Products made from polymers are a fundamental part of everyday life. If you look around you right now, you will probably see many things which have at least one kind of plastic in them – from children’s toys and the packaging protecting your food and products, to your TV and the clothes you wear to the gym.
With so many plastics in our lives, developing advanced polymers with enhanced properties offers a big opportunity to create many kinds of products which have sustainability benefits. Here are some examples of products which are part of everyday life that ExxonMobil’s research has helped make more sustainable:
- Lightweight car parts. From the dashboard to the seats, to the bumpers and the lights (and in some cars even the door panels), your car is full of polymers. By developing advanced lightweight polymers like Santoprene™ and Achieve™ Advanced PP ExxonMobil are able to help reduce the weight of cars – making them more fuel-efficient and enabling lower greenhouse gas emissions versus cars produced with heavier alternative materials.
- High performance greenhouses. Not every farm enjoys ideal conditions for growing crops and some regions have more reliable crop yields than others. Our Exceed™ XP film can increase crop yields by extending growing seasons and retaining moisture, and greenhouses can also allow farmers to increase their output by five to eight times. In many cases, it can also extend food shelf life throughout the supply chain, ultimately helping to decrease food waste. This is increasingly important in Asia Pacific, where food security is a crucial issue as the region’s population is forecast to grow by 1.5 billion people and food demand more than double by 2050.
- High performance food packaging. By developing high performance polymers, we have also been able to create packaging which keeps food fresher for longer, reducing the amount of food that spoils and gets wasted. Just 1.5 grams of polymer film is able to extend the shelf life of a cucumber from three days to 14 days. It also keeps the food safe to eat, protecting it from contamination.
- Advanced blending polymers. ExxonMobil’s Vistamaxx™ performance polymers increase the number of products that can be made using mechanically recycled plastic – such as transportation pallets. Although you may never have seen one, pallets are used to transport all kinds of products every day. Mechanically recycled polymers cannot always provide the level of performance needed to create hard-wearing products like pallets. Adding Vistamaxx™ to the polymer mix improves the strength and durability of mechanically recycled plastic, enabling recycled material to be more widely used. Our specialist polymers also have an important role to play in health care, forming part of numerous medical products – such as face masks, surgical gowns and syringes. You can read more about the plastic products used by doctors to help care for people every day here.
- Advanced car tyres. Keeping your car tyres pumped up is one of our key tips for improving your car’s fuel efficiency – because correctly pressurised tyres have a better connection with the road, requiring less energy to move your car forward. To help keep the air in your tyres, ExxonMobil has developed halobutyl rubber inner liners – which improve air retention, to maintain the correct tire inflation for longer, potentially improving fuel economy. Singapore is home to one of ExxonMobil’s Butyl plants, which can produce more than 140,000 tonnes of halobutyl annually.
Addressing plastic waste
With plastics playing such an important and widespread role in all our lives, ExxonMobil is taking action to help address plastic waste. In addition to increasing the uses for mechanically recycled plastic, we’ve also implemented initiatives to minimize plastic pellet loss from our operations – and we’re proud that in 2019 we had no reportable plastic pellet loss.
We’re also supporting improvements in plastic waste recovery – such as through our founding membership in the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. The Alliance includes nearly 50 organisations from North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Arabian Gulf who have collectively committed more than $1 billion to develop safe, scalable and economically viable solutions to help end plastic waste in the environment.