Monday, 15 February 2016

French decree supports biobased and home-compostable bags

Berlin, 11 February 2016. European Bioplastics (EUBP), the association representing the bioplastics industry in Europe, welcomes the approval of the French implementation decree on single-use plastic bags, which was published by the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy last week on 1 February 2016. “The decree sets out clear requirements for the reduction of single-use plastic bags in favour of biobased, biodegradable and home-compostable bags. This is an important measure and supports the efforts of EUBP to emphasise the essential role of bioplastics for the circular economy in Europe,” says Hasso von Pogrell, Managing Director of EUBP.

In August last year, France introduced a ban on single-use plastic bags as part of the new law on Energy Transition and Green Growth. An implementation decree setting out the requirements and conditions in greater detail has now been approved and will come into effect on 1 July 2016. The decree applies to single-use carrier bags below a thickness of 50 microns, which will have to meet the requirements of the French standard for home composting and feature a biobased content of at least 30 percent. The minimum biobased content will increase progressively to 40 percent in 2018, 50 percent in 2020, and 60 percent in 2025. Appropriate bioplastics materials have been readily available on the market for quite some time, and manufacturers are eagerly waiting in the wings. Christophe Doukhi-de Boissoudy, president of French association Club Bio-plastiques comments: “We welcome the mobilisation of public authorities in order to finally achieve such a measure. It will allow biobased and biodegradable plastics stakeholders to harness the benefits of their research efforts to develop new biodegradable and compostable plastics that reduce our dependency on oil. The decree will help to reduce the plastic bags pollution as well as to revive economic activity for French plastics converters, as 90 percent of fruit and vegetable bags are currently being imported.”

The law makes France one of the first European countries taking concrete measures on plastic bags in favour of biobased and compostable bags in an effort to comply with the European Directive to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic bags. It also underpins the benefits of separate collection of organic waste with biodegradable and compostable bags. The draft decree was amended to take the notions of the European Commission and the French State
Council into account. “We expect the French decree to serve as an example for European legislation and to contribute to the increased demand of sustainable bioplastic solutions,”
More information on the French law on plastic bags: http://en.european-bioplastics.org/

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

PCI Sustainability: The Big Picture


Jonathan Cullen of Cambridge University said the world is not about to run out of energy or materials but something must nevertheless be done to stop and even reverse the rise in anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Since 1870, human activity has added 1500 gigatonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere and this has raised global temperatures by about 1oC.  These carbon emissions have arisen in the course of improving the thermal comfort, sustenance, illumination and hygiene for the growing population; to move them and their goods around, and to make buildings, infrastructure vehicles and “things”.  With current emissions running at 28 Gt CO2/year, 35% is arising from industry, 27% from transport and 31% from buildings. 

Using Sankey diagrams to map energy flows and CO2 emissions from source to final product or service Dr Cullen showed that compared with buildings and transport, industry uses energy more efficiently.  Within industrial products, steelmaking emitted most CO2 (25%) with cement (19%), paper (4%), plastics (4%) and aluminium (3%) being the other big consumers.  However 45% of total industrial emissions were in  the Others category.  Global demand for these materials will double by 2050 and the scope for reducing their process emissions is limited by the fact that most producers are now approaching the “best practice” limits.  To reach the desirable halving of absolute COemissions by 2050, a cut of at least 75% per tonne of product is needed and this appears impractical on current technologies.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The PCI Polyester Sustainability Conference - London - September 2015

(R to L) Philip Gibbs (PCI) opens the Conference with Jonathan Cullen (Cambridge University) and Paul Clarke (PCI) 
Over the last 4 years the PCI Consulting Group has studied the sustainability aspects of the polyester industry and this was their first conference to share the findings. The study originated when PCI decided to sponsor a PhD student at Cambridge University to obtain independent quantitative numbers on sustainability for the polyester production chain in particular. That student became a full-time consultant with PCI, but the work continues at Cambridge and was reviewed in the opening presentation.

But for this opening paper, all the presentations were from PCI work by PCI consultants and the conference was therefore unique - in my experience at least - because there were no “commercials” and every paper provided concentrated factual information. Every one of the papers presented in this single day would have been a highlight of the average 3-day technical textiles or nonwoven conference!

