Green polymers and surfactants hold good potential

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cosmetics

Green polymers and surfactants stand to be key focus areas in the near future for more sustainable manufacturing, as the volume at which they are used would mean significant environmental benefits.

The search for more sustainable cosmetics has led many chemical companies to investigate ways to manufacture existing cosmetic ingredients with lower environmental footprints.

Impact proportional to volume

Implementing new manufacturing and green chemistry techniques can have very significant impacts on the footprint of an ingredient; but, the overall impact on the environment is proportional to the volume in which the ingredient is used, Stephanie Clendennen, research associate at Eastman Chemical explained during a presentation at the recent HBA show.

Eastman Chemical has been active in developing new ways to produce cosmetic ingredients, notably emollient esters, and is currently commercializing its biocatalytic process.

Discussing potential future development areas, Clendennen highlighted surfactants and green polymers, as by volume they are the largest cosmetics ingredients classes.

Market researchers Kline and Company, estimate that 35,800 MT of surfactants will be used in cosmetics products in 2010 and 65,300 MT of polymers (including fixative and conditioning polymers). This can be compared to 22,700 MT for thickeners, 18,600 for emollients and 10,900 for preservatives.

According to Clendennen, the company’s biocatalytic process could be applied to other ingredient families including surfactants.

“We have active research projects in product categories in addition to actives and emollients. We think surfactants are an interesting area and a suitable target for biocatalytic manufacturing processes,”​ she told CosmeticsDesign.com USA.

In addition, Clendennen said investment into green polymers could be valuable as it would impact not only cosmetics but packaging as well.

“In my opinion, green polymers are going to be a key area for development in the near future. Not only do they address the largest ingredient class, but greener manufacturing of polymers has the potential to impact packaging materials as well,” ​she explained.

Biocatalytic process

Eastman Chemical won the Presidential Green Chemistry award in 2009 for its biocatalytic process which it claims can save up to 75 percent of the energy used and greenhouse gas emissions emitted when compared to a more traditional production method.

According to Clendennen, emollient esters make up about 10 percent of the total raw materials used in cosmetics products.

Related topics: Formulation & Science

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