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Covestro Fairphone collaboration

 

Recycled thermoplastic polyurethanes support the circular economy

To promote the circular economy, Covestro is expanding its polymer product portfolio with materials based on alternative raw materials. Innovative certified mass-balance thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs) will help businesses produce sustainable and environmentally friendly products.

The collaboration between Covestro and Fairphone, a Dutch social company that produces durable smartphones, easy to repair and recycle, arises from the convergence on the objectives of circular economy. From the beginning of 2022, the protective cases of the Fairphone 3 and 4 models will be made of fully or partially recycled thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs). A project that traces a path of collaboration between companies with the same goal of creating products with a low environmental impact but with a high technological and ethical content.

Wayne Huang, Fairphone Vice President of Product Operations, said:

"With a shared mission to create a fairer and more sustainable future, Fairphone is excited to partner with Covestro and use their solutions made from recycled and recyclable materials in our smartphones. We believe Covestro can help us build a circular economy, capable of creating a more sustainable world. This is only a first step and we will continue to support Covestro in developing more sustainable materials".

Sustainable polycarbonate with recycled or biomass raw materials

The new polymeric materials are produced using raw materials from biomass or from recycled materials both of vegetable origin (eg used cooking oil) and from the recovery of waste and scraps. Compared to their fossil-based counterparts, they significantly reduce the carbon footprint. At the same time, products with sustainable mass balance have the same quality and properties as those made from fossil-based materials and can be integrated directly into production processes in downstream industries without technical modifications.

Products that use low-impact polymers can receive ISCC Plus certification. They are so instantly recognizable to that growing market that is demanding sustainable products while meeting increasingly stringent government standards.

This is the case with the new Fairphone phones which use post-consumer recycled polycarbonate (PCR) for the back cover, internal frame and wireless charger. With a PCR content of 30 to 50%, recycled polycarbonate has physical properties comparable to virgin material, offers good impact resistance and possesses well-balanced thermal properties. In terms of durability, the high rigidity and flame resistance allow the construction of devices with a long life of use. Recycling and long life-time of products are two of the cornerstones of the circular economy that make it possible to considerably lower the CO2 footprint: the new materials alone can reduce it by 30%.

The road to eco-sustainability has now been traced and products can be built with very high quality polycarbonate coming entirely from recycled raw material without any loss of the essential properties for having efficient products. For example, the higher-end product, the Fairphone 4, has the protective case that has been developed with Covestro's new range of fully recycled or partially recycled TPUs, which are RCS (Recycled Claim Standard) certified, an international standard for the traceability of recycled raw materials within the supply chains.

The same polycarbonate can be used with different grades for composite materials. Covestro laboratories have worked to obtain a high quality and after identifying different streams of plastic recovered in industrial processes, a completely recycled material has been made that has the typical advantages of TPU, such as high chemical and abrasion resistance, but easier processing as it melts at lower temperatures and flows better than virgin material. An aesthetic quality has also been preserved that allows various design and coloring possibilities to obtain functional objects, but also aesthetically beautiful.

 

Changing the climatic impact of products

February 14, 2022 was not only Valentine’s day, but also the one when the highest CO2 concentration rate was recorded: 421 ppm. This is a worrying figure because CO2 shows no signs of stopping its exponential growth in this century and the post-pandemic recovery of world economies will bring a further increase in this number.

The CO2 concentration is directly proportional to the greenhouse effect and global warming. Carbon dioxide is a gas that alters the climate because it is capable of trapping heat and thus contributes to raising the planet's temperature. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is therefore one of the most important indicators of climate change. The responsibility for the emission is totally anthropogenic in origin, that is, derived from human activities, its economies, the modes of production and consumption.

 

Sustainability creates transparency

In the Mass Balance, fossil and alternative raw materials are mixed in production but counted separately in the calculation of the environmental impact of the resulting product. The complex method that allows materials to be traced along the entire value chain is certified by various standards. At an international level, one of the most authoritative is the ISCC Plus ("International Sustainability and Carbon Certification") which is an internationally recognized system for the certification of sustainability of biomass and bioenergy. At this date, three Covestro manufacturing sites in Europe and Asia Pacific have been certified to this standard and more to follow. In the first half of 2022, the Changhua site in Taiwan, which is the largest manufacturing plant for thermoplastic polyurethanes in Asia, will also be added. The supply of zero impact products is part of Covestro's comprehensive global program, designed to fully align with the circular economy. In doing so, the company is focusing on increasing the use of alternative resources such as bio-based materials, plastic and CO2 waste, as well as renewable energy. The company is also collaborating with partners to develop novel recycling technologies.

The collaboration with innovative and visionary companies such as Fairphone arises from this point of view, as underlined by the words of Nan Hu, Covestro vice president of Industrial Marketing Electronics & Electrical sector:

"With the help of our recycled raw material products, we support Fairphone in achieving its sustainability goals… Such projects and collaborations are in line with our vision of becoming fully circular".

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