Sustainable Materials for Consumer Product Applications

J.H. Wang, G. Wideman, A.F. Chen
Kimberly-Clark Corporation, US

Keywords: sustainability, thermoplastic starch (TPS)


Sustainability is one of the major global challenges facing mankind. New technology innovations are needed to deal with global climate change and resource availability/affordability. From a material’s perspective, there is an increased importance to utilize raw materials from sustainable sources including natural polymers such as cellulose, lignin, starch, chitin, etc. However, most of these natural polymers are not thermoplastic and cannot be used in the current plastic manufacturing processes. Technologies have to be developed to convert the non-thermoplastic natural polymers into thermoplastic natural polymers and then process them into various sustainable materials. This presentation will highlight the technology development utilizing thermoplastic starch (TPS) for consumer product applications. TPS cannot be used directly to make plastic products due to its hydroscopic nature, low ductility, and poor processability. In this presentation, new sustainable materials having good melt processability, mechanical properties, and processability were developed. The resulting materials were made from biodegradable polymers including TPS and biodegradable copolyester, a polyolefin, and a compatibilizer. Various extrusion process innovations were achieved to produce such sustainable polymers. The process conditions were found to have a significant effect on the performance of such polymers. Sustainable packaging films were developed from thermoplastic starch and other polymers. Biodegradable packaging films having tailored performance were developed. Hybrid bio-based packaging films were also developed from compatibilized blends of TPS and polyolefins. It was found that the films’ properties were determined by multiple factors including the ratio of TPS to polyolefins and the amount of plasticizers. Through the research on sustainable materials, Kimberly-Clark is a leader to bring sustainable innovations to the market. The company launched the first renewable packaging innovation in personal care products in China in 2009. Subsequently, extensive sustainable packaging innovations were commercially launched in a number of products around the globe.