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New partnership to develop sustainable polymers for a clean future

Posted on 23 May 2023

A new partnership between the University of York, Croda International Plc and the University of Nottingham has been launched to develop novel, sustainable polymers for liquid formulations.

Logos of University of York, Croda and University of Nottingham

Thanks in large part to the efforts of Dr Tom Farmer from the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence (GCCE), researchers from the Department of Chemistry at the University of York and the School of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham will work with Croda, which uses smart science to create high-performance ingredients and solutions that improve lives, to approach the challenge of developing novel biobased and biodegradable polymers for liquid polymer formulations.

This new collaboration is funded through a £5M (£2.5M from ESPRC, £2.5M from Croda) ESPRC Prosperity Partnership and brings together experts from industry and academia to undertake new research, combining this with Croda’s unrivalled understanding of product performance and market requirements.

Used in a number of day-to-day items including crop protection and personal care products, these special polymers for liquids provide the key function of emulsification and stabilisation, without which, widely used items would be unable to meet consumer requirements. Despite their critical part in formulations, to date there has been no coordinated effort to develop more sustainable versions, and it is estimated that more than 36 million tonnes (enough to fill Wembley Stadium 32 times over) of these polymers are not recovered after use, entering the environment as plastic waste 1.

Speaking on the project, Dr Ian Tooley, Vice President – Chemistry at Croda said: “Croda’s ambition to be the most sustainable supplier of innovative ingredients is key in our drive to find sustainable solutions for these widely used polymers. We are excited to be partnering with these like-minded, innovation driven universities to help bring sustainable, biobased and biodegradable alternatives to our markets.”

Professor Helen Sneddon, Director of the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, University of York added: "This is a great opportunity to further explore the potential of bioderived, biodegradable soluble polymers, understanding the different properties they can offer relative to current petrochemically-derived ingredients, and having an impact in an important, and often overlooked area."

Steve Howdle, Professor and Head of School of Chemistry at University of Nottingham commented: “We are delighted that we have the chance to contribute to solving this very important societal issue. Working with our industrial and academic partners we will create new sustainable polymeric materials that are going to have an impact on our supermarket shelves. I’m excited!”