Monday 30 November 2009

European Bioplastics Conference – Berlin Nov. 2009


This was the fourth annual conference on EU Bioplastics organised by the European Bioplastics Association.   This year the EBA expected numbers to be down on last year, anticipating no more than 250 delegates.  380 had turned up, the result being an excellent meeting but for shortages of conference materials and overcrowding in the exhibition area.  90 companies from 33 countries were represented, 22% being from outside Europe.  No hardcopy or CD of the presentations was available at the time of writing.

Keynote Speech- The Biopolymer Value Chain

Dr Alexander Schwarz of McKinsey & Co said biopolymers offered strong environmental advantages and used as an example polyethylene produced from sugar via ethanol in Brazil.  This process emits a net 0.1 tonne of CO2per tonne of PE compared with 12 tonnes for PE made from coal in China, 2.1 tonnes from naphtha in China, 1.2 tonnes from naphtha in the USA and 0.8 tonnes from natural gas in the Middle East.  Routes to PE from fossil fuels can be expected to become more costly due to GHG regulations and taxes, but in the meantime, some consumers appear to be willing to pay more for biopolymers.  A September 2007 McKinsey survey of 7751 consumers around the World showed.....

       ·         21% are now willing to pay more for environmental benefits or claim they already do.
·         13% are willing but don’t yet pay more.
·         53% are concerned but not willing to pay more.
·         13% are unconcerned
·         Brazilians, Canadians, Germans and Indians showed the highest percentages of those now paying more for environmental benefits.
·         Americans, Germans and British showed the highest percentages of the unconcerned, unwilling to pay, or doubting the existence of global warming.
·         Of those “concerned but unwilling to pay”, worries about compromising on quality and convenience were as important as the price premium.
·         Lack of understanding of the complexities of global warming was identified as a key barrier.
 Quality, cost and versatility problems associated with the first generation of biopolymers affected public perception and these are now being addressed:
·         Costs for some biopolymers are now competitive with classical polymers as production scales move above 50,000 tpa
·         Versatility is improved through copolymerisations and chemical conversions.
·         By 2020, biopolymers will be able to substitute any polymer, some moving below the price of the petro-polymers.

Bio-routes to the monomers from which a wide variety of petro-polymers are made are now in late-stage R&D or early commercialisation.  They include ethylene (for HDPE, LLDPE and PVC), 1-3 propanediol for polytrimethylene terephthalate, caprolactam and adipic acid for nylons, glycols for polyesters, 3-hydroxypropionaldehyde for acrylic acid and succinic acid for a range of polyesters and polyamides.

McKinsey’s analysis of the development of commodity polymers showed that from the first commercial plant to annual sales of 300million lb/year took 12-15 years, the exceptions being polyethylene and polypropylene which took 6 years.  Some of the discoveries from this study appeared to overturn the conventional wisdom with regard to the commercialisation of new materials:
·         All successful new polymers entered simple new applications first and these grew into larger ones. They did not succeed in the “obvious” large market chosen for launch.
·         Focussed developments wasted money and slowed adoption:  focussing delayed the discovery of the major new applications.
·          “Change the application target, not the new material to arrive at a match”. 
·         Launching smaller applications through smaller companies who are more likely to accept risks leads to faster commercialisation.
·         70% of successful new materials were launched at a premium price.  Providing limited exclusivity to get the launch customer on board helped.
·         Value chains do not adapt to suit the new material.  Value chain barriers add significant delays.  Forward integration may be needed to eliminate them.

Polylactic acid appears to be developing at about the same rate as PVC, i.e. much faster than polystyrene, but much slower than polypropylene. 

Biopolymers and the EU

Peter Schintlmeister of Austria’s Federal Ministry of the Economy reviewed the relevant EU policies.  They were encouraging the development of agricultural feedstocks and various waste streams (including forestry waste) to make raw materials for solvents, surfactants, lubricants, enzymes, chemical intermediates and of course biopolymers.  Wood and pulp feedstocks were excluded unless new and innovative products were involved.  This Bio-Based Products has now issued a report entitled “Taking Bio-based products from promise to market”. 

