Questions & Answers

Frequently Asked Questions

Borealis is available to answer questions and share its views. For further information, please send an email to info@borealisgroup.com.

What plastics materials does Borealis manufacture?

Borealis is a leading provider of innovative polyolefin (PO) solutions (polyethylene [PE] and polypropylene [PP]) for the infrastructure (pipe systems and power and communication cables), automotive and advanced packaging markets. As a PO expert Borealis does not manufacture nor sell other types of plastic materials such as polystyrene (PS), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or polycarbonate (PC).
For more information on Borealis' plastics solutions please visit Industry Solutions.

How does Borealis ensure that its products are safe?

Plastic materials and additives used for applications such as food packaging, drinking water or medical care are strictly regulated by health authorities. As part of the chemicals control process, all substances used at Borealis are documented and assessed. The company strictly prohibits the use of a range of substances that pose specific regulatory or scientific concerns.

In order to communicate with its customers and other stakeholders in a transparent way, Borealis publishes a "Banned Substances List". This list is regularly updated in light of the conclusions of risk assessments and classifications of chemicals. It includes, for instance, known endocrine disrupters, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals or brominated flame retardants.

For further information on the Borealis Hazardous Chemicals Strategy, our position statements on specific issues and our "substitution success stories", please consult the chemical safety section on this website.

How transparent is Borealis about the safety of its own products?

Borealis is committed to Responsible CareĀ® and strives for open and transparent information sharing with all its stakeholders. The company publishes an annual report that includes a variety of information on safety performance, going from environmental, health and safety performance and greenhouse gas emissions to recorded incidents. For information regarding safety performance, please consult the annual report.

All the Borealis products are documented with extensive product and safety data sheets and comply with all applicable regulatory limits or restrictions.

Borealis also publishes its "Banned Substances List", position statements on topical issues and examples for successful substitutions, together with a description of how Borealis is evaluating hazardous chemicals. All this information is openly available on the company website. For information regarding performance please consult the annual report.

How does Borealis ensure the safety of its employees and the surrounding areas?

Health and safety at the workplace are a continuous priority at Borealis. The guiding principle is simple: "If we can't do it safely, we don't do it at all."

Borealis' plants are classified installations and require strict safety rules for employees, contractors and visitors. Safety starts with controlled access and mandatory safety equipment. Any person entering a Borealis plant must follow safety instructions. Furthermore, the company does not allow anyone to get closer to a plant than absolutely necessary, including our own employees.

Safety of operations and staff preparedness is constantly reviewed and improved. For instance, Borealis has introduced the concept of Engagement Walks to replace the existing Observation Tours, in order to make a step change towards achieving zero safety incidents. "Observing" implies judgement, while "Engaging" means involvement to go past judgement and understand the often unconscious reasons for safety behaviour.

Thanks to a continuous focus on health and safety, the level of workplace incidents at Borealis has been kept well below two per million of hours worked, which is a world-class performance.

For more information on HSE performance at Borealis, please consult the annual report.

Why doesn't Borealis produce bio-plastics?

Polyolefins can indeed be produced from renewable feedstock such as bio-ethanol. However, using renewable feedstock raises fundamental moral issues regarding social and environmental sustainability. These sustainability issues include competition to food, pressure on food prices, land deforestation / competition for land, land acidification/ eutrophication and water consumption. Borealis has carefully assessed the option of using renewable feedstock. Our conclusion is that doing so would not offer any significant improvement in the sustainability of our products, seen from a full life-cycle perspective.

Borealis believes that plastics are valuable raw materials and should be recycled after use. Because of this we have started our own recycling activities and are planning to grow this activity. We believe that today this has the highest impact on sustainability. Beyond this we are constantly monitoring if any new technologies in the feedstock or other areas become available that would make a significant impact.

What does Borealis do for waste management?

Operational waste

Borealis strives for waste management that minimises the impact on society. Some of the company's waste is production related, but waste is also generated during plant turnarounds. When waste prevention is not possible, Borealis facilitates reuse as well as material and energy recovery from waste. This includes the development of partnerships with waste companies. Borealis only resorts to disposal when there is no other feasible option.

Borealis monitors both the absolute and relative waste generation per location. It then puts waste management plans in place for each of its production sites, coordinated by local environmental specialists. Around 42% of the waste that ultimately needs to be discarded is hazardous waste, typically consisting of waste oils and other substances. This waste often has a high energy content which can be utilised but needs to be handled by approved contractors. All waste is classified according to the European waste catalogue (unless national law specifies otherwise). The transportation and disposal of waste is done exclusively by properly licensed companies.

Plastic waste

Borealis sees tackling plastic waste as a shared responsibility. Plastics are too valuable to be thrown away and should be reused, recycled and recovered for energy rather than sent to landfills. In short: all plastics waste can have a second life - either as material or as an energy source.

Littering is an acute issue in some regions and causes many problems, particularly for the marine environment. It is a shared responsibility to tackle waste and prevent littering. Borealis develops solutions that reduce, prevent or can help remedy littering. This includes new material solutions that reduce the amount of waste or that are better suited for recycling. For instance, the latest generation of Borealis PE allows for a further reduction of 25% of material use and hence for less waste in packaging applications.

Borealis is an active member of the Packaging and Packaging Waste taskforce of PlasticsEurope, the European Plastics Industry Federation and has joined the PlasticsEurope Marine Litter Task Force. It is also a partner of Operation Clean Sweep, an international programme designed to prevent the loss of plastics materials and to help keep this material out of the marine environment.

What does Borealis think about the ongoing discussion around the ban of plastic bags?

