Northeast Ohio Drives Polymer Innovation

Northeast Ohio, and Akron in particular, has a deep-rooted
history in the polymer industry. Once referred to as the
“rubber capital” of the world, Akron has since become a
hub for polymer innovation and research. As a state, Ohio is number
one in the nation in terms of employment in polymers and materials
with the Northeast Ohio region employing more than 26,000 workers.
Home to world-renowned companies such as A. Schulman, Lubrizol
Corporation, OMNOVA Solutions, PolyOne Corporation and more,
Northeast Ohio is recognized as a leader in polymer

In addition to an array of established companies, Northeast Ohio
also boasts the University of Akron’s College of Polymer
Science and Polymer Engineering, which is one of the world’s
premier institutions for polymer research and development. Their
program is the largest and frequently cited as one of the
world’s best. The college incorporates the Goodyear Polymer Center, the Polymer Engineering Academic Center and the Akron Polymer
Training Center
. As a driver of polymer innovation, college
faculty members have generated over 160 active patents and have
licensed technologies that have been commercialized

By leveraging Northeast Ohio’s vast polymer expertise and
experience, a number of emerging companies have taken the lead in
advancing a new area of focus within the polymer industry:
plastics-to-oil technologies. Two companies in particular – Vadxx
Energy and RESPolyflow – are playing a leading role in this
area. Through a process known as thermal de-polymerization,
plastic-to-oil technologies are able to recover the energy value of
non-recyclable plastics, rubber and polymer-based materials and
turn them into renewable diesel fuel. This novel process is
progressively gaining attention across the country as it provides a
viable and essential fuel source.

By transforming end-of-life plastics into higher value energy
products, companies like Vadxx and RESPolyflow are able to
significantly reduce the amount of waste that would typically end
up in a landfill. In fact, it is estimated that every thermal
de-polymerization unit in operation can reduce landfill waste by
20,000 tons each year.

Along with positive environmental benefits, the thermal
de-polymerization process is also poised to make a significant
economic impact. According to a 2014 study conducted by the
American Chemistry Council, U.S. plastic-to-oil facilities could
support 38,900 jobs and contribute $8.9 billion in U.S. economic
output. As plastic-to-oil production is still in the early stages
of development, Northeast Ohio is well-positioned to play a leading
role in its evolution. With only a handful of companies involved in
this pioneering work, Northeast Ohio home to two of the most
prominent and is paving the way for future developments.

As we can see, from the groundbreaking work taking place at the
region’s established companies, to the innovative research
happening at our institutions of higher learner, to the pioneering
technologies being developed at our emerging companies, Northeast
Ohio is a hub of polymer activity. Vadxx Energy and RESPolyflow are
prime examples of the kind of innovation taking place within the
region; their work, along with many others, will help further
cement Northeast Ohio’s place as a growing hub of polymer

Sources: American Chemistry Council, Team NEO