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Plastics & Elastomers

Advanced Bio-Circular Materials: The Story of Arkema’s Flagship Polyamide 11 Chemistry

SpecialChem – Apr 29, 2021

TAGS:  Green and Bioplastics    

An Interview with David Dupont, Global Growth Director for Specialty Polyamides at Arkema

Advanced Bio-Circular Materials: The Story of Arkema’s Flagship Polyamide 11 ChemistryArkema is a pioneering innovator in advanced polymers derived from sustainable castor beans. Their flagship Rilsan® polyamide 11 materials have become famous across the globe in a wide variety of high-performance applications.

More than ever, the time is now to fully understand the true sustainability offer of this incredible family of polymers – and to go deep into the origins of one of the world’s most sustainable supply chains. It’s a rich story of carbon footprint reduction, lower dependence on fossil resources, and an uplifting social and emotional human impact assessment.

Let us hear directly from David Dupont, Global Growth Director for Specialty Polyamides at Arkema, to understand more about the new advanced bio-circular materials used in a wide variety of high-performance applications to help our customers obtain a circular economy.

#1 Why has Arkema launched this new “ABC materials” (advanced bio-circular materials) message?

DD: The new message is designed to make it clear to our audience that our polymers are not “just” bio-based. They are not intended in any way to be a “compromise”.

  • In fact, first and foremost, they are advanced materials that are truly differentiated in their technical performance in addition to being bio-sourced from renewable castor seeds.
  • Further, they are recyclable.

As we say in our video, “The circle of life meets the circular economy”. All of this without competition with food and without causing deforestation is a really powerful combination.

#2 Arkema has a long history with castor beans. What’s new on that front?

DD: To us, the castor bean is really a miracle of science. It efficiently converts atmospheric carbon dioxide (essentially “pollution”) into renewable oil in just weeks using sunlight as its sole source of energy. And, Arkema has very special know-how concerning the processing of that oil and the production of our flagship Rilsan® and Pebax® Rnew® polyamide 11 chemistry. We’ve been global pioneers for several decades.

It is widely known that castor is a hardy crop that grows in marginal soil and is very resistant to drought. Most of the world’s supply originates in India where the crop can take full advantage of seasonal monsoon rains. It is favored by a huge number of farmers in the Gujarat region for growing in their poorest soils, where the crop actually thrives – farmers love that it is easy to grow and easy to sell. It’s their cash crop.

Benefits Offered by Castor Seeds

In 2016, Arkema and its partners BASF, Jayant Agro-Organics, and Solidaridad (a civil society organization) launched the Pragati program to drive sustainable castor farming. Since then, several thousand farmers have been extensively trained and certified. The crop yield has improved by some fifty percent. This is Arkema’s way of “walking the walk”. It is not enough to just say that castor is “inherently sustainable”. Instead, it is our duty, as leaders in bio-based innovation to actively improve the situation – by educating, advising, and promoting to end-users. Sustainability is a journey. We are happy to share the journey with our customers.

#3 When we think about recycling, we usually think about high-volume commodity plastics and not specialty materials like Arkema’s high-performance polymers. What has changed?

DD: The world has changed! Everything has changed! It’s not enough to be bio-based; it’s not enough to be durable and long-lasting; it’s not even enough to demonstrate truly differentiated performance. Today’s sustainability leaders want it all – they want to recycle even their highest-performing materials. More and more, it’s the first question asked by our customers – “how do I recycle it?”.

To help our customers, Arkema and its recycling partner Agiplast, recently launched the Virtucycle® program.

  • Arkema is the “ABC materials” expert.
  • Agiplast is the expert in recycling.

Together, we can offer our customers ad hoc recycling programs specifically designed for a particular application and set of performance specifications.

We play the role of matchmaker. We match customers who want to recycle with those who want to purchase recycled materials – very often, the same customer, in fact, plays both roles. We offer closed and open-loop solutions. Recycled solutions that offer high performance while also being bio-based check all the boxes – especially when their feedstock is sustainably farmed, raising the living standards of castor farmers on the other side of the world. It’s quite a story!

Arkema & Agiplast Launched Virtucycle® Recycling Program
Arkema & Agiplast Launched Virtucycle® Recycling Program

#4 What’s next? How does Arkema intend to take the sustainability story even further?

DD: On the innovation side, there are many exciting developments. We are extending our range of materials to include:

  • High temperature-resistant grades
  • Highly transparent grades
  • Foaming grades
  • Powders for 3D printing
  • Breathable film grades, and many more...

The portfolio continues to expand.

On the castor seed side, we have committed, with our partners to a second phase of the Pragati program to drive sustainable farming. We continue to create awareness of this wonderful initiative among our customers and end-users, and we continue to drive improvement in social and environmental impacts.

And in 2022, Arkema will start up its new manufacturing site in Singapore. This will be the largest bio-factory in the world for advanced polymers and will represent an investment in Asia of over €400 million. It’s an exciting future.

Rilsan® Advanced Bio-circular Polymers by Arkema

View all the Rilsan® products used for a wide range of applications, analyze technical data of each product, get technical assistance or request samples.

About David Dupont

David Dupont is Global Growth Director for Specialty Polyamides at Arkema since January 2021. He previously worked at McKinsey & Company and Umicore and holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry as well as a postgraduate in Corporate Finance.

Polymer ApplicationPolyamide (PA) or Nylon: A Complete Guide

2 Comments on "Advanced Bio-Circular Materials: The Story of Arkema’s Flagship Polyamide 11 Chemistry"
Soke Meng C Jun 30, 2021
This is impressive strategy; collaboration + CSR + Sustainability.
Christophe C May 20, 2021
ABC Materials = Advanced Bio-Circular Materials. It's interesting to see how different families of bio-based materials are coming to light and the different business dynamics they encouter. PA11 is a great example of high end, engineering plastics, for long-term applications.

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