Thursday 16 December 2010

European Bioplastics Conference – Düsseldorf: 1-2 December 2010


This was the fifth annual conference on EU Bioplastics organised by the European Bioplastics Association.   Once again the EBA expected numbers to be down on last year, anticipating no more than 250 delegates, and once again over 360 turned up.  This year the organisers opted for 15 minute presentations and restricted questions to the end of each session. 
EU 2020 and Bioplastics

David Webber, Senior Partner, Public Affairs and Strategic Communication, PA Europe (Belgium) observed that for the last 10 years the EU has fiddled with the Lisbon Treaty while the rest of the world has globalised.  It now needs a new agenda, should leave the Lisbon Treaty as it is, and go for growth.  It has been very good at converting Cash into Knowledge (i.e. Research) and now needs to emphasise conversion of Knowledge into Cash (i.e. Innovation). 

The EU’s 2020 Goals were about breaking down the walls between the various EEC services and about getting officials to work together towards common objectives and real tangible targets.  Seven Flagship initiatives were listed:

·         An Innovation Union – to boost investment in new technologies.

·         Youth on the Move – to make education in the EU internationally attractive.

·         A digital agenda for the EU – high speed internet for a digital single market.

·         Resource Efficient EU – decarbonising the economy, emphasising renewables.

·         Industrial policy for Globalisation – more support for businesses, especially SME’s.

·         Agenda for New Skills and Jobs – match labour supply with demand.

·         EU against Poverty – to share the benefits of growth more widely.

The EEC’s 2011 work programme will include an action plan for a sustainable and innovative bio-economy  by 2020, but there’s no specific mention of bio-plastics.  A simple bioplastics strategy needs to be promoted simultaneously in many different channels e.g.  “Boost Bioplastics to 5% of the EU plastics market by 2020”.  (i.e to 5 million tonnes)

P & G’s Sustainability Vision and Goals

Prof. Marina Franke of P & G (Europe) presented the latest thinking of the P&G Sustainability Department

The long range vision (for 20-40 years hence) involved:

·         Powering plants with 100% renewable energy.

·         Using 100% renewable materials for all products and packages.

·         Zero waste to landfill (pre or post consumer).

·         Delighting customers while maximising conservation of resources.

As examples of progress towards the renewable energy vision, the use of solar power in plants in California, Italy France and Germany was mentioned, along with the use of wind power in the Netherands and the exploration of geothermal power in the Western USA.

The 10 year (to 2020) Goals for Products were:

·         Replace 25% of petro-materials with renewables.

·         Convert 70% of washing machine loads to cold water washing.

·         Reduce packaging use per consumer by 20%.

·         Complete pilot studies on the elimination of consumer solid waste to landfill.

 And for processes:

·         Use  30% renewable energy

·         Reduce waste to less than 0.5%

·         Reduce truck transport by 20% (on a Km/unit of volume c.f.2010 basis)

Dr Pier-Lorenzo Caruso also of P&G (Europe) added that for packaging, P&G were evaluating bio-polyethylene made from sugarcane by Braskem in Brazil, this being available in large quantities (up to 200,000 t/y) with properties identical to petro-PE and being recyclable through existing schemes.  They hope to introduce it in some of their beauty care lines next year.  They are also working with most other bioplastics, but because mainstream consumers would not pay more for bioplastics, other advantages had to be sought to justify any upcharge in existing products.  For new products, there was an opportunity to embed bioplastics at the early concept stage. 

P&G uses 120,000 tonnes of flexible packaging a year, this being about a third of their total packaging requirements.  Because of the very large percentage of PE and laminates used, they had to focus first on the non-biodegradable bio-sourced PE equivalents in North America and the EU.  Biodegradable plastics would be explored for smaller emerging markets.

Asked about biodegradables in emerging markets, Prof Franke said dumping was common (not even landfill), and recycling was done by scavengers who collected anything of value for resale (glass, plastic, but not film).  P&G are working with governments and NGOs in developing countries on sustainable waste management systems. One option might be to motivate the waste-pickers to channel biodegradables into a composting or biogas stream.