It makes 13 key recommendations including:
·         Biological carbon content of a product can be deducted in calculating carbon footprint of a product.
·         If biopolymers are made from waste biomass they can be advertised as both “Recycled and Biobased”.
       ·         Member states will be allowed to reduce taxes on sustainable bio-based products.
·         Bioplastics can enter any recycling and recovery scheme, including composting with other biowaste if certified compostable according to EN 13432.
·         Targets for increasing the percentage of biobased materials in industrial products should be considered.
·         The Construction Products Directive should promote bioplastics.  “New standards are needed to help demonstrate that biopolymers comply with legislation.”
·         Legislation must allow biopolymers for industrial use to be available in sufficient quantity and quality at a competitive price.
·         Increasing investment in infrastructure and logistics to allow optimal use of all available biomass – including wastes.
·         While tools to assess sustainability need further development, they must be designed to stimulate rather than limit the development and commercialisation of biopolymers.
·         Sustainability must be based on economic and social aspects as well as environmental.
·         Stimulate the development of technology via public/private partnerships.

UK Bioplastics

Dr John Williams, Head of Polymers and Materials at the National Centre for Renewable Fuels, Chemicals and Materials (UK) observed that the UK lags behind the rest of Europe by still landfilling 58% of its waste and recycling only 21% of its plastics.  There is also a huge food waste problem despite an enthusiastic adoption of anaerobic digestion to deal with it.  47% of food produced in the UK is thrown away, much of it along with the original packaging.  The problem is caused by the difficulties of removing this non-degradable packaging thoroughly enough.  More biodegradable plastics for food packs would be highly desirable provided they met the current criteria:
·         Their feedstock should be sustainably produced and free of genetically modified organisms.  Ideally it should be a waste product and not a food.
·         Production should be energy efficient, waste-free and use “green chemistry”
·         The plastic should be anaerobically digestible, home-compostable and free of any chemicals which might harm compost quality.

Digester tests with currently available biodegradable polymers are giving encouraging results.

Food packaging aside, what we currently waste should become a raw material or an energy source.  Zero landfill is the target, and anything which “must” be landfilled should be phased out.  Disposable diapers were listed in the “will never be recycled” category and presented as an opportunity – presumably for further development.   

Biopolymers other than those for food-packs should be recyclable along with the other plastics and hence their “bio” prefix will be based on the use of biomass raw materials.  Steps must be taken to ensure that waste management technology does not exclude biopolymers.  Partially renewable polymers (e.g PET made using bio-ethyleneglycol and standard terephthalic acid) were a good step forward and their benefits should be communicated. 

Asked about the UK resistance to GMO’s, Dr Williams said no-one wants to talk about GMO’s.  Retailers ban them because of consumer perceptions, and the negative consumer perception is more like a religious belief than fact-based.

Bioplastics and LCA’s

Harald Käb, Secretary General of the EU Bioplastics Association updated the production capacity statistics and provided some cautionary observations on LCA interpretation.  The statistics divided products into biodegradable and non-biodegradable.  To date, biodegradables were pre-eminent with over 90% of the 430,000 tonne production in 2009, up from 190,000 tonnes (practically all biodegradable) in 2005.  In 2010 capacity additions (to ~560,000 tonne)  would be almost entirely in non-biodegradables, and by 2013 biodegradables and non-biodegradables would share the ~1.4 million tonne biopolymer capacity about equally. 

Life Cycle Analysis is the key to understanding sustainability issues, but now carries too much weight compared with social and economic considerations.  Furthermore LCA studies are only comparable within one “system”, and attempts to use them to discover which alternative systems are to be preferred is fraught with danger.  For instance, energy generation methods are key so LCA’s of products made in France would be better than those for any region with lower percentages of nuclear electricity.  The method also discriminates against new processes which by definition operate on smaller scales with less efficiency than the established commodities.  LCA is a work in progress, needing further research and standardisation. 