The conference also covered:

  • the prospects for bio-versions of PET’s monomers, ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid,
  • the issues involved in scaling up bio-versions,
  • the PET recycling industry – “the real key to sustainability”,
  • the latest on the sustainability of that key component of many polyester-blend textiles i.e. cotton,
  • the drivers for sustainability in the apparel chain.
Summaries of these will be posted soon.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Lenzing sells the Kelheim acrylic tow and carbon fibre businesses

The Lenzing Group announces the sale of its fully owned German subsidiary Dolan GmbH, Kelheim and its 91.1% stake in European Carbon Fiber GmbH, Kelheim to WHEB Partners’ Growth Fund 2 of England and Jan Verdenhalven. The corresponding agreement was concluded on April 15, 2015. Both sides agreed to keep the purchase price confidential.
“The sale comprises part of Lenzing’s strategy to focus on its core business of man-made cellulose fibers. With WHEB and Jan Verdenhalven, Lenzing succeeded in finding financially strong, industry-oriented new owners in which both companies will be able to develop more effectively in the future than up until now”, comments Lenzing’s Chief Financial Officer Thomas Riegler. “Moreover, it is important for European Carbon Fiber that WHEB and Jan Verdenhalven already have longstanding industrial experience in the carbon fiber business. The company now has interesting growth perspectives once again through a potential cooperation with other companies in the strategic investment portfolio of WHEB.”
Dolan manufactures high quality specialty fibers on an acrylic basis which are used for textiles, convertible car tops, as sunshades, for garden furniture and protective clothing. Dolan is one of the major suppliers of convertible car tops in Europe. The company employs a workforce of about 100 employees, generating revenue of EUR 57.5 mn in 2014.  
European Carbon Fiber GmbH is a joint venture with Kelheim Fibres GmbH which manufactures precursors for the carbon fiber industry. The company achieved annual revenue of EUR 10.4 mn in 2014.
Source - Lenzing - April 15th 2015

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Wet-Wipes in UK Beach Litter

The Marine Conservation Society's annual survey of beach litter for 2014 shows a 50% increase in the number of wet-wipes compared with 2013.  It is now possible to find 35 wet wipes on every kilometer of beach around the UK and these are now a bigger problem than other sanitary disposables.  Of the 101 categories of beach litter, wet wipes showed the second highest growth over the last decade.  Plastic pieces were the worst offender, but the MCS noted that wet-wipes contained plastic - polyester - and therefore last a very long time in the sea.

Cotton buds, as evidenced by their plastic sticks, had declined over the decade but showed an unexpected increase over the last year.  These are still more numerous than wet-wipes (per km of beach) but have significantly less visual impact.  The numbers of wet-wipes found is now comparable to the numbers of plastic bags on beaches.

It will be interesting to see if the increased use of flushables reverses this trend.

The report can be downloaded here.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Recycling used Hygienic Disposables

Marcello Somma, Sustainability Innovation Manager of Fater SpA (Italy) described the technical progress made on their 500kg/batch pilot plant developed to recycle diapers and other absorbent hygenic products (AHPs) .  He claimed it was achieving separation efficiencies of >95% without degrading the reclaimed materials which were produced sterile and at moisture contents below 20%.  Fater is a JV between Procter and Gamble and Angelini.


In Italy alone, 900,000 tonnes per year of used AHPs are landfilled or incinerated every year, and a system of segregation and collection of such waste already serves 7 million people.
The pilot plant looked like a very large drum washer/dryer which could discharge clean dry waste into a shredder/separator.  1 tonne of used diapers fed to the pilot plant contained about 50% body fluids and yielded 350kg of sterilised absorbent comprising fluff pulp and superabsorbent. 
 This recycled cellulose stream is being evaluated in pet-care absorbents, spill control products, compost, gas generation via digesters, paper mills, and even viscose production.  It also yields a recycled plastic stream comprising 150 kgs of white mixed PP/PE polymer chips which Fater claim can be fed to a wider range of processes than standard recycled plastic.


The process, when scaled up, will be good for citizens who will get a dedicated AHP collection service and cash savings (if the proposed pay-as-you-throw taxes are introduced).  Local councils will save money on landfill and increase their contribution to EU recycling and biodegradable waste targets.  Waste disposal companies will develop new business if they instal the Fater system and of course the environment will benefit from the negative C-footprint (-17kgs CO2/tonne) if Italy as a whole adopts the process.


The next step is to instal a larger continuous pilot plant with a capacity of 8000 tonnes/year in Veneto by the beginning of 2015.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Sustainable Development

Uwe Bergmann, Director of Sustainability Management at Henkel (Germany) summarised the challenge of sustainable development as reducing our environmental footprint while improving the quality of life to allow 9 billion people to live well and within the limits of the planet by 2050.  Four major trends have to develop to make this possible:
  1. Growth must be decoupled from resource consumption.  For instance China hopes to reduce carbon emissions by 40% per RMB by 2020.
  2. Consumers must increasingly use social media to make their concerns known.  (1.13 million now follow Greenpeace on Twitter.)
  3. Regulations and de-facto standards must be tightened.  Walmart’s Sustainability Consortium has engaged 5000 suppliers has tackled 300 product categories to reduce their impacts.
  4. >50% of consumers are aware of the challenge but currently unwilling to change habits.

In 2013, the United Nations surveyed a 1000 CEO’s around the world and found that 32% believed the economy was on track to meet the demands of population growth.  33% felt that business as a whole was doing enough to address the challenge, but 83% feel that further progress will only come from more regulations.  They felt there would be a plateau beyond which a radical change in market structure driven by a common understanding of global priorities will be needed.  Innovation of new technologies, collaboration between industries and close cooperation with stakeholders will be needed to move above the plateau.  

