means that polyolefins can be considered as a replacement for metal like never before.”
More than just sunglasses for plastic
Solvay’s stabilizers -- namely the CYASORB CYNERGY SOLUTIONS® and CYASORB® CYXTRATM family of products – are designed to block the harmful effect of UV-light on the polymer chain. In addition, Solvay’s additives offer long-term stability to the polymer chain to prevent its loss of physical and mechanical properties over time (such as color and strength).
“Stabilizers can also protect recycled polyolefins,” says Alexandre. “This means a plastic used to make a car bumper today can be recycled, stabilized with additives and, eventually, remanufactured as a car bumper again in the future. The fact that UV stabilizers support the reuse of recycled materials, combined with their role in extending lifetime (hence less plastic waste), makes them a strong contributor to circular economy.”
Across the board
But fully realizing this virtuous circle is not something that Solvay can do alone. In this field, as in many others, Solvay wants to work hand in hand with its customers, providers and partners to accelerate growth within a circular economy. “That’s why we don’t just aim to extend the life of plastic parts, we want to offer a total package,” explains Mechelle Engemann, responsible for Sustainable Development at Technology Solutions. “The issues go way beyond the product. Collecting recyclable materials, for example, is a real challenge. We want to collaborate across the value chain, go beyond our own sustainability goals and be a leader in innovative plastics of the future, thanks to a truly holistic approach.”