A recent LCA study (JRC 09/2009) of the environmental impacts of municipal waste disposal, shows that landfill is preferable to aerobic composting and comparable with incineration provided the landfill meets current EU directives. The same study showed anaerobic composting (with energy recovery) to be best.  In all cases climate change impact dominated. 
Media misinformation through misunderstanding LCA abounds.  Harmful and confusing headlines suggesting biodegradables (PLA mentioned) are worse for the environment than non-degradables were based on the narrow consideration of their methane-generating potential in unregulated landfill without pretreatment – a method which is no longer permitted and which would not degrade PLA.  A headline claiming polyethylene bags to be preferable to bioplastics bags according to LCA was based on the narrow case of bags used to collect waste for incineration, where the bags were not comparable and PE was given a high credit for being recycled. 

Legislation requiring LCA data is now proliferating and this will be used to filter out or tax products deemed less sustainable.  The major retailers are looking to use it for competitive advantage, so, the European Bioplastics Association has completed its first position paper on LCA methodology, and recommends it only as a tool for optimisation of environmental performance within a process. 

Sustainability: A user perspective

Erika Mink, Director of Environment, EU and Government Affairs for Tetrapak (Belgium) provided a brief statement of their strategy to improve the sustainability of their packaging:

·         Responsible sourcing of all pulp and paper products.  They must be certified.
       ·         Reducing 2010 CO2emissions by 10% (c.f. 2005)
       ·         Increasing the percentage of recyclable packaging produced.

The typical Tetrapak carton is made from a 6 layer laminate based on a paperboard foundation which provides strength and stability.  There are 3 layers of polyethylene and one of aluminium inside the paper and one layer of polyethylene on the outside, the whole being recyclable for pulp recovery only.  75% of the carton by weight is pulp, but the global warming potential is 48% due to the aluminium, and 32% due to the polyethylene.  While there is no substitute for the aluminium, the PE can be replaced by bioplastics.  Tetrapak is therefore looking for replacements for fossil-based polyethylene using the following criteria:

·         Can be adapted to suit their process.
       ·         Cost.
·         Sustainable sourcing and supply (non-food crop, waste or certified wood-based)
·         Capable of reducing the overall environmental impact of a pack.
·         Compatible with current and emerging end-of-life options, especially recycling.
Would Tetrapak consider biopolymers made from food crops as an interim measure to gain experience and save time until waste or wood based biopolymers emerged?  Yes.  A million tonnes of potato starch is used in the EU to size paper.  Is this still acceptable to Tetrapak?  Yes if it is properly certified.

Aldi Bio-Bags

Jens Boggel of Germany’s Victor Group, a supplier of tissue and film products to the EU private label market described their work with ALDI on compostable shopping bags.  In 2007 Aldi shoppers were not prepared to pay a premium for biodegradable bags, but last year Aldi decided to run a 5 million bag test market to compare tougher biodegradable bags at 39c each with standard polyethylene bags at 10c each.  They discovered a worthwhile percentage of their shoppers liked the new stronger bags, despite the price. 

From this test, the potential of these new bags has been estimated to be 10% of the traditional German market and this is based on selling to LOHAS consumers.  The additional strength was thought to be key to allow consumers to rationalise the expense.  The bags were made of BASF’s Ecovia® film, an estimated 3,224 tonnes being needed to supply Germany. 

For the future, a move down to 29c for the biobag is expected to double the market.

Arkema Renewable Polymers

Christophe Lacroix of Arkema (France) described how they had reduced their footprint by more than halving greenhouse gas emission since 2007.  Their renewable chemistry strategy was to focus on castor oil and thereby avoid deforestation and competition with food.  In 2010, 10% of their sales would be based on renewable resources, up from 4% in 2005 and they were now helping customers to reuse or recycle their polymers. 