Biobased Durable Plastics

Dirk van Ouden, New Business Development Director of  Avantium (Holland), a catalysis company spun-off from Shell in 2000, described their development of the YXY bio-based building blocks for price-competitive polymers and fuels.  These were mainly furanics made from sugars and carbohydrates, an example being furan dicarboxylic acid which could replace PTA (purified terephthalic acid) for PET manufacture.  Coca Cola had already launched the Plantbottle using bio-based ethylene glycol to make a 25% bio-based polyester:  the bio-based FDCA as produced by Avantium would in theory allow 100% bio-based PEF (Poly-ethylene furanate) polyester bottle production.

The catalytic conversion of carbs to furanics was much faster than fermentation (seconds rather than days) and this had a positive impact on the economics, making it easier for the large users to switch from petro- to bio-based polyester.  The furanics could also be etherified and blended with oil-based fuels e.g. for truck diesel.  Polyamides and polyurethanes should also be possible from furanic chemistry.

At present they could make 2.5 kg batches but were scaling up to a 40 t/y pilot plant in Geleen (NL) which would be on stream in 2011.  Semi-works (400 t/y) would follow in 2013 and the first industrial plant (50,000 t/y) should be on stream in 2015.  Given a 350,000 t/y factory and raw material prices in the 2005-2009 range, FDCA should cost between €500 and €1200/tonne compared with €600-1200/tonne for PTA monomer. 

Avantium, a venture capital-based company, is now seeking partners to extend the development.   Cosun (Agricultural waste), ECN, Natureworks, Teijin Aramid and DAF were already involved.  Natureworks has confirmed that the PEF has attractive physical properties similar to regular polyester.  It “spun like a dream” on a PET fibre line.  PEF bottles were a “bit yellow”, but had improved barrier properties c.f. PET.

Asked how the furan dicarboxylic acid processed compared to PTA, Mr van Ouden claimed it worked well and within the bandwidth of the equipment used to make regular polyester.  Downstream processing and recycling were still being studied.

Eco+ Engineering Plastics

Frederik Petit, Director of Sustainability at DSM Engineering Plastics (Holland) provided a comprehensive introduction to DSM before mentioning their B4 programme for making bio-based monomers for engineering plastics (PET, PA, PBT) and the new bio-based plastics EcoPaXX and Arnitel ECO. 

EcoPaXX is a carbon-neutral polyamide 4.10 made from castor beans via sebacic acid, and diaminobutane,  a chemical unique to DSM.  It has a higher melting point (250oC) and higher stiffness and strength than the regular polyamide PA 6.12 and the green polyamides PA 11 and 6.10.  It is intended for use in consumer electronics, sports and leisure equipment and automotive.

Arnitel ECO, introduced on November 10th this year,  is a range of elastomeric  thermoplastic copolyesters  (hard/soft) with 20-60% renewable content, available in extrusion or injection moulding grades.  They have high melting points (up to 207oC), high UV resistance, low absorbtion, much improved heat ageing and reduced (>50%) carbon footprint compared to regular co-polyesters.  Shore B hardnesses of 40-70 were mentioned.


Harald Häger, VP Process and Product Development at Evonik Degussa (Germany) observed that the race to produce conventional polymers from renewable monomers began with Braskem and Dow’s 500,000kt PE announcement in 2008 and Solvay’s 60,000 tonne green PVA plant.  As yet, there are no 100% bio-based engineering polymers, but Evonik is supplying  PA 6.10, PA6.12, PA10.10  and PA10.12  based on a Chinese bio-source of decandiamine which allows 40-60% bio-renewable claims.  The decandiamine is made from sebacic acid obtained from castor seeds.  Gloablly,  a million tonnes of seed yield 0.5M tonnes of oil and 0.25M tonnes of sebacic acid.  This is too small for the nylon market as a whole but sufficient for the nylon 6 sector.

