TOKYO -- Will the Japanese auto industry pay more for a "green" component? General Electric Plastics thinks so.
A new family of GE plastics has properties and performance characteristics that are almost identical to those of some current GE products. But while the existing plastics are made from petrochemical feedstock, the new ones are made from used PET containers such as those for bottled water.
PET, or polyethelene terephthalate, is a plastic resin and form of polyester.
GE displayed the new products in Tokyo late last month.
"One of the early industries we are targeting is the automotive industry, because they are concerned about their carbon footprint," says Gregory Adams, vice president of GE Plastics' auto business. Adds Richard Crosby, general manager for crystalline performance products at GE Plastics: "We are launching in Japan because Japan leads on eco-initiatives."
GE says Denso Corp. and other Tier 1 suppliers and carmakers are evaluating the new plastics. GE will begin supplying commercial quantities of the products in the last quarter of 2006.
The new resins cut carbon dioxide emissions and save as much as 8.5 barrels of crude oil per 1,000 kilograms of resin, GE says.
"Everybody is waiting for biopolymers," Adams says.
But current biopolymers are expensive and lack strength. Biopolymers are not yet available to replace petroleum-based plastics successfully in automotive applications. "Here is a way to get some of those benefits today," Adams says.
GE Plastics has "no real targets" to shift customers of its existing resins, known as Valox and Xenoy, into the new versions, Valox iQ and Xenoy iQ, he says.
GE Plastics is a $7 billion annual business. About 30 percent of its sales are to the automotive industry.
You may e-mail James B. Treece at [email protected]