·         Since 1947 they had been making polyamide 11 engineering polymers (Rilsan® B) from castor oil via the amino 11 monomer.
·         “PBax® Rnew” is a renewably resourced polyether block amide elastomeric based on polyamide 11 hard-block and at fossil-sourced PTMG soft-block.  Varying the ratio of the blocks gives 20-95% renewable carbon content.
·         “PBax® RNew 100”achieves 100% renewable carbon by using renewably sourced monomer for the soft block.
·         Rilsan® HT is the first flexible polyphthalamide (PPA) to use 70% renewable carbon.  It is a high melting point metal-replacement polymer designed for use in cars.
·         “Rilsan® Clear Rnew G830” is the first clear polymer made from renewables (53%)
·         “Platamid® is a high performance copolyamide hot melt adhesive using between 25% and 100% renewable carbon depending on grade.
·         RCycle™ provides a scrap collection and recycling service.
Asked if their LCA data is on a cradle-cradle basis, Mr Lacroix said they provided cradle-gate data only.  The waste collection service was only viable for larger users.

Textile applications

Thomas Werner of Dupont (Germany) outlined the Dupont sustainability strategy.  They had made a concrete business commitment to achieve the following by 2015:
·         Grow annual revenue by $2billion with new products which reduce GHG’s.
·         Double annual revenue ($4bn to $8bn) from renewably resourced materials.
·         Introduce 1000 new safety products or services.
Along the way they would also cut their GHG emissions by a further 15%, reduce water consumption by 30%, use only fuel-efficient transportation technology and/or non-fossil alternatives and obtain independent verification of environmental management at all their sites.
Their current biopolymers are:
·         Zytel®RS polyamides (PA 610 and 1010) from castor oil via sebacic acid.  The 1010 is 98% renewable carbon and the 610 is 56%
·         Sorona® EP polytrimethylene terephthalates from corn sugar via propane diol
·         Hytrel® RS thermoplastic elastomers from “non-food via biomonomer”, the bio referring to the soft block monomer only.

Bioplastics in Transportation

Atussa Sarvestani of the BeOne Consultancy (Germany) said Ford would save 5 million lbs of CO2emissions annually by switching to soy-based foam seat cushions in the Lincoln and Mercury ranges in 2009.  Soy flour is used as an extender in natural rubber, as a filler in plastics and as a thickener in paints.  They are also considering plastics using Indian grass, hemp, coir and wheat straw, the motivation being a target 30% reduction in weight.  Moisture resistance, heat resistance and the incorporation of a compostability trigger are the hard-to-meet challenges.
Toyota plans to replace 20% of fossil-based auto-plastics with bioplastics by 2015.  They are investing in seaweed-based composites for an ultra-light, ultra-efficient plug-in hybrid made using a locally sourced renewable.
Mazda Research is working with cellulose from green garden waste and wood processing to make a bioplastics and establish their market feasibility by 2013.  The University of Hiroshima is a partner.  Their target is CO2neutrality especially in production, and reduced dependency on fossil fuel.

Ingeo Biopolymer

Mark Vergauwen of Natureworks put the global market addressable by biopolymers at 26 million tonnes in 2009 compared with a global production of 250,000 tonnes, which seemed to be made up of 140,000 tonnes of PLA from Natureworks, 60,000 tonnes of modified starch from Novamont and 50,000 tonnes of polyhydroxyalkanoates “under construction” by Telles.  He identified the strategic, economic and environmental factors which would drive expansion:
·         The Federal Government of the USA and the EU Commission would provide grants, tax credits and loan guarantees to support R&D, pilot plants and industrial plants targeting increased production of renewable raw materials.
·         Local governments in both regions would take taxes and provide incentives to reduce landfill, increase recycling and may even ban the use of petro-plastics.
·         The reducing relative expense of biopolymers would be the key economic driver.  Ingeo™ now costs between 85c and 108 c/lb depending on type.  PET had averaged 81 c/lb between 2005 and now, the comparable figures for PP, PS and PVC being 73c/lb, 94c/lb, and 60 c/lb respectively.
·         Greenhouse gas emissions where Ingeo™ was about 60% less than polyester and polystyrene, and biodegradablility would be the key environmental drivers
To speed up the adoption of biopolymers in general, cost reductions through scale-up are needed, and consumers need to be educated about the benefits.

