Ever since ExxonMobil Chemical announced in May 2019 a major capacity addition for its Vistamaxx propylene-based elastomer (POE), one could sense that the performance polymer was ready to prove its full potential and enter a phase of solid, sustainable growth towards a volume market after the company’s devotion of many years to application development.
The 400,000-tonnes/year of new capacity in Baytown, Texas, slated for startup in 2023 will serve demand from multiple market, including hygiene, flexible packaging, footwear, hot melt adhesives, masterbatches, polymer modification, and, notably, recycling.
ExxonMobil has recently been highlighting the green credentials of Vistamaxx through several case studies where its addition has enabled higher recyclate content, reduced costs versus virgin resin, delivered finished products with enhanced toughness and tear resistance, and higher product and process consistency.
One example is conversion of a fishing rope stream of comingled polyethylene and polypropylene recovered in Patagonia through the Atando Cabos project into crates. A five percent addition of Vistamaxx boosted impact strength by 45 percent and boosted flow rate by 40 percent.
Vistamaxx was also used as a compatibilizer when upcycling discarded milk tea cups made of polypropylene into cellphone cases. Meituan Waimai, China’s number one food delivery service provider, wanted to do their part to protect the environment, so they launched the Blue Mountain initiative to encourage the reuse of food packaging. They identified HeyTea as a possible partner. As a leading vendor of milk tea, HeyTea uses tens of millions of disposable cups every year.
Image: ExxonMobil Chemical
Meituan Waimai contacted Trashaus, a circular economy partner. Trashaus suggested turning the cups into cellphone cases, which are popular with young consumers. However, they needed help to overcome the limitations of the polypropylene. Rhino, a leading PCR recycler and compounder–suggested a solution that could improve the recyclability of polypropylene and allow them to make the project a reality - Vistamaxx performance polymers. The recycling of 1900 tea cups can produce 3800 cellphone cases.