Biobased And Biodegradable Polymers For A Sustainable Future

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry


Polymers in Liquid Formulations (PLFs) are a broad group of polymers that are used as thickeners, emulsifiers and binders in many day-to-day items including household detergents, cosmetics and agrochemicals. The vast majority of these polymers are derived from fossil fuel sources and they do not degrade in the environment. A recent report from the Royal Society of Chemistry has estimated that more than 36mn tonnes of these ingredients (enough to fill Wembley Stadium 32 times over) are not recovered after use every single year, presenting a significant environmental burden. Despite their importance to society and the global economy, and in contrast to the intense recent focus on the sustainability of plastics, there has been very little coordinated effort to address the sustainability of PLFs. There is a clear requirement and demand to make these vital ingredients more environmentally friendly; could they be developed from renewable resources and could they be biodegradable after their use? This is the key focus of our Prosperity Partnership.

Croda is a global leader in high performance ingredients and technologies in some of the biggest, most successful brands in the world across a wide range of markets including Personal Care, Crop Care and Pharma. The company is committed to be Climate, Land and People positive by 2030 and in doing so be the most sustainable supplier of innovative ingredients. This ambition is driving the company to utilise greater proportions of bio-based feedstocks, transform them into performance ingredients through the most energy efficient processes and consider the end-of-life impacts of the materials generated. PLFs form a significant part of Croda's product portfolio and to ensure that this group of materials is economically and environmentally sustainable in the future, new approaches to PLF chemistry, production and end-of-life fate are required.

To make a significant step change to this area of research, advancing knowledge, technical innovation and speed is critical. Croda has decided to join forces and build on the existing strong relationship with both the University of Nottingham and the University of York to catalyse the changes required, using joint expertise to accelerate innovation.

Our Prosperity Partnership will be the catalyst in bringing together the best teams in terms of location, approach and above all scientific fit to meet Croda's current and future challenges. Collaboratively we will be addressing the challenge of developing novel biobased and biodegradable materials for PLF applications, offering equivalent performance benefits to existing synthetic polymers. On this journey we will need to build knowledge about how structural changes in molecular architecture influence biodegradability and end use performance, alongside developing an understanding of how this is exploited to optimise design and development of target polymers. The products generated will contribute to Croda's sustainable innovation targets, will support Croda's move to Net Zero manufacture, whilst also building UK expertise in this important area. For Croda's customers these ingredients will allow them to reduce their own carbon footprint, comply with future regulations and make significant advances towards their own sustainability goals.

Co-creation and sharing of information between the partners will be fundamental to this approach, giving the opportunity to tap into green chemistry and polymer expertise from the Universities and add that to Croda's unrivalled understanding of product performance and market requirements. This Prosperity Partnership will give us continuity of partnerships, resource and talent to provide the critical mass required to tackle this major problem that is affecting our society right now, as we address the sustainability challenges of this essential group of ingredients.


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