Modified PLA

Toshiyuki Asakura of Toray (Japan) described their work with biopolymers: 
       ·         Fitty® is made from 1,3 propane diol (biomass-derived) and terephthalic acid.
·         Foresse® is a thermoplastic cellulose made from “modified cellulose”
·         Amilan® is a nylon 610 from biomass-derived sebacic acid and hexamethylene diamine.
·         Biomass derived aliphatic acids are used to make a flexible copolyester.
·         Ecodear® is a modification of PLA targeting fibres, films and resins.
 The PLA is improved by end-capping and chain-extension to improve its hydrolytic stability, compounding with a non-halogen flame retardant to make it less flammable and compounding with an impact modifier to make it tougher.  It can then be “nanoalloyed” with polypropylene for interior automotive components, with polycarbonates for transparent applications, and with polycarbonate and ABS for housing applications.  In each case it is the PLA which is converted in the form of nanoparticles.
Nanoalloys use PLA particles below 100nm in size to achieve very high interfacial areas.  Compatibilizer design and compounding technologies are the key to success.
 PLA foams with a microcellular structure have also been made using supercritical CO2blowing agent.
Asked about the source of PLA, Mr Asakura said it was from Natureworks.

Gypsum-Free PLA Process

Udo Mühlbauer of Uhde Inventa Fischer described a PLA process which first produces lactic acid from sugar by fermentation with a robust thermophilic bacteria in the presence of ammonia to yield over 90% lactic acid.  The broth from the fermenter is pre-filtered and the rejected biomass is converted to biogas.  Ultrafiltration follows acidification with sulphuric acid and ammonium sulphate for fertiliser production is removed.  Lactic acid losses are below 6% and the final product meets the PLA process specification.  55-65% of the process costs are raw materials, and 14-18% are energy. 
 PLA production uses their standard polyester technology for polymerisation to the low-molecular weight PLA prepolymer and then uses new technology for cyclising depolymerisation to lactide. Their standard polyamide technology carries out ring-opening polymerisation to the high molecular weight PLA.  They now operate a 50kg/day mini-plant and expect to have a 1.5 tonne/day pilot plant by Q3 2010.

Purac  PLA

Ruud Reichert of Purac, who has a big lactic acid plant in Thailand, emphasised the importance of partnerships:
·         With Synbra, a leading producer of polystyrene foam, to make Bio-foam®, an expanded PLA.
·         With Sulzer to build the PLA polymerisation plant.
·         With Toyobo to develop coatings and adhesives from PLA.
·         With Akzo Nobel for a special additive supplied exclusively to Purac for PLA polymerisation.
·         With about a dozen other leaders - in future – to exploit the other major markets.
They plan to produce both the d- and the l- forms of lactide in pure form and make both the stereo-block and the stereo-complex forms of PLA.  1st generation PLA is mainly PLLA with about 10% of PDLA has a melting point of about 160oC.  Pure PLLA and PDLA have melting points around 180oC, while the 2nd Generation PLA’s, the stereo-block and the stereo-complex polymers melt at 200oC and 230oC respectively.  

Carbon footprint calculations based on the Thailand plant show the lactide now produced emits  a net 348 kgs CO2/ tonne, and a further 160kg CO2/tonne is expected from the polymerisation step.  (The sugar cane feedstock is carbon-negative with -1800kgs CO2/tonne lactide.) 
For the future, Mr Reichert expects the 3rd generation PLA made with gypsum free technology (see later) to be significantly cheaper, with an even lower C-footprint.  The 4th Generation will be made from cellulose for the ultimate in sustainability with low cost. 
Purac plan to start producing bio-based succinic acid from Q2 2010 in a joint development with BASF.

