By Lauren Hilgers, Plastics News Correspondent
Shanghai, China -- Even China's state-owned enterprises are dipping their toes into the environmentally-friendly plastics market. At the UTECH Asia/ PU China 2011 show held in September, Sinochem International Corp. featured a new line of products based on waterborne polyurethane dispersions.
"Right now we're studying the market and seeing where we should put our resources," said Liu Chao, deputy general manager of the company's Fine Chemical Business Center.
Sinochem International is one of China's largest chemical companies, with business arms operating in agricultural chemicals, rubber, plastics and chemical logistics. It is part of the state-owned Sinochem Group and is listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
The Fine Chemical Business unit operates a polyurethane manufacturing plant in Taicang, Jiangsu Province, opened in 2009, and an R&D lab on the outskirts of Shanghai. The PU plant focuses on rigid and flexible PUs as well as elastomers. The company does not yet manufacture waterborne polyurethanes. Instead they are sourcing the material from a company based in the Netherlands and focusing on developing applications.
Liu says the market is ready to embrace waterborne PUs. Because they are dispersed in water rather than the solvent dimethylformamide, the material is considered more environmentally friendly. At the moment, said Liu, most waterborne PU products are being produced outside of China.
"Film is one example," said Liu. "China is the beginning stages of developing thin films and we are working with a customer in Beijing to develop a suitable thin laminate--right now, most of these products are coming from overseas."
At the moment, the biggest market for Sinochem's waterborne PUs is the glove industry, where the materials is used to coat the surface of latex gloves. The company has also developed applications for the automotive industry, where the material can be used as leather coating.
"We're continuing to do research and work on new applications," said Liu. "With time and resources, we think this material has a good future in China."