Backing Sustainability: Latex Binders from Recycled Monomers to Improve Carpet Circularity
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Backing Sustainability: Latex Binders from Recycled Monomers to Improve Carpet Circularity

January 24, 2024

Keith Woodason, Sales Director at Trinseo, Paper, Board and Textile, North America

Across many industries, companies are exploring ways to de-fossilize operations, including incorporating recycling technologies that improve circularity.

Historically, carpets have been challenging to recycle due to their construction as a composite of dissimilar materials including various polymers and inorganic fillers. Additionally, mechanical recycling tends to degrade most polymers with each cycle, which may affect the durability and longevity that consumers have come to expect.

Now, with the development of chemical recycling technologies, we can begin incorporating recycled materials into the latex polymers used in carpet backing without degradation of performance, which will also lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by decreasing the fossil-fuel-based raw materials utilized in the manufacturing of carpets.

Trinseo is working with our downstream and upstream partners to deliver latex binders that meet this need and promote GHG reduction. Through our investment in chemical recycling technologies, we can help improve the sustainability of the carpet industry.

Sustainability for Carpets

One of the most significant challenges to sustainably advantaged latex binders for carpets is maintaining durability performance. Some carpets need to perform for decades, and standard fossil-based latex binders are up to that challenge.

However, because latex binders for carpets are polymers, recent investments in chemical recycling have enabled us to acquire monomers from recycled sources via depolymerization, which returns the monomers to their original state and recycles them without the physical degradation that comes with mechanical recyclingThis means that when the recycled monomer is polymerized to make a new latex binder, it exhibits performance characteristics similar to the virgin material.

At Trinseo, through our acquisition of Heathland B.V., we are exploring incorporating recycled methyl methacrylate (rMMA) into our latex binders to reduce the GHG emissions required to manufacture carpets. By incorporating rMMA into the latex binders for carpets, we can maintain similar performance properties to help increase durability and reduce delamination.

Additionally, Trinseo has entered into an off-take agreement with Indaver. Through this partnership, we can access recycled styrene monomersdesigned to reduce GHG emissions when compared to their fossil counterparts without compromising on performance.

Investing in Circularity

Looking ahead, as industries work toward building a circular economy, significant investment and collaboration are needed to increase the availability of raw materials recycling.

While regional legislation has not yet dictated requirements for recycled content in latex binders, the industry anticipates this action will come as more governments invest in circular infrastructure. We have already seen carpet circularity efforts successfully implemented at the state level, such as the California Carpet Stewardship Program administered by the Carpet American Recovery Effort. This has increased California’s carpet recycling to 33.9%, which is significantly higher than the estimated average of 5% worldwide.

For Trinseo, this means looking at how we can bring in more scrap or end-of-life polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) to scale up our rMMA production to support circular latex binders and incorporate recycled monomers where available. To achieve this, we are working more closely with our upstream partners to collect those raw materials and investing in circular infrastructures that not only reduce our product’s GHG emissions but also enable decarbonization efforts. By looking at the complete sustainability picture, we can help our customers meet their GHG emissions goals and deliver products that maintain excellent performance properties.

In the future, it will be crucial to have access to recycled materials, and we need to invest today in building the infrastructure to support a circular economy. Our latex binders are used in carpet manufacturing globally, and by delivering performing latex binders with recycled content, we can move the needle on decarbonization and make a positive impact on our planet.

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