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Improving sustainability with additive masterbatch

Jul 05, 2023

The business has developed and expanded over recent years but still holds its core values of ‘Providing Solutions…Adding Value’ to its customer base by continuing to develop tailor made solutions and technically advanced masterbatches and compounds for the polymer industry. Wells now employees over 60 people and has a capacity in excess of 12kT and serves the global polymer marketplace with products being exported all around the world.

The concept of ‘Providing Solutions…Adding Value’ to customers through innovation and technical excellence extends now to include sustainability. Sustainability and plastics can sound counter-intuitive to those outside of the industry but nothing could be farther from the truth.

Wells has a rich history of supplying the recycling industry with a range of products to help widen the processing window of recycled feedstocks for film extruders and moulders, supplying high performance additive masterbatches which allow down gauging and light-weighting of materials. Sustainability is therefore a concept to be embraced. Wells recognised, that in line with both the UK & European Plastics Strategies, the need for greater recyclability of standard polymers, and the need for these materials to be re-used into evermore demanding applications.

It was essential that high performance antioxidant systems were developed to allow formulators, processors, product designers and material specifiers to be able to demand higher physical performances from recycled feedstocks. In addition to its extensive range of antioxidant masterbatches Wells has developed a range of high performance masterbatches for polyolefinic systems which provide significantly improved thermal stability, resulting in a performance similar to that of virgin polymers such as AO95743 for recycled LDPE.

Desiccant masterbatches, sometimes referred to moisture scavengers, have been manufactured by Wells for a number of years, and whilst seen by many as a low-cost commodity material, the reality is not all desiccants are the same. Desiccants are materials that will attract and chemically bind moisture and can offer a simple and economical way to eliminate moisture problems in plastics processing that can otherwise cause unattractive surface defects.

Problems solved include lensing, voiding, and splash marks in the finished product, reducing the need for pre-drying of materials, allowing processors to use recyclate with high moisture content and extend the control of processing moisture sensitive polymers. The mechanism of action is well documented, but critically, in particular for film producers the particle size and dispersion of the additive is of utmost importance. Wells offers a high performance desiccant masterbatch minimising filter blocking and film tears from large particles, something often reported by users of lower cost desiccants.

The use of blowing agent masterbatches have long been used to help with ‘light weighting’ of large items, or to help fill the mould and remove unwanted sink marks, however some of the lesser-known benefits include reduction in cycle time, a reduction in energy can all be achieved, generally, without compromise on aesthetics. Wells produces and supplies a wide range of both endothermic and exothermic blowing agent masterbatches.

In addition to these solutions, Wells also provides a bespoke contract and toll compounding service to the global polymer industry, from a few hundred kilos to thousands of tonnes. Wells are capable of dispersing and encapsulating a wide range of active powders, pellets, prills, flakes, waxes, low melting point liquids through to ultra viscous materials into a variety of polymer bases from polyolefins, through to biobased and biopolymer systems. Beyond the material selection and formulation optimisation there is of course the impact Wells operation has on the wider environment.

Wells started its own sustainability journey by training a team of internal auditors who developed an Environmental Management System, with the associated policies, regular monitoring and reporting of environmental KPIs, resulting in Wells achieving ISO 14001 accreditation.

Building on this Wells expanded its sustainability credentials to include not only environmental impact but a fully holistic approach to include labour, human rights, ethics and supply chain, which resulted in Wells achieving EcoVadis Gold status, putting the company in the 96th percentile of all registrants.

Wells has worked closely with Staffordshire Business & Environment Network (SBEN) and became their case study for their Environmental Sustainability GROWTH mapper. Identifying and implementing projects saved over 33 tonnes of carbon emissions per year in the process and also being awarded a Carbon Literacy certification. To help develop the culture to implement such initiatives, all staff at Wells, regardless of entry level or role, now receive Environmental Awareness training as standard and are financially incentivised to reduce waste of any kind.