Futerro PLA

Frederic van Gansberghe of Futerro described the new PLA technology arising from this JV between Total Petrochemicals and Galactic.  The process uses new catalysts to give shorter reaction times and much purer lactides and PLA than Natureworks.  The purer lactides allow the higher melting PLA’s (scPLA) to be produced.  A demonstration plant started a week ago, and will be supplying the lactides, the oligomers and polymers.  LooPLA® end-of-life management is a service offered by Galactic for hydrolysis of used PLA back to lactides for repolymerisation.  Asked about the stereochemistry of the recycled lactides, Mr van Gansberghe indicated that the stereochemistry is unaltered by the depolymerisation.

PLA Blown and Cast Films

Dr Kurt Stark of Huhtamaki introduced their new flexible PLA cast film which eliminated the splintering which had occurred in cutting after thermoforming and the attendant risk of shards of PLA in food products.  It had also reduced the dangers of sharp edges, and the problems of sticking and migration. Compounding and softening technologies now allow them to adjust the film elongation in the 20-200% range.  Biodegradable tampon wrap, and compostable diaper bags for Moltex was among the applications mentioned. 
Asked if the compounding involved blending with petro-based products, Dr Stark said it did.

Crystallised PLA

David Bargery of Kreyenborg, a maker of pelletising, drying and filtration equipment for PET processing, noted that PLA pellets become sticky at about 60oC and this problem has led them to develop a combined underwater pelletising and crystallising process.  The near molten pellets are transported quickly in hot process water to the dryer and crystallize from the core to the skin in the remaining heat.  The Crystalcut™ pellets are free-flowing at 60oC.

Bio-based Succinic Acid

Patrick Piot of Bioamber updated progress in producing bio-based succinic acid.  Bioamber is a 50/50 JV between DNP – a US green technology company, and ARD - the French agro-business R&D centre.   The Bioamber route uses 80 m3 tanks to ferment biomass with E. Coli bacteria, the resulting broth being purified to yield succinic acid, its salts and its esters.  The purity matches that of HPLC grade petro-based succinic acid.  The process is carbon-negative and uses a very robust strain of bacteria developed by the US DOE.  Their first plant has an initial capacity of 2000 tpa, cost €21m to build, and is said to be cost-competitive with petro-based succinics.   
Bio-based SA has been tested successfully by 50 companies to make PBS, PU, plasticisers, 1,4 butane diol, and nylons 4,6 and 4,10.  They are now planning a 30,000 to 50,000 tpa plant.  Asked if the markets were a collection of niches, Mr Piot said not:  bio-SA is competitive for polymer production and Bioamber is now looking for partners to develop bioplastics.

Bio-PC and Bio-PBS

Mori Tomoyuki, an Associate Director and General Manager of Petrochemicals R&D for Mitsubishi Chemicals (Japan) outlined their 7-year growth strategy to deliver sustainability via a bio-refinery producing energy and materials. 
Forest products would be used to make Syngas (CO and H2) from which ethylene, propylene and their polymers would be made.  Lignin and xylose would be the key chemical intermediates.
Agricultural products (maize, wheat, sugar cane and cassava) would yield the C5 and C6 sugars for ethanol, lactic acid, 1,3 propane diol, succinic acid and isosorbide from which polymers and compounds would be made.  For example:
·         GS Pla is a biodegradable aliphatic polyester made using succinic acid and 1,4-butanediol as main raw materials.  It is suitable for a wide range of injection moulding, film extrusion and paper coating applications, and has better biodegradability, printability, seal strength, heat resistance, moldability, softness and flexibility than PLA but is compatible with it.  Agricultural mulch films and nonwovens were the applications illustrated.  GS Pla is being developed under a memorandum of understanding with PTT (Thailand) who make biofuels and biopolymers.  This should convert to a full JV by June 2010 when the feasibility study is completed.
·         Bio-EP is a range of alicyclic polycarbonate copolymers to compete with the fossil-based aromatic polycarbonates and it is being developed in partnership with Roquette who provide the isosorbide monomer.  Bio-EP outperforms polymethyl methacrylate (Perspex) as a transparent polymer, while having the impact strength of oil-based polycarbonates.  It outperforms PLA in durable applications giving better thermal stability, moldability, surface hardness and impact strength.  A 300 tpy demo plant is under construction and will be sampling the polymer in July 2010.  A commercial plant will start in 2012.  Flat-panel TV screens were mentioned as an application.

