We manufacture polymers as part of oil and gas processing, which are then used to make the affordable, infinitely versatile plastics that help make daily life so much easier. We also work with our customers to develop increasingly innovative plastics yielding ever higher performance, particularly in terms of the environment, in line with our ambition to become the responsible energy major.
Innovative polymers tailored to our customers' needs
Our customers are mainly players in the processing industry that use our polymers – polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene – to make finished products for various markets, including:
- Packaging: protective films, bottle caps, trays, etc.
- Construction: pipes, insulation, artificial grass, carpet, etc.
- Automotive: bumpers, airbags, tanks, internal parts, etc.
- Health and hygiene: IV bags, syringes, razors, etc.
- Electric and electronics: televisions, refrigerators, cables, etc.
To help our customers stand out from the competition, our experts work closely alongside them to develop innovative processes and roll them out on an industrial scale. The aim is to produce high value-added polymers that can be used to make plastics that are not only more environmentally friendly, but also have improved properties (e.g., are more lightweight, resistant or flexible).
Total and Plastics: Key Takeaways
- From high-performance plastics to bioplastics
For several years now, Total has been working alongside all plastics industry stakeholders to improve end-of-life plastics management and reduce the material’s environmental footprint. While the overriding challenge is to design plastics whose production requires fewer raw materials and uses more recycled or renewable feedstock, Total is also seeking to develop biodegradable bioplastics that can be composted in industrial facilities, such as PLA, which is produced from derivatives of sugar- and starch-based crops.
- Plastics that are easier to recycle
Total is also working with plastics manufacturers, research centers, collection and sorting organizations, and its own customers to ensure that products made from plastic are more easily recyclable. The Group dedicates a large portion of its plastics R&D budget to improving the various recycling methods, which include:
- Mechanical recycling, where plastic waste is sorted, washed, ground and then melted before being reused.
- Chemical recycling, a complementary process that consists in altering the molecular structure of plastic waste to transform it back into a basic feedstock, “monomers”, which can then be converted into new “polymers”.
Reducing the environmental impact of plastics
Plastics can play a key role in a range of areas, from making vehicles lighter and therefore more energy efficient, to cutting down on goods packaging and lowering CO2 emissions during shipping, to enhancing building insulation. But improving their environmental footprint, particularly when it comes to end-of-life management, is a critical challenge. That is why we are working to develop plastics with a lower environmental impact and recycling solutions.
We are innovating to offer our customers more eco-friendly options, focusing on three key areas:
- Reducing the environmental footprint of our polymers: From the production stage to their final application, we strive to produce polymers with less of an impact on the environment. With this in mind, we are constantly improving our production processes so as to consume less energy and less water. We are also working on the properties of our polymers so that our customers can consume fewer and fewer raw materials while achieving the same performance, or even better results. Ecodesign is also a core component in our efforts to create more easily recyclable plastics.
- Developing plastic recycling: Total has set itself the target of producing 30% recycled polymers by 2030. We work on all types of recycling to develop high-performance recycled polymers. Industry pioneers since our Circular Compounds® range, we produce polymers made from at least 50% recycled materials that offer the same performance as virgin polymers. We are also investing in the industry as a whole. In February 2019, for example, we acquired Synova, a French leader in the production of recycled polypropylene for automobiles, before announcing plans to double the production capacity of Synova plants. We also joined forces with Citeo, Saint-Gobain and Syndifrais to help create a polystyrene recycling channel in France by 2020. Lastly, we are working with Citeo, Recycling Technologies, Mars and Nestlé to develop a chemical recycling channel in France.
- Producing bioplastics: Since late 2018, our plant in Rayong, Thailand (Total Corbion PLA joint venture) has been producing polylactic acid (PLA), a bioplastic made from non-genetically modified sugarcane. As well as being biobased, this polymer is also recyclable and biodegradable. It can be used for packaging, consumer goods, 3D printing, fibers and automobiles.