Over the past 10 years, epoxy resins have greatly enhanced the sustainability of other industries in growing sectors such as electronics, automotive, protective coatings, adhesives and civil engineering. Consumers have also enjoyed buildings and products which last longer, have better functionalities and consume less energy.

The Epoxy Resin Committee Members are working on a set of different environmental and health targets and continue to enhance the sustainability credentials of their products. The objective is to ensure that the substances produced and/or imported are being safely manufactured and used.

Epoxy producers and importers provide Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) data via enhanced material safety data sheets also covering exposure scenarios assessments for various applications.

The member companies of the ERC are committed to work with their downstream users to ensure that their substances and products will honour the following criteria:

REDUCED

Reduce emission to environment from abrasion and/or other chemical decomposition to an absolute minimum.

PRODUCE

Can be used to produce the valuable article/property safely.

CONTRIBUTION

Contribute to innovative technology to resolve current and future challenges such as energy supply and emission free transportation.

DISPOSED

 Are disposed of in accordance with the most appropriate waste laws without a burden to the environment.

The Epoxy Resins Committee also supports the Eco-profiles Programme of PlasticsEurope.

All ERC member companies have sustainability reports available for download on their company websites.

POSSIBILITIES AND CHALLENGES OF EPOXY RECYCLING

Epoxy products are the solution of choice for applications that require durability. Applications such as flooring, automotive coating, adhesives or composites in airplanes are highly dependent on reliable technical performance over the whole life span. The durability of epoxies enhances the sustainability of products making recycling questions appear only at the end of a usually long service life.

Aware of the challenges posed by the recycling of epoxy resins, ERC members are continuously striving to explore novel recycling options to contribute to the EU’s circular economy objectives.

A prime example of effective recycling would be the handling of glass or carbon fibers. The current technology focuses on using the epoxy component as an energy source, while recovering the fiber. This reduces the overall carbon footprint thanks to energy recovery. This is both economically attractive and represents state-of-the art recycling technology.

Looking to the future, a promising new technology is chemical or feedstock recycling. This recycling process consists of chemically converting a polymer back to raw materials. Technically, this approach can be applied for epoxy with enduring binding to substrate or fiber.

It is true that the very properties that make epoxies a desirable material in high-performance applications also limit their options for recycling. Nonetheless, this is a topic that is looked at very closely by the industry, constantly working to contribute as much as possible to the achievement of a more sustainable society.

DID YOU KNOW?

Even in small quantities, epoxies have a significant positive effect on the sustainability of large and expensive structures such as maritime and sewage processing plants. They also enable engineers to build larger and lighter equipment, such as windmill blades to produce energy more efficiently and modern airplanes that fly with more than 20% better fuel efficiency. [1]


[1] Epoxy Resins: Silent Enablers of a Sustainable Economy. Market Overview and Socio-Economic Analysis of the European Epoxy Resin Industry, 2010.