Coca Cola’s Plantbottle™

Cees van Dongen of Coca Cola Services introduced their new plant-based polyester Coke bottles.  In 2008, 57% of Coke was sold in non-refillable PET bottles, and a further 7% in refillable PET.  Aluminium cans and refillable glass accounted for the next 13 and 12% respectively. LCA showed that single use PET was similar in CO2emissions per litre of beverage to refillable glass whereas one-way glass, aluminium and steel cans were 3-4 times higher. Further reductions in carbon emissions would arise from reducing the use of glass and metal and further reducing the fossil carbon content of the PET.  This would be done by making standard PET using bio-based monoethylene glycol made via  bioethanol from Brazilian sugar cane.  Polymerised with fossil-based TPA, this gives a 30% bio-based bottle, and this is being launched as Plantbottle™.
 Next will be bio-waste to ethanol for MEG production to avoid the food-crop issue, and this will be followed by using lignocellulosics as the source for both MEG and terephthalic acid to get the 100% biobased, carbon-negative Coke bottle. 
 Asked about the economics of Plantbottle™, Mr van Dongen said premiums up to 50% were acceptable because their consumers showed such a strong preference for the new bottle.

The New Ecoflex®

Stefan Koch and Andreas Künkel of BASF (Germany) introduced Ecovio®FS, a  new bio-based compostable material for film manufacture and paper coating.  It has a renewable carbon content of 75% and is made by blending the old Ecoflex® FS (which uses a bio-based monomer) with PLA.  It gives good adhesion to paper and board which can be coated with <25 gsm of Ecovio®.  Ecovio®FS paper is now approved for contact with hot and cold foods in the EU.  Ecovio®FS Shrink Film has a renewable carbon content of 66%, shows a balanced shrinkage/holding force behaviour and in the 25 gsm form improves on the mechanical performance of 50 micron PE film for multi-packs.
 Testing of EN 13432 certified Ecovio®FS bags in industrial composting has shown that it breaks down faster than paper, oxodegradable PE or starch/PE blends.  In fact it disappears totally in 3 weeks so BASF is now seeking approval for the bags to be disposed of in the Green Bin bio-waste route in the EU, and conducting further composting trials under different conditions around the world.
 The 60,000 tonne/annum Ecoflex plant now under construction will be operational in Q4 2010.

Synbra BioFoam®

Jan Noordegraaf of Synbra reviewed their development of BioFoam from Purac’s PLA.  Synbra will become the first EU PLA producer when their 5000 tpa plant based on Purac/Sulzer technology starts up in Q2 2010.
·         Project started in April 2006 with R&D in Wageningen University using expanded polystyrene pre-expansion and moulding technology on PLA.
·         GMO-free PLA was used to make BioBead.
·         Best foams were obtained with CO2 blowing.
·         A special coating was developed for the pre-foamed beads to improve adhesion in moulding.
·         Patents for coating and processing were obtained in 2007 and 2008.
·         Stereocomplex (scPLA) is being developed through Synbra Technology.
·         They will launch BioFoam with customers in Q1 2010
·         They are seeking Cradle-Cradle certification from EPEA and compostablity according to EN 13432.  ( 5 cm-cube blocks of various densities have been shown to disappear in 4 weeks of industrial composting)
·         They see the scPLA route to high-temperature foams as a new business opportunity in itself.
The first commercial BioFoam® will be made in their Etten-Leur plant and from the slides it appears to be targeting the horticultural PS foam market.  Synbra have 26 EU plants and the technology will be rolled out to other plants from 2011.

