The pandemic may have prompted the postponement of this spring’s planned interpack trade fair until 2023, but that has not stopped Milliken & Company from forging ahead with development of innovative new products and technologies. Its growing portfolio of advanced polymer additives is contributing to the creation of more sustainable packaging solutions, while also helping demonstrate to converters and brand owners how the firm is “Enhancing Packaging with Color, Care, Clarity and Performance. Together.”
Milliken’s packaging-related products not only help to protect food from contamination and physical damage, but also play a key role in advancing the circular economy by increasing the use of recycled plastic and packaging reuse, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to better recycling.
Promoting sustainability & circularity
One of these solutions, Millad® NX® 8000 ECO, represents the latest addition to the firm’s market-leading Millad NX 8000 range of polypropylene (PP) additives. Brand owners and converters can use the clear, transparent PP produced using this additive to replace alternative materials, thereby improving their options for making more recyclable, mono-material products such as a polypropylene bottle or container, together with a PP label and cap.
Millad NX 8000 ECO offers faster production rates for injection molders, tunable clarity to meet specific market needs, and the low risk of defects such as white specs, streaks and voids. UL Environment, a business unit of the nonprofit UL (Underwriters Laboratories), has independently certified that use of Millad NX 8000, when compared to previous-generation clarifiers, can result in significant energy savings when injection molding transparent PP products. This means that those using Millad NX 8000 ECO-modified PP can add the UL Environmental Claim Validation (ECV) label to their products, offering a clear marketing advantage to brand owners.
Millad NX 8000 ECO provides several additional advantages. It addresses concerns related to migration, especially in food-contact applications, by reducing Specific Migration Limits, or SMLs, without adding any new ingredients to the formulation. This enhances food safety and security, thereby helping to minimize food waste.
For retailers, the crystal-clear clarity of packaging made with Millad NX 8000 ECO-modified PP brings out the best in products displayed under modern LED lighting. The additive ensures packaging has a consistent, fresh appearance regardless of the presence of UV light from the light source.
For converters, the advanced technology of the Millad NX 8000 ECO clarifier improves the aesthetics and processability of PP, encouraging broader use of this lightweight plastic with a low carbon footprint.
For recyclers, Millad NX 8000 ECO clarifier has been recognized by the US Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and RecyClass in Europe for its compatibility with plastic packaging recycling.
Partnering with PureCycle
Milliken is collaborating with PureCycle Technologies to advance closed-loop recycling of polypropylene. PureCycle Technologies employs a patented recycling method to restore virgin-like quality to waste PP resin. This enables the recycled material to become truly circular and be reused again and again — turning used NX UltraClear™ PP packaging into new NX UltraClear PP packaging — as opposed to having to downcycle it into lower-value products. Milliken’s additives help the recycled resin to attain the best possible properties. (NX UltraClear PP is the crystal-clear polypropylene resin produced using Milliken’s Millad NX 8000 clarifier).
“The need for packaging will continue to grow and it’s up to all of us to ensure that packaging of the future is sustainable, helps to end waste and moves us toward a circular economy,” said Wim Van de Velde, Vice President Europe, Middle East and Africa at Milliken Chemicals. “Our emphasis on R&D and partnerships with global sustainability foundations and organizations, such as the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, are helping brands to achieve this.”
“We understand that a commitment to sustainability today provides a healthy world for future generations,” Van de Velde added. “We are proud of our environmental stewardship over our 156-year history, but we recognize that we can, and should, continue to evolve with goals that protect, preserve, and improve our world. We have pledged a number of 2025 sustainability goals for the planet, our products, and our people, and we are keen to work with brand owners and converters to help them achieve their sustainability goals. Let’s strive together to positively impact the world around us for generations to come.”
How DeltaMax® can enhance recycled PP
Milliken also is working with members of the PP value chain to address the challenges of recycling polypropylene — specifically performance tradeoffs related to melt-flow, impact and stiffness — through its new DeltaMax® Performance Modifiers technology. Because the melt flow properties of recycled PP are usually low, converters tend to mold these materials at high temperatures, resulting in additional degradation that can lead to brittle parts.
DeltaMax increases the melt flow rate (MFR) of recycled PP while maintaining its physical properties, thereby allowing for a wider range of rPP applications. By improving those melt-flow properties, injection molders can process faster at lower temperatures. Filling their molds more efficiently and lowering energy use enables converters to further reduce their carbon footprint and faster achieve sustainability goals.
Another method often used by converters to overcome the shortcomings of rPP is blending virgin and recycled resins. DeltaMax enables higher recycled resin content in such blended recipes. Using DeltaMax enhances the properties of both the virgin and the recycled resins in the mix, allowing for a greater amount of recycled content in the blend. Incorporating more recycled PP in their products can also help converters and brand owners to meet their circularity goals.
A growing range of Hyperform® HPN® performance additives
Milliken has been busy expanding its portfolio of Hyperform® HPN® performance additives for polypropylene. Here are more specifics about the newest grades:
Hyperform HPN 900ei: Yields PP with a higher crystallization temperature, helping injection molders to realize faster processing, reduced cycle times and improved energy savings. PP modified with HPN 900ei also reduces overall shrinkage, and provides for isotropic shrinkage, which translates into reduced warpage and higher-quality parts.
Hyperform HPN 68Li: Enhances productivity and offers a cleaner look for PP packaging. Adding Hyperform HPN 68Li to PP homopolymer resin formulations yields a material ideally suited for use in clear packaging applications, including thin-wall injection molding. With its extremely fast crystallization speed, this high-performance additive also helps injection molders to boost their productivity by accelerating cooling times and reducing cycle times.
Hyperform HPN 909ei: Helps thermoformers produce homopolymer PP products with excellent optical properties, including lower haze, reduced yellowing, and an overall cleaner look. As a result, final parts are clearer and more transparent. Sustainability can be enhanced by allowing end users to choose inter-material replacement, replacing other resins in various applications with highly recyclable polypropylene. Formulations made with this additive also help to address concerns related to migration, especially in food-contact applications. Not only has Hyperform HPN 909ei been developed from cleaner chemistry, but it also has one SML less than the product it is replacing. This means there is one less substance that must be monitored and tested for, reducing the compliance burden of customers.
Hyperform HPN 500ei: Delivers higher stiffness and improved optics in PP homopolymers designed for use in thermoforming applications. This yields products such as drink cups and sheet with a reduced yellow look, offering a significantly cleaner, newer appearance. Again, sustainability is enhanced by allowing for more inter-material replacement. Hyperform HPN 500ei also helps to improve the material’s heat deflection temperature and increase its crystallization temperature.
UL Environment & Sustainability already has certified that four grades of Milliken’s Hyperform HPN enable an average of 5-8% in energy savings for firms that injection mold thin-wall container lids or similar PP products. Milliken does not plan to stop there and already has plans to pursue UL certification for additional nucleators in various applications.
Milliken’s KeyPlast® line, meanwhile, is a trendsetter in colorants for plastics. They are versatile, available in a range of stable, reproducible colors, and suitable for use in packaging, including in PET food-contact applications.