Vestamid®HTplus M30Xx is a high melting (300oC) nylon 10T made with ~50% renewable carbon which has reduced moisture uptake, higher hydrolysis resistance and better dimensional stability than the petro-nylons.  It also has a very high reflectance and is finding application in the LED reflector panels of TV’s.

It can also be compounded with ~50% glass fibre to make Trogamid RS6109  a resin for high strength, high stiffness injection mouldings with good paintability and excellent flash behaviour.

Commercialising Bio-Based Succinic Acid

Richard Janssen, New Business Development Manager at DSM-Roquette, a JV likely to be called Reverdia if regulatory approval is gained, described their development of Biosuccinium™.  Reverdia’s mission would be to address the megatrends of reducing dependency on oil, environmentalism, sustainability, and renewability by creating bio-based building blocks for new materials.  It would combine DSM’s strong fermentation, scale up and end-use development experience with Roquette’s starch biorefinery skills and its ability to purify dilute solutions of biomaterials.  A portfolio of 100% bio-based new polymers is expected:

·         Poly-isosorbide succinate  for thermoset resins.

·         Poly-butylene succinate,  based on 1,4 butane diol from succinic acid, for thermoplastics.

·         Polyester polyols for polyurethanes from succinic acid and glycol.

·         Plasticizers based on succinic acid esters for the modification of thermoplastics.

They are also working on making succinic acid from lignocellulosics for the next generation of fuels and chemicals.

Biosuccinium™ is now available in tonne quantities from their demo plant, and having switched from E.coli to yeast fermentation, the colour is now comparable with petro-versions.  Their proprietary low pH process does not make gypsum as a by-product.  Asked about the total volume of succinic acid production, Mr Janssen said it was currently only tens of thousands of tonnes, but millions of tonnes would be needed in future.

GS Pla Development

Dietrich Albrecht of Mitsubishi Chemicals (Europe) gave Toru Tsukahara’s presentation, explaining that GS Pla had nothing to do with polylactic acid and was in fact a polybutylene succinate-adipate.  This was one of the developments emerging from Mitsubishi Chemicals work with biodegradable materials based on either petro- or bio-sources. GS Pla, currently petro-based, would switch to bio-based monomers eventually.   MC’s Kaiteki Institute, established in March 2009 was now developing seven ranges of new materials which would fuel their business from 2030.  Bioplastics was one of the seven.

MC is collaborating with Thailand’s National Innovation Agency on the further development of GS Pla for use in waste disposal bags.  It is also working with Reifenhauser on PLA blends and mineral fillers for injection moulding products, and with Reicofil on GS Pla spunbond for diaper components.   Here the resulting 15gsm nonwoven has excellent softness and strength and is easy to thermal bond.  However the trials so far have only achieved 230 m/min line speed.  It can be blended with PLA here also.

Durabio™ is a new durable (non-biodegradable) transparent biopolymer from MC with properties between polycarbonates and methyl methacrylates, but with transparency almost as good as PMMA.  A 300 t/y demo plant is now starting up and samples will be available in 3 months.  Asked about its chemical resistance Mr Albrecht implied it was not good, but they were working on improvements.


Stanislaw Haftka, Business Development Director (Europe) for Telles – a JV of Metabolix and ADM – reviewed progress at their 50,000 t/y Mirel™ biopolymer plant in Clinton, Iowa.  Dextrose from corn is fermented directly into the polyhydroxy alkanoate biopolymer which is then purified and pelletized.  It is available in 10 grades to cover injection moulding, thermoforming, blown and cast film extrusion and sheet extrusion.  It melts at 160-170oC, has a heat deflection temperature of 120oC and is now certified for use in all disposal routes.  It prints well, has chemical resistance similar to PET and oxygen barrier properties like PP.  In thermoforming it processes like PP and gives a property balance similar to polystyrene.  In injection moulding it is cleared for food contact and gives high strength, high modulus and high temperature and moisture resistance with conversion costs similar to polystyrene.  Heat sealable cast and blown films can be made at 8 to 125 micron thickness with a wide range of biodegradation rates.

