Ever come across TPE and wondered what it means?

This post will provide an insight into ‘TPE’, a reference to a class of thermoplastic polymers. Giving information around the properties and applications of this material, as well as its recyclability – TPE is fully recyclable. If you come across terminology in this post that you are unsure of, please visit our Plastic Recycling Glossary.

TPE, or thermoplastic elastomers, are also referred to as thermoplastic rubbers. They are an engineering class of co-polymers or a material made from a blend of a polymer and a rubber – offering both thermoplastic and elastomeric properties. TPE exhibit elasticity that can be likened to cross-linked rubber.

There are seven grades of TPEs that are used commercially:

  • TPE-S Styrenic Block Copolymers
  • TPO or TPE-O Thermoplastic Polyolefins
  • TPV or TPE-V Thermoplastic vulcanizates
  • TPU or TPE-U Thermoplastic polyurethanes
  • TEEE, TPE-E or COPE Thermoplastic copolyesters
  • MPR Melt processable rubber
  • TPE-A Thermoplastic polyether block amides

The benefits of thermoplastic elastomers are the ability to stretch to moderate elongations and return to its near original shape, creating a longer life and better physical range than many other polymer materials.

For instance, we regularly come across PS film that contains around 2% TPE, making it softer and more flexible and easier to wrap products. We often work with PP blended with TPE from the automotive industry.

To take a look at the other grades of material that we reprocess at our dedicated UK plastic recycling facility, visit our Buy and Sell Plastic page.

TPEs are often used because of the significant cost savings they offer, due to their ability to be processed using plastics machinery: it doesn’t need to be crosslinked the way that rubber does. TPE’s also offer a lower density, excellent colourability, high resistance to chemicals (with the exception of oil for TPV & TPE’s) and weathering and good electrical properties. The material is also harder than vulcanised rubber, while elasticity is similar.

These properties mean that the end user has far more opportunities when it comes to design freedom and creating hard-wearing items of improved quality.

Currently, TPE’s properties lends itself to a variety of applications, including wires, cables, plugs and seals, grips and handles, airbag covers and hand tools, but we are seeing an influx of new applications.

TPE material that offer enhanced properties such as transparency, softness and temperature and oil resistance and advances in processing  such as multi-shot injection moulding, water-foamed extrusion and co-extrusion are opening doors into new applications and markets, enabling businesses to meet consumer demand.

TPEs have a lot of potential, and they offer cost reductions of around 20% compared to vulcanised rubber, making the material a more popular choice, while the fact it is fully recyclable means the material offer ROI.

TPE processing scrap, redundant and end of life stock can be easily recycled. Vanden Recycling can provide you with a bespoke recycling solution for TPE material, including processes aligned with your operations to aid with segregation and storage, resulting in you being able to generate a revenue stream from clean and segregated scrap plastic that is free from contaminants.

To learn more about recycling your TPE material with Vanden Recycling, contact a member of the team today.

Paul Scott

Written by Paul Scott

Business Development Manager

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