Braskem Green PE

Rui Chammas of Braskem pointed out that the energy required to make biopolymers (the fuel input) was little better than fossil fuel (1.0) when corn (1.4) or sugar-beet (2.0) was used as a feedstock, the real benefits coming from sugar-cane use (9.3).  Brazil had unparalleled conditions for cultivating sugar cane and currently had 7.8 million hectares or 1% of arable land devoted to growing it.  Under half of this was used for bio-ethanol production.  Cane is a very efficient carbon-capture crop which can be harvested annually for 7 years before the land has to be rested for a year and replanted.  80 million tonnes/year sucrose were produced in Brazil in 2008-9 and Braskem are beginning to use some of this as a source of ethanol for polyethylene production.  This bio-PE is identical in all respects to petro-PE, and can be converted into the full range of PE plastics on petro-PE conversion kit.

Braskem has invested US$240-270 million in a 200,000 bio-PE plant which will start up next year.  This will sell at a premium based on sustainability claims and will use bought-in bio-ethanol.  The next plant would be a 1 million tpa integrated (i.e cane to polyethylene) plant.  Asked where sugar cane could be grown, Mr Chammas said anywhere with a warm dry climate, i.e anywhere in the tropics unsuitable for a rainforest.

Cellophane Revisited

Andy Sweetman, MD of Innovia Films (UK) said that any biodegradable polymer was inherently sensitive to water and this property was often undesirable in films for food packs.  Innovia’s Naturflex™ films overcame this by coating the cellulose on one side with a polymer barrier, and if necessary metallising the other side.  Coatings could be chosen to give water and oxygen impermeability, heat sealability, thermal stability and printability while maintaining >90% renewable carbon and compostability.  LCA’s are used to guide development of new products, but Mr Sweetman cautioned that LCA’s ignore performance issues and penalise new products made on a sub-optimal scale.  He added that while 60% of consumers are prepared to “go-green”despite the recession, only 13% trust the green-claims now made in advertising.
 Innovia has reduced cellophane’s C-footprint by 55% since 1994 and they hope to reach a >70% reduction by 2012 as new investments come on line.  Natureflex™ will then have a lower C-footprint than current polyester or biax-oriented polypropylene.

Bio-shopper development

Stefano Facco of Novamont listed achievements with their biorefinery and Mater-Bi:

        ·         Installed capacity is now 80,000 tonnes/year
·         1st Generation Mater-Bi starch complexation technology provided a product with 25% renewable content from food-based crops (60,000 tonnes/year)
·         2nd Generation provides 40-100% renewable from non-food sources, and also allows polyester production from new intermediates using new technology.
·         3rd Generation (new plant starting in 2011) will average 50% low-impact non-food renewables.  Polyester and 4 other chemicals will be produced.
·         4th and 5th Generations will increase the renewable sourcing to 70%, then 90% by using agricultural wastes.
Their 2nd Generation Mater Bi compostable shopping bag uses 59% renewable and is entering an EU market of around 700,000 tonnes/year with a “use twice and then for Green Bin waste” promotion.  The polymer can also be extrusion coated and laminated to make various flexible and rigid packs and cups.   

Gianmario Peretti of UniCoop described their experience with Mater Bi shopping bags:
·         Overall positive reception due to their environmental credentials.  (55% thought the new bags better, and 22% thought they were worse.)
·         Some concern about their strength.
·         Some users disliked the distinctive smell.
·         Most users consider €0.05/bag or twice the price of petro-PE acceptable
·         Sales of one-way bags were declining in favour of the reusables.

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