On a field-to-finished goods basis it emits 0.6kg CO2 per kg polymer compared with 2-4 kgs for the main petropolymer competition.

PLA Pilot Plant

Rainer Hagen, Product Manager at Uhde Inventa-Fischer (Germany) reviewed their PLA development culminating in their start up this October of a 500 t/y pilot line.  Here lactic acid is produced from sucrose and ammonia by fermentation with thermophilic bacteria.  The biomass is centrifuged off for composting or biogas generation and after acidification with sulphuric acid the solution is purified in ultrafiltration which removes ammonium sulphate fertiliser as a by-product.  The resulting lactic acid solution is then concentrated by evaporation prior to 2-stage polycondensation and cyclising depolymerisation to lactide.  This is purified and polymerised (ring-opening) to PLA.  Molecular weight can be adjusted over a 40,000 to 160,000 g/mol range, and the D-content over a range from below 1 to above 6%.  The latter amorphous PLA has no definite melting point and just softens continuously when heated.  Quick crystallisation gives a high melting point (~170oC) suitable for fibre production, while slow crystallisation gives around 150oC MP for thermoforming, injection moulding and film.  Residual monomer levels are less than 0.2%, dust is below 200ppm and chip humidity is less than 100ppm when packed in air-tight bags.

1 tonne samples of the new PLA are becoming available over the next 3 months and evaluation of these will lead to the first 60,000 t/y commercial PLA plant. 

UDI are also building a 60,000 t/y Ecoflex plant for BASF.

PDLA Nucleated PLA

Sicco de Vos, Principal Specialist in Polymer Technology at Purac (Holland) claimed Purac as the global leader in lactic acid and derivatives with over 20 years experience with PLA.  In 2008 they built a 5000 tpa lactide plant in Spain and the following year developed a polymerisation process with Sulzer Chemtech.  This year their first commercial PLA plant started production of Biofoam expanded PLA for Synbra in Holland, and they announced a collaboration with Arkema to develop functional lactide-based block co-polymers. 

·         Stereoblock PLA is an improved co-polymer having  alternating blocks of D and L lactides which crystallise to give melting points of around 200oC.

·         The stereocomplex PLA is a 50-50 blend of D and L forms which crystallise to give a 230oC melting point.

This  latter technology allows the production of PLA injection mouldings with the heat stability and impact strength of ABS.  A related but presumably lower cost technology involves the nucleation of PLLA with ~5%  of PDLA to improve the heat stability, followed by adding Arkema’s Biostrength 150 at a similar percentage to  boost the impact strength.  This route also allows the performance of ABS to be matched.  The induced crystallisation from the PDLA greatly enhances the heat deformation temperature depending on the precise moulding conditions.  Fastest crystallisation occurs with PLLA of highest purity (>.5% PDLA)

Next year will see the start of their €45 million, 75,000 tpa lactide production in Thailand.

Additives for PLA

Stephane Girois, Technical and Commercial Development Manager at Arkema (used to be AtoFina) criticised PLA for having no performance advantages over petroplastics.  It was too brittle, had a low heat distortion temperature, poor melt strength,  a sensitivity to shear and a sticky melt.  Arkema’s impact modifier technology could solve these problems:

·         The Biostrength range of core-shell impact modifiers had a cross-linked rubber-phase core (butadiene or acrylates and copolymers) inside a hard shell of polymethyl methacrylate (0.08 to 0.5 micron microcapsules)

·         For opaque products, Biostrength 150 at the 10% level could raise the impact strength by a factor of 10. 

·         For transparent products, Biostrength 280 had similar effects with only minor changes in haze.

·         For bottles and film Biostrength 700 improves melt strength and allows PLA to be recycled with minimal pre-drying.

·         Biostrength 900 improves metal release characteristics and also allows recycling.