In short, we have to achieve more with less.  By 2030 we need to triple the value we create from the current footprint of our operations, products and services.  This could be achieved by  combining long- and short-term targets where annual improvements of 5-6% would add up to achieving the long-term goals.

Henkel were targeting, over the next 5 years:
  • More value for customers: 10% more sales are needed from each production unit.
  • Safer workplaces: 20% reduction in accidents per million hours worked.
  • Reducing water usage by 15%.
  • Reducing waste by 15%.
  • Reducing energy consumption by 15%.

Examples of Henkel innovation included the development of  low-temperature hot-melt adhesive based on 50% renewable materials to reduce the energy required in diaper production.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Spunmelt Nonwovens Life Cycle Analysis

Thomas Broch, Senior Scientist at Fibertex Personal Care (Denmark) described the use of cradle-gate Life Cycle Analysis to determine the impact of white spunmelt nonwovens production on global warming, non-renewable energy use, and multiple impacts such as human and environmental toxicity.

The starting assumptions with regard to the boundaries chosen, transport options, and the raw material data provided by different suppliers are key and can alter the results dramatically.  Improving the waste management in the production plant also had a profound effect, reducing the Fibertex emissions from 3348 to 2907 kg CO2 equivalent between 2000 and 2011, while reducing virgin PP resin use by almost 100,000 tonnes.  Using natural gas burners for heat generation further reduced C-footprint by more than halving the kg CO2 equivalent compared with electrical heating.

Converters varied in their demands for Environmental Product Declarations, but requests for raw data for calculations further down the supply chain were becoming less common and the focus on CO2 emissions as a key figure is increasing.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Lidl: Will consumers pay for environmental benefits?

Jan Bock, Senior Management, Purchasing International of Lidl Stiftung and Co. KG (Germany) reviewed customer surveys from around the world and noted the following interesting, but sometimes conflicting conclusions regarding consumers willingness to pay more for environmental benefits:
  • 81% of Chinese will pay more for energy-saving products. (Greendex 2010)
  • 60% of consumers will pay a premium - on average 18% - for goods with a social or environmental benefit. (Prof. Winer, 2013)
  • 50% of global consumers will pay more to companies with programs that benefit their society.  (Only 36% of consumers in the EU but 75% of those in India - Neilsen, 2013)
On the other hand…
  • While 83% of global customers feel its important to improve the environment, only 22% would pay more for eco-friendly products. (Neilsen, 2011)
  • Consumers have no interest in reducing climate change by paying more for low-impact products (Canada, 2004)
  • 73% of consumers  don’t buy products with environmental benefits (IGD, 2008)
Mr Bock thought consumer surveys will generally overestimate the willingness to pay for sustainability.  Premiums are more likely for products with tangible benefits which directly affect the purchaser, and so marketing should be specific rather than general: global warming benefits and C-footprint are hard to sell.  They’re also more likely to pay extra for non-durable, frequently purchased items than durables, and for “egotistical” rather than “altruistic” products.  

Nevertheless, developing sustainable products does make sense because they are good for the environment and do build goodwill for your company and brands.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Viscose for Flushable Nonwovens

Sebastian Basel, the Speciality Papers Business Manager of Kelheim Fibres GmbH (Germany) provided an update on their continuing developments with short-cut viscose fibres for wet-laid nonwovens.  He noted the need for more convenience and felt this could be provided by having a single wet-wipe substrate which could be used for baby, toddler, cleaning and moisturising wipes, all of which could be disposed of into the sewerage system.


Unfortunately the flushing of non-flushable wipes has caused problems in sewage systems around the world and the requirements of these waste systems has to be respected by adherence to the lastest, 3rd edition of the INDA/EDANA Flushability Guidlines. Products which fail any one of the sequence of 7 tests for flushability and biodegradability must now be labelled as Non-Flushable.

Wet-wipes have to do the seemingly impossible, i.e. be strong in use and weak in the toilets and sewers while maintaining attractive softness, purity, absorbency and bulk.  The key to success is maintaining adequate strength in the controlled wetness of the wipe pack while achieving rapid dispersion in an excess of turbulent water in the toilet.  Mr Basel argued that wipes made from short fibres dispersed in water had a better chance of meeting these requirements than wipes made of longer fibres using carding.  Hydroentanglement bonding of these wet-laid short fibres enabled production of strong products with just the right amount of “hydro-disentanglement” potential required in flushing. Furthermore certain cross-sectional shapes achievable with the viscose process improve strength in use while simultaneously improving the dispersibility in the sewage system.  Finally, only substrates with a majority of biodegradable fibres such as viscose would meet the guidelines.


In summary, hydroentangled wet-laid nonwovens made with Kelheim’s flat-section Viloft viscose fibre provided the best bet for meeting the current flushability requirements.