A new family of vinyl compounds that incorporate bio-based plasticizers will be used in a variety of consumer and industrial products, including shoe soles, bicycle grips, corrugated tubing for appliances, weatherstripping, and other construction applications. (Source: Teknor Apex)
@NadineJ: the article indicates that the the new bio-based plasticizers are actually more thermally stable than traditional plasticizers. So, at least in that regard, they should be an improvement.
By the way, the PVC is still the same old PVC. What's new are the plasticizers. By itself, PVC is igid; think of PVC plumbing pipe, for example. In order to make flexible PVC, chemicals called plasticizers are added. These chemicals behave like solvents, causing the polymer to soften and swell.
There are a number of health concerns about the phthalate plasticizers which are currently used in PVC. So, of course, non-phthalate plasticizers are a hot topic right now. I can imagine that bio-based non-phthalate plasticizers would be an even hotter topic -- especially if they are cheap! So this is quite a significant development.
On a side note: Louis Cappucci is correct that the chlorine in the PVC is ultimately derived from sea salt, but there's nothing special about that; you could say the same about anything which contains chlorine, such as the muriatic acid you buy at the hardware store. This is just a bit of spin. (It doesn't negate the significance of the new plasticizers, though).
I agree with naperlou, it's great that non-food plant based maaterials are being used. It shouldn't be an either/or as we develop more earth friendly plastics.
I can't wait to see how these hold up, especially in footwear and consumer electronics. One issue we've had over the years with eco-friendly materials is that they tend to breakdown too quickly. Consumers do not tolerate that! Or, can't handle the high heat needed in the assembly process.
Thanks, guys. I was especially happy to see bio-based solutions for vinyl, which is extremely prevalent in so many products. End-of-life issues were not addressed, but vinyl is not one of those plastics that is easily recycled: those that are are likely to be the less durable, single-use ones.
Nice article, Ann. It's good to see materials coming out that offer improved features while also offering a greener composition. Is there also an end-of-life improvement? Are these materials easier to recycle, or do they breakdown better than traditional plastics because of their plant content?
This is a great idea. The fact that it uses non-food plant material is a real plus. It reminds me of the discussion around the rare earths in magnets discussion. There are often alternatives, and sometimes they are better. Good story.
New versions of BASF's Ecovio line are both compostable and designed for either injection molding or thermoforming. These combinations are becoming more common for the single-use bioplastics used in food service and food packaging applications, but are still not widely available.
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