Mater-Bi in Flexible Packs

Stefano Facco, New Business Development Director, Novamont (Italy) said they now have 80,000 t/y of Mater-Bi installed capacity based on two different proprietary technologies featuring increased use of renewables, reduced environmental footprint, lower dependency on petromaterials and a wider range of commercial grades.  Their first and second generation technologies involve starch complexation  (25% renewable C) and bio-polyester.   Following a collaboration with Coldretti their 3rd generation will include a dedicated cultivation of oil-seeds which should begin to feed a monomer production plant with 25,000 tonnes of biomass in 2012.  These seeds will provide a source of  C9-C13 diacids and C9-C18 monoacids, the first of which will be made next year and allow the renewable C  to rise to 50%.  4th and 5th generation technologies will add additional monomers allowing the production of future products with 70% and 90% renewable C.  New introductions include:

·         Extrusion-coatable Mater-Bi to give properties similar to LDPE on standard LDPE equipment while being compostable or recyclable in the paper stream.

·         Additive-free Mater-Bi cling film with WVTR and OTR similar to PVC

·         Agricultural mulch film

·         Breathable backing for disposable diapers

Asked about possible mix-ups between compostable and non-compostable films, the composting stream is set up to handle residual non-compostable material, but the recycling industry is less well organised for compostables.

End of Life options for Bioplastics

John Williams, Polymers and Materials Manager for NNFCC (UK’s National Centre for Renewable Fuels, Materials and Technologies) observed that having been made lazy by the ready availability of cheap energy and materials from fossil fuels for the last 70 years we now had to change to the virtuous circle of a bio-based economy over the next 20-30 years.  Increased cultivation of bio-mass to provide materials and energy would draw down atmospheric CO2 levels, the carbon being locked away in biomass and longer-life products before recycling into nutrients and carbon feedstock for further cultivation.  The main chemical routes for future fuels and monomers would be from ethanol (now from corn or sugarcane and supported by government subsidies  and mandated targets) or from biomass-based fumaric or succinic acids converted into 1-3 propane diol or 1-4 butane-diol. 

With regard to an immediate problem with food waste, much of which is in the original packaging, Dr Williams thought this was an excellent opportunity for biodegradable packaging. If all perishable food was packed in biodegradable plastic the entire waste stream could be fed unsorted into anaerobic digesters.  At present the massive investment in digesters in the UK was prevented from reaching maximum energy efficiency by the need to separate out the petropackaging.  Biodegradable packs would also add to the energy yield.

Compostability Certification

Bruno de Wilde, Lab. Manager at Organic Waste Systems (Belgium) listed the compostability norms now in place (ASTM, ISO, EN) and the emerging certification schemes and logos.  Issues identified were:

·         Blends or multilayers of certified components – how do they perform?

·         Inks, additives, heavy metals and their toxicity. (Worm test in Australia.)

·         Duration of storage and pretreatment prior to composting.

·         Internal looping within the composter: recycling of rejects for re-composting.

·         12 week testing being challenged by Cedar Grove in the USA.  6-8 weeks preferred.

·         80oC is reached in Goretex-covered composting.  This is pasteurising. (50-60oC is best for compost)

For other environments (soil, freshwater, salt water, landfill and anaerobic digestion) different norms and certificates will be needed.  For anaerobic digestion there are no standards or guidelines.  Issues include:

·         Multiple bacteria, mesophilic or thermophilic.  Fungal activity?

·         Wet or dry fermentation, one or two phases?

·         Organics and/or energy recovery?

·         Need to quantify benefit of biogas production.

·         4 possible standards: Mesophilic and Thermophilic with and without Biogas production.

For soil or marine biodegradation there are disintegration and heavy metal (toxicity) issues

Recycling Biopolymer

Uwe Bonten, Sales Manager at Next Generation Recycling Machines (Germany)  reviewed how their shredders and extruder cope with biopolymer recycling within the production plant.  Biopolymers are more sensitive to heat, moisture and high shear, and tend to be more variable in quality than petropolymers.  So NGR has developed a one-step process with slow shredders, and a cooler, gentler extruder. GPC analysis shows the biopolymers are little changed in the new machine.

