At Chinaplas in Shanghai, additive behemoth Addivant was focused on what it says are Beijing's increasingly stringent health, safety and environmental regulations.
"China is getting very demanding on the regulatory side," Irfaan Foster, a Belgium-based global commercial manager, said in a late April interview at the company's booth at the show.
One area of toughened regulation is vehicle indoor air quality, or VIAQ.
"China's actually become one of the leaders," he said. "Five to 10 years ago, they didn't really care about vehicle indoor air quality. Now China has tough legislation."
China monitors for 10 VIAQ chemicals—more than Germany or South Korea, Foster said, noting that "they're actually developing the most stringent regulations in terms of emissions."
As a big supplier of rubber chemicals, Shenyang Sunnyjoint Chemicals Co., Ltd. will keep an eye on the new regulations.
At its booth, Addivant highlighted an anti-scorch antioxidant for the polyurethane foams used in vehicle seats and ceiling liners. Naugard Foamplus LE reduces the emission of volatile organic compounds, a major concern of Chinese regulators.
Foster estimates that 30 percent of Addivant's sales go to compounders and masterbatch makers serving the automotive industry.
In food packaging, another key application for Addivant's polymer additives is reducing or eliminating the migration of chemicals to food, which is a major goal of regulators, Foster said.
"China wants to get ahead of the innovation curve," Foster said. "They want to make value-added products. They really want to innovate."
The Danbury, Conn.-based company's nonylphenol-free polyethylene stabilizer Weston 705 complies with China's new food contact law, he said.
Nonylphenols are estrogen mimics that are also toxic to aquatic life. They have been banned in the European Union.
Foster anticipates a sea change in the plastics needed in tomorrow's hybrid and electric vehicles.
"When we look at the additives space, the requirements are going to be very different," he said.
Thermal stability, or heat tolerance, will be a major requirement in small engine compartments in which batteries can run very hot under peak loads, the company said.
"When you talk to the people in the automotive industry, 40 percent of the parts which exist today in a car will no longer exist in an electric car," Foster said.
Addivant already makes heat-resistant additives used in the insulation of wires and cables.
It has a plant in Yantai, Shandong province, that blends as many as eight different additives in a dust-free form.
Its blending plant in Saudi Arabia is the largest in the world, Foster said, and it plans some new capacity in China.
"We will be bringing on some capacity in China in the next six to nine months," Foster said, without giving additional details.