GOOOAAAAL!!! ARLANXEO scores a goal with biobased soccer ball for 2018 World Cup

December 1, 2017 |

In the Netherlands, ARLANXEO is scoring big goals with its new Keltan Eco soccer ball that will be used as the official match ball for the soccer 2018 World Cup. The rubber layer in the adidas soccer ball is made from bio-based EPDM rubber. The rubber is made with bio-based ethylene extracted from sugarcane – the world’s first EPDM rubber to do so – and reduces the carbon footprint of the soccer ball compared to conventional rubber.

The tech specs

Depending on the ethylene content of each rubber grade, the proportion of bio-based material ranges between 50 and 70 percent, according to their press release. The EPDM rubber (ethylene-propylene-diene monomer) Keltan Eco 6950 is the rubber basis for a sponge rubber layer directly underneath the “Telstar 18” ball’s outer cover. It serves as a moldable cushion for the ball and supports optimal bounce characteristics during games. Materials that are used in this layer must meet strict requirements in properties such as density, hardness and weight, and they must also demonstrate good processability. The most important performance characteristic, however, is the elasticity and resilience of the layer.

Keltan Eco has the renowned quality characteristics as EPDM rubber that is made using fossil raw materials,” says Martin Kleimeier, project director and Global Marketing Manager for the ARLANXEO Keltan business line. “With the full Keltan Eco portfolio, we have developed EPDM products that save resources, reduce our use of fossil-based products and also have a carbon footprint that is significantly lower than conventionally manufactured polymers,” adds Chretien Rooijakkers, Head of Global Marketing for the ARLANXEO Keltan business line.

Keltan Eco 6950 – the type used by adidas – is characterized by its amorphous structure and high crosslinking density. This leads to good low-temperature properties and meets the requirements for the best possible elasticity and resilience.

ARLANXEO produces bio-based EPDM rubber at its Triunfo site in Brazil, where soccer fans abound. Bio-based ethylene is produced by Braskem, their partner, and flows directly by pipeline to their EPDM plant.

Sustainable soccer

So why is a bio-based soccer ball so great? To start with, Independent Life Cycle Assessments of Keltan Eco EPDM grades versus their equivalent Keltan EPDM product have shown that the CO2 emission is reduced by more than 50%. That’s an impressive reduction in GHG for a material swap.

“For us, ecological sustainability was a fundamental criterion in the selection of products for the World Cup soccer ball,” says Stefan Bichler, project manager of Football Operations at adidas AG. “We wanted to create the new soccer ball using high-tech materials that have impressive performance characteristics and are also sustainable.”

A bio-based soccer ball also helps bring bio-based products and sustainability conversations to the forefront of soccer fans who may not otherwise be thinking about sustainability. And the more those conversations and awareness happen, the better it is for business, people, and the planet.

Who is ARLANXEO anyway?

We hadn’t heard about ARLANXEO recently but a little digging in the Biofuels Digest archives shows that they were created in 2016 as a joint venture of LANXESS and Saudi Aramco. Even in its first year, ARLANXEO synthetic rubber company had sales of around EUR 2.7 billion in 2016 with about 3,800 employees and 20 production sites in nine countries.

So who are LANXESS and Saudi Aramco? LANXESS is a German-based specialty chemicals company and Saudi Aramco is a Saudi Arabia based global energy and chemicals company, who each have a 50% stake in the ARLANXEO joint venture. Interestingly, ARLANXEO is derived from the names of both partners, combining one syllable each of LANXESS and Saudi Aramco. The ending “EO” refers to the products and stands for elastomers.

The Bottom Line

A bio-based soccer ball as part of soccer’s 2018 World Cup is a win-win. Getting bio-based products in more main stream conversations and sustainability considerations into soccer fans’ vocabulary is a goal worth scoring. Cutting CO2 by 50% just by switching rubber materials is a big plus. Being able to do so while achieving the properties necessary to make a great soccer ball with the best elasticity and resilience needed for top notch soccer games like the World Cup makes soccer players and fans happy too. So kudos to ARLANXEO who we think has scored bigtime by getting its new Keltan Eco soccer ball as the official match ball for the 2018 World Cup.

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