Chemical Recycling for PLA

Steve Dejonghe, Project Manager at Galactic (Belgium) described their depolymerisation and purification process that takes about 2000 t/y of clean post-industrial PLA back to lactic acid using only about 10% of the energy needed to make the virgin monomer.  Purification is getting more complex as additives are used to improve PLA processing, but Galactic are now able to handle this and also closed-loop post-consumer waste e.g. conferences where all the catering could use PLA plastics. The industrial grade recycled lactic acid is cheaper than the original chemical.   Higher purity versions (95% and 99% L-) are also available. Additives and other contamination may increase the costs and case-studies are underway to quantify this.

Applications for Biopolymers

Bas Krins, Director, API Institute (Holland) explained that his Institute was an independent research organisation spun-off from Akzo Nobel at the time of the Diolen bankruptcy.  It owns all the facilities and intellectual property of the former Diolen Industrial Fibres R&D centre and therefore has pilot kit for polymerisation, fibre spinning , film casting, film blowing and injection moulding along with the appropriate analytical and testing tools.  They are developing PLA films and fibres for exhibition banners, fabrics and carpets as well as biodegradable geotextiles, agricultural films/nets and artificial turf based on a high tenacity PLA yarn.  Asked what biopolymer was used in the carpet backing, Mr Krins declined to say because patents had yet to be filed.  The high tenacity PLA was based on the stereo-complex form with a melting point of 220-230oC.  This is compostable but it takes longer than standard PLA.  The monomers used were from Purac and biobased.

Biopolymers and Modifiers

Karlheinz Hausmann, Technical Development Leader for Biopolymers and Ionomers at Dupont (Switzerland) opened with the observation that any biopolymer must bring something other than “bio” to the product in order to succeed. 

Biomax® PTT 1100 (Polytrimethylene terephthalate), uses sucrose based 1-3 propane diol to achieve a 37% bio-based claim for possible perfume cap applications.

Biomax® PTT 1002 is similar but designed to be an impact- improving modifier for PET in bottles.

Biomax® Strong is an impact- improving, flexibility-enhancing, noise-reducing modifier for PLA in thermoformed trays and is based on an ethylene acrylate polymer (non-renewable).

Biomax® Thermal 300 is a heat stability enhancer for PLA which works by lowering the crystallisation temperature. It is 50% bio-based.

Asked about compostability, Mr Hausmann said the PTT was not compostable.  The others were additives for PLA at up to 5%.  They were not renewable but did not affect EU standard composting at the 90 days level.


Andy Sweetman of Innovia Films (UK) and currently Chairman of European Bioplastics promoted the use of what used to be called Cellophane as an ultra-transparent bio-based packaging film for pouches, flow wrap and twist wrap either metallised and/or in laminates.  New applications where Natureflex replaced metallised and clear polyester in laminates for coffee bags and kettle-cooked potato chip bags were illustrated, the latter being compostable to US standards.  Natureflex N913 was introduced as Natureflex NK (a coated cellophane with the best barrier performance of any biopolymer) extrusion coated with an unspecified bioplastic.  Asked how metallising affects the compostability of the films, Mr Sweetman said the vacuum coating process added about 0.001% mass to the film, so while it improved barrier properties it had no effect on compost.  All Natureflex products were compostable or anaerobically digestible.


Oliver Schmidt of Proganic, a sister company to Propper (Germany)  has established that consumers will pay a 25% premium for the right environmental credentials.  To convince retailers he has developed the Proganic® logo for products which can be marketed as 100% natural alternatives to plastics.  Unlike the DIN standard for bioplastics, Proganic do not allow any additives to be used and insist on compostability at only 20oC.  They are working with PHA and PLA along with natural waxes and have just achieved a heat resistance of 100oC, and compostability within 6 weeks.

