Responsible polymers: from production to transformation
Our ambition is to become the responsible energy major. That is why we have integrated climate into our strategy across the whole of our value chain: from exploration and production to the distribution and transformation of energy resources. We are constantly innovating to improve the carbon footprint of the polymers, more commonly called plastics, that we produce from oil and natural gas. They leave our plants in the form of white powders or granules, and are used to make many everyday products.
At the Ningbo polymers plant in China, we produce polystyrene.
The polystyrene produced at Ningbo leaves in the form of white granules.
Polymers are used to make numerous everyday products, in this case a cap for a dairy product.
Polypropylene is a polymer used to make food packaging, among other things.
Metallocene polyethylene helps to reduce the weight of some vehicle parts, in this case a tank for a BMW motorbike.
At our research centre in Feluy, Belgium, Total is innovating in polymers.
Better environmental performance for our customers
Our Group supplies manufacturing companies all over the world with polymers for applications as varied as food packaging, mobile phone cases, car bumpers and running shoe soles. These polymers are used everywhere in our daily lives, which is why the teams at our three research centres in Belgium, France and the United States are constantly innovating to improve their intrinsic properties (strength, water resistance, durability) while also cutting the energy needed to produce them and their environmental impact.
This is true, for instance, of our Lumicene Supertough® polypropylene film used in the food industry for packaging, in agriculture to protect crops in greenhouses and to secure pallets of goods during transportation. Compared to a standard ethylene film, it is much thinner but equally strong, which reduces the amount of plastic used by 30% and cuts energy consumption and CO2 emissions by the same amount.
Another example is the car industry where, on average, 20% of a vehicle's parts are made from plastic (dashboard, bumpers, seats, etc.). That is why we are developing polymers to make parts lighter while also meeting very demanding technical and regulatory requirements. This reduces the vehicle’s weight, which in turn cuts its fuel consumption and therefore its greenhouse gas emissions.
Today, 20 of our polymer products have been awarded the Total Ecosolutions label in recognition of their environmental performance (including health criteria), far exceeding market standards across the whole of their life cycle.
A responsible commitment today and for the future
As part of our commitment to environmental protection, we are also concerned about what happens to plastics after use. At Total our people have been innovating in this area for many years. In Belgium in August 2016, we announced the launch of a range of polyethylene films using 25 to 50% recycled plastic. Thanks to this range, 20,000 tonnes of recycled plastic will be given a new lease of life in 2017.
We are also committed to developing biopolymers produced from lactic acid and lactide. In November 2016, we formed a joint venture with the Dutch company Corbion to build a factory in Thailand with an annual production capacity of 75,000 tonnes of 100% renewable and biodegradable biopolymers.
We are also taking steps to reduce the environmental footprint of our facilities. We have signed the Responsible Care® charter committing us, across our global petrochemicals operations, without exception, to safely and sustainably manage chemical products throughout their entire life cycle. We are also taking part in Operation Clean Sweep®, an initiative by the World Plastics Council aiming to eliminate the industrial disposal of plastic waste in waterways and oceans.
We are constantly striving to improve the environmental footprint of plastics because, while their usefulness is currently unquestionable, this will only continue to be the case if they are consumed responsibly around the world.