Covestro’s recycled thermoplastic resins support circular economy for electronics

Fairphone 4 with a central frame reinforced with fiberglass. Photo: Fairphone

Covestro (Leverkusen, Germany) is collaborating with Fairphone (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) on the use of circular material solutions for the smartphones of the Dutch social enterprise. Fully and partially recycled thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs) are used in the protective case of the Fairphone 3 and its successor the Fairphone 4, as well as in smartphones reinforced with fiberglass. The new device additionally uses partially recycled polycarbonate resins.

Products from the Covestro recycled polycarbonate portfolio (PCR), Makrolon, are used in the back cover of the Fairphone 4, the middle frame and the wireless charger. With a PCR content of 30-50%, Covestro says this portfolio has physical properties comparable to the primary material, and offers good impact strength, balanced flow behavior, high rigidity and fire resistance, ensuring long life and reducing CO₂ emissions by 30 % compared to the primary material.

Covestro has also developed a new range of recycled and partially recycled TPUs under the Desmopan brand, which are now used in the Fairphone 4 protective shell and are certified according to RCS (Recycled Claim Standard), an international standard for tracing recycled materials. raw materials in supply chains.

This includes a product, Desmopan 3095AU RC100, which was developed after detecting multiple streams of post-industrial recycled plastic. The fully recycled material demonstrates the typical advantages of TPU – such as high chemical and abrasion resistance, but easier processing because it melts at lower temperatures and flows better than the primary material. The product has proven itself when used in the Fairphone 3 protective case and is now used in the Fairphone 4. It is available in three color options: gray, green and pink.

Fairphone devices are known for their modular design, which promotes better maintainability. This design requires materials with reliable mechanical properties that can be repeatedly disassembled and repaired. The fiberglass-reinforced Makrolon PCR portfolio class is said to offer a good solution for the Fairphone 4’s highly stressed center frame, while the increased rigidity and impact resistance are in line with Fairphone’s modular design. Therefore, Covestro also supports a mono-material approach in each case for the use of polycarbonate in the case and TPU plastic in the protective shell to facilitate the recycling of end-of-life (EOL) smartphones.

“Through our PCR portfolio, we support Fairphone in achieving sustainability goals. This includes particularly robust material solutions that enable the modular design of Fairphone products and facilitate their repair, ”said Nan Hu, vice president of global industrial marketing, electronics and electrical engineering, at Covestro’s Engineering Plastics division. “Such projects and collaborations are in line with our vision of becoming completely circular.”

“This is just the first step, and we will continue to support Covestro in developing more sustainable materials,” concludes Wayne Huang, vice president of Fairphone products.

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