Plastics are too valuable to be thrown away and should be reused, recycled and recovered for energy rather than sent to landfills. In short: all plastics waste can have a second life - either as material or as an energy source.

Borealis believes that tackling waste and littering is a shared responsibility: The industry needs to design products for reducing, recycling or recovering waste. Public authorities have to put efficient waste management systems in place and consumers should discard their waste properly. Borealis is in favour of substituting single use carrier bags with reusable plastic bags through programmes that combine effective education with a sound environmental solution.

Littering, like any improper use of a product, is a behavioural issue which requires education and raising consumer awareness. Borealis believes that banning or taxing a product does not change people's behaviour and will just shift the littering problem to other applications. It does not improve waste management practices.

Does Borealis use phthalates in its products?

For decades, the key application for phthalates has been as a plasticiser (softener) for some plastics. The mechanical properties of polyolefins like PP and PE can be widely influenced by polymer design. This means that generally these polymers do not require any plasticisers.

Certain phthalates are present as non-isolated intermediate components in the catalyst system used in some of Borealis' PP polymerisation processes. The potential residual traces of such phthalates in commercial PP are far below the limits as defined by REACH (0.1 wt% / 1000 mg/kg). Although the described applications will be still legally compliant after the sunset date for the used phthalates, Borealis, as a Responsible Care company, is intensively working on alternative, phthalate-free catalyst systems. For further information consult the Statement on Phthalate residues in Borealis PP grades.

How does the production of carcinogenic benzene and 1,3 butadiene fit with Borealis' precautionary approach?

Borealis is operating steam crackers to manufacture the monomers for PE and PP. During the steam cracking process, some by-products are formed which contain the carcinogenic chemicals benzene or 1,3-butadiene. In Borealis' fully integrated petrochemical complex in Finland, those substances are removed from the by-products, leaving behind less hazardous streams than before.

The purified chemical intermediates benzene and 1,3-butadiene are then further converted by Borealis and its customers to different products (e.g. phenol, acetone, polymers), which are safe to use and are essential feedstock for consumer end use markets as diverse as pharmaceuticals, building insulation, textiles, household appliances, wind turbines, automotive applications and adhesive applications.

Borealis does not intentionally producing hazardous chemicals. The general approach is to undertake steps to isolate and convert any hazardous by-products to safe and valuable products. Furthermore, the safety of the company's employees and the environment is ensured by following national and EU legislations and applying all necessary measures for intermediates or monomers under REACH.

How does Borealis ensure consumer protection?

Plastic materials and additives used for applications like food packaging, drinking water or medical care are strictly regulated by health authorities. As part of the chemicals control process, all substances used at Borealis are documented and tested. As a manufacturer, who is committed to Responsible CareĀ®, Borealis applies a very strict and comprehensive chemicals management system. The company also applies a precautionary approach to strictly restrict the use of any substance of concern in its production processes or products.

For transparent communication with its customers and other stakeholders, Borealis publishes a "Banned Substance List" and regularly updates it in light of the conclusions of risk assessments and classifications of chemicals. This list now includes more than 200 substances such as potential endocrine disruptors, phthalates, PAHs, heavy metals or brominated flame retardants. This is a guarantee the company gives to its customers and their customers.

To read more, please visit the chemicals safety pages on this website.

What's Borealis' view on animal testing in light of REACH?

Borealis does not conduct any in-house animal tests. Within the REACH regulatory framework, Borealis is legally obliged to provide animal testing information on specific substances to authorities. In order to obtain this information, Borealis' first option is to purchase already existing studies in order to prevent additional need for animal testing. Borealis cooperates and works with approved testing institutes only.

Since 2004, Borealis has been engaged in the preparation for REACH. The company shares the concerns regarding the risk of duplicative or pre-emptive animal testing and therefore welcomes the possibility that the European Chemicals Agency would accept registration dossiers that may not contain the results of a 28-day repeated dose toxicity study. In addition, Borealis believes that maximising read-across will prevent duplicative testing for many base chemicals and is in the interest of all parties.

Is Borealis involved in recycling plastics?

Over the last few years, Borealis has been actively advancing its recycling and sustainability efforts in line with its Sustainability Strategy, one of the pillars focusing on plastics recycling. For example, in 2014 Borealis began offering high-end compound solutions to the automotive industry, consisting of 25% and 50% post-consumer recycled content.

On 1st July 2016, Borealis strengthened its commitment to the circular economy and plastics recycling with the acquisition of one of Europe's largest producers of post-consumer polyolefin recyclates - mtm plastics GmbH and mtm compact GmbH. This strategic step concretely establishes Borealis as the industry leader in providing innovative solutions to address growing market requirements and expectations for sustainability issues.

What is the carbon footprint of Borealis' polyolefin products?

Borealis, together with the entire plastic industry, issues validated European average carbon footprints derived from PlasticsEurope eco-profiles. PE and PP are amongst the lowest footprint polymers at production, ranging between 1.6 and 1.7 kg of CO2 equivalents per kilo of product (Source: PlasticsEurope eco-profiles).

The carbon footprint of plastic raw material in itself is not the most critical parameter when considering life cycle assessment of finished products. It is primarily the use phase that will determine the outcome of the life cycle performance and put the value proposition of a solution into light. Borealis continuously promotes partnerships along the value chain to review the performance of its product based applications through their production and use phase.

In the automotive industry for example, PO products contribute to preventing emissions that would have occurred with other materials or solutions. One kilogram of PP that replaces steel in an automotive application can save up to 8.3 kilo of CO2 equivalents during the life-cycle of a car.