Unsaturated polyester resins (UP) are versatile thermosetting polymers widely used in the plastics industry for their excellent mechanical, chemical, and electrical properties. They have a long history, dating back to the 1930s, and have found applications in various industries such as transportation, construction, and electrical & electronics. However, the use of UP also presents challenges, such as limited recyclability and susceptibility to UV degradation.
The first commercial production of UP began in the 1940s. Initially used in boat building, its usage rapidly expanded to various other industries, such as automotive, construction, and electronics.
Unsaturated Polyester Resin (UP) is a thermosetting polymer made from the reaction of a saturated dibasic acid (such as maleic anhydride) and an unsaturated diol (such as propylene glycol). It is called “unsaturated” because double bonds in the polymer chain can be used for further cross-linking with a reactive monomer, such as styrene.
UP has several desirable properties that make it a popular material in various applications. These properties include:
UP is used in many industries due to its excellent properties. Some of the standard industrial applications of UP include:
UP is used in various application areas because of its desirable properties. Some of the common application areas of UP include:
UP is also used in consumer products due to its low cost, easy processing and excellent properties. Some of the typical consumer product examples of UP include:
UP is not easily recyclable due to the cross-linking reaction that occurs during its curing process. However, UP can be recycled through a mechanical or chemical process. The mechanical process involves grinding the cured UP into small particles, which can be used as a filler in new UP products. The chemical process involves breaking down the cured UP into its constituent monomers, which can be used to produce new UP products.
Recycling is an important aspect of sustainable use of UP. Although UP is not easily recyclable due to the cross-linking reaction that occurs during its curing process, it can be recycled through a mechanical or chemical process.
The mechanical process involves grinding the cured UP into small particles, which can be used as a filler in new UP products. The recycled UP can be used to manufacture products such as fibreglass reinforced plastics (FRP) sheets, roofing tiles, and automotive parts. Mechanical recycling of UP has the following advantages:
However, there are also some disadvantages of mechanical recycling of UP, such as:
The chemical process involves breaking down the cured UP into its constituent monomers, which can be used to produce new UP products. The chemical recycling of UP has the following advantages:
However, there are also some disadvantages of chemical recycling of UP, such as:
Recycling UP has positive environmental and global impacts as it reduces the amount of waste going to landfills, conserves resources, saves energy, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of virgin materials. The recycling of UP also helps to address the problem of plastic pollution, which is a global concern.
In addition, developing new technologies and processes to improve the recyclability of UP could contribute to the transition towards a circular economy, where waste is minimized, resources are conserved, and environmental impact is reduced. Therefore, it is important to promote the recycling of UP and to invest in research and development to improve the recyclability of this material.
UP has several advantages compared to alternative plastics, such as:
However, there are also some disadvantages of UP compared to alternative plastics, such as:
The global UP market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 6.5% from 2021 to 2026, driven by increasing demand from end-use industries such as transportation, construction, and electrical & electronics. Several factors, such as raw material prices, demand-supply dynamics, and technological advancements influence the market price of UP.
The price of UP has remained relatively stable in recent years, but it is expected to increase in the future due to rising raw material prices and increasing demand. The development of new technologies and processes to improve the recyclability of UP could also influence its market price.
In conclusion, UP is a widely used thermosetting polymer with several advantages and disadvantages compared to alternative plastics. Its usage has expanded to various industries, and the global UP market is expected to grow in the future. However, UP’s limited recyclability is a major challenge that needs to be addressed to ensure the sustainable use of this material.
Unsaturated Polyester Resin (UP) is a widely used thermosetting polymer due to its excellent properties, low cost, and easy processing. Its usage has expanded to various industries, including marine, automotive, construction, and electronics. UP is also used in the manufacturing of consumer products such as bathroom fixtures, furniture, and sports equipment. While UP offers many advantages, such as excellent mechanical, chemical, and electrical properties, the challenges of limited recyclability and susceptibility to UV degradation remain a concern. Therefore, the need to promote sustainable use of UP and reduce plastic waste is more urgent than ever.
Fortunately, there are several recycling methods for UP, such as mechanical and chemical recycling, that can help minimize its environmental impact and contribute to a circular economy. Additionally, innovation and investment in research and development can further improve the properties and recyclability of UP, making it a more sustainable and valuable material in the future.
With a background in media, technology and production, Carl holds an MA in Journalism and Documentary from Volda University College. Carl has worked as a lecturer, producer and entrepreneur. Having started his own film company, Carl later founded the fintech startup SmartWay - an offline mobile payment platform in the Oslo fintech scene. Carl combines expertise in innovation, technology and project management to implement new circular economy workflows. In April 2018, Carl joined Empower as co-founder and COO to manage operations and pilot projects involving tracking and collection partners.