Interview with Steve Davis, PV Market Manager at DuPont Teijin Films UK Ltd. - Intersolar AWARD Winner 2021 with their product: PV Backsheets with Recycled Content
Briefly describe your innovation
The Mylar® UVHPET™ range of backsheet films already provides the solar industry with a class leading sustainable option, delivering a halogen free and low carbon alternative to fluorinated backsheets without compromise in product performance. The development of these products with recycled content builds on this delivering a further carbon footprint reduction and giving another life to single use plastic waste.
The use of recycled polyester in certain industries is not new with markets for mechanically recycled materials such as packaging and fibres. However, incorporating recycled content into demanding applications such as flexible electronics and photovoltaic backsheets has not been possible due to the degradation of optical, physical and mechanical properties experienced through mechanical recycling.
We have addressed this issue by commercialising a unique monomer recycling process which upcycles PET waste enabling the use of recycled material in backsheets without compromise in product performance. The LuxCR™ process depolymerises PET waste back into the monomer unit Bis(2-hydroxyethylterephthalate) or BHET, which is then converted into backsheet films with identical properties to virgin material.
Who is the product suitable for? What is the target group and what is the target market?
Our aim is to have the full Mylar® UVHPET™ range available with recycled content offering the choice of a halogen free, low carbon footprint backsheet with recycled content to the entire solar value chain. The carbon footprint savings and compatibility in recycling processes are a benefit where sustainability forms part of the criteria in tender processes, and the sustainable use of waste plastic material fits well with many companies stated sustainability strategies as well as ambitious target from legislators around the world who are looking to increase the use of recycled material.
What was the trigger for your innovation? What problem does your innovation solve?
Sustainability is increasingly core to everything we do as DuPont Teijin Films, and as the original inventor of polyester back in the 1940s we do feel an added responsibility to minimise the environmental impact of our products. Despite the undeniable environmental benefits delivered by the solar industry there are challenges to be addressed in terms of material usage and recycling of end of life modules, and we believe this development address both of these issues without any compromise in product performance.
Mylar products already have a significantly lower carbon footprint than other backsheet materials, and the use of 33% recycled material reduces this by a further 10% to 2.962kg CO2eq of film produced. In addition to the GHG emissions, recycled material also provides a high value application for low quality plastic waste, which for a typical 1MW installation equates to another life for over 16,000 waste bottles.
How does your innovation fit into the trends of the industry in Europe / worldwide?
Increasingly the solar industry is focussing on the challenges of raw material usage and recycling of end of life modules, and we believe the development of halogen free backsheets with reduced carbon footprint and recycled content address these concerns. Sustainability is being put at the forefront of legislation, and this is especially true in the EU where a range of policies are being developed to promote the use of recycled plastic, limit the use of hazardous materials and enhance recycling rates through safe and sustainable product design.
What will be the next step in the development?
Our aim is to extend the use of recycled material across our full range of backsheet products offering the opportunity to use recycled material regardless of the module technology or design. The use of recycled material is just part of our sustainability without compromise programme and in particular we will be focussing on our trials to prove the viability of future closed loop recycling of backsheets.