They have won the “Bio-based material innovation award for 2010” from the Nova Institute in Germany, the “Home Style Award 2010” and the Shanghai “Best green Style” award.  Proganic products are now available in 10 countries and sell through many retailers including M&S, REWE, Coop, Müller and Obi.  They expect to have 200-300 products under their logo next year.  Mr Schmidt could not answer technical questions, but defined “Natural” as something that can be regrown.  He admitted oil was natural and that we do need an official definition to assist marketing.

PLA for Pritt

Peter Rushe, a Product Developer with Henkel (Germany) described their experience with Ingeo® PLA in injection moulding of the outer shell of the Pritt ECOmfort correction tape rollers.  After trial and error optimisation of the resin and the filler, a whiter, more heat stable, stronger product made with improved processability was achieved.   The final outer shell was 89% bio-based.  They now look to convert some of the inner parts, and to using PLA in other Pritt products.  Asked about the cost of the new ECOmfort shell, Mr Rushe said it was 10-15% more expensive, but the final product would not retail at a premium.  Asked about the 11% of non-biobased material in the outer shell, these were additives and whitening fillers.

Eco-footprint Calculations

Lars Börger, Head of New Business Development, Biodegradable Polymers, BASF (Germany) explained how the BASF eco-efficiency analysis program can identify the main sustainability indicators and ways of improving them by:

·         Assessing the economic and ecological aspects of the different products and processes which could fulfil a given consumer need.

·         Considering the entire cradle-to-grave life cycle.

·         Optimising consumer benefit by taking both environmental impact and product cost into account.

The method was used to demonstrate the benefits of Ecovio® (BASF’s Ecoflex®/PLA blend) carrier bags over the PE and paper versions in a scenario where the plastic bags were re-used 2.5 times and the paper bags 1.5 times on average before being used as a waste bag.

High Tech Bioplastics

Christoph Lohr , Market Development Manager for FKuR (Germany) thought compounding was the key to success in bioplastics. They use PLA, PHA, PBAT, PBS, starch and cellulose acetate in blends to make a range of Bio-flex® and Biograde® plastics.  These can be dry-blended to match the properties of the petropolymers in agriculture, catering, office supplies, computer peripherals, cosmetic packs, freezer packs, kitchenware and disposable diapers.  For diapers, their Bio-flex® F1130 backsheet film is naturally breathable, moisture proof, stretchy and feels soft and silky without any special texturizing.  Would substituting petropolymers with biobased polymers require a premium?  Yes.

Bioloy Alloys

Daniel Ganz, Business Development Manager at Sukano AG (Switzerland) ran through their range of masterbatches for PLA, and their Sukano® Bioloy alloys, a range of unspecified bio-based polymer blends compounded with additives and fillers.  Improvements in hydrolytic stability, impact strength, ageing/brittleness, antistatic properties, and needlepunching compared with standard PLA were listed.

Biopolymer Markets and Applications

Thomas Stintzing, Product Manager for Ecogehr® biopolymers at  Gehr (Germany) is focussing on thermoformable bioplastics for the display market and provides not only the products but a whole Info-Package to advise on their handling.  They also make brushes, buttons, toys, pens, drumsticks and furniture components out of PLA and PLA/woodfibre blends.

Marketing Biopolymers

Johann Zimmermann, New Business Development Manager at Naku (Germany) – a small young company specialising in the processing of biopolymers – presented a survey which showed 92% of supermarket shoppers want biopolymer products and 80% would pay a 10 to 15 cent premium for them.  Because LCA’s fail for communicating with consumers, a product can be identified as greener only by the labelling, so  Naku has a leaf-logo with “aus naturlichem kunstoffe” written on it.  One slide illustrated the benefits of PLA over PET for carcinogenicity risk based on “mg Arsenic equivalents per 1000 clamshell packs”.  On this basis PET was 15 to 30 times more toxic than PLA.

A final questioner observed that the biopolymer industry had no clear vision.  Everyone wants to move ahead but there is no clear boundary between bio- and petro-polymers.  All comparisons are relative: absolute definitions are now needed.

Calvin Woodings

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