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.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Breakthrough Innovation

Dr Bryan Haynes, Director of Global Enterprise Research and Engineering, Global Nonwovens, Kimberly-Clark (USA) made the case for increasing the rate of innovation in general and in nonwovens in particular. Times were a changing, and it was not, to paraphrase Charles Darwin, the strongest that survive, it was those most responsive to change: 
  • By 2022 China will be spending more on R&D than the USA. 
  • R&D has to become more efficient: more profitable innovations without budget increases. 
  • Breakthrough innovation is the key, and Open Innovation is the way forward. 
  • Academia can contribute more and is searching for future R&D role. 
  • Nonwovens technical institutes can bridge the gap between academic and industrial research. 
K-C have led product differentiation with unique features such as loop fasteners, stretch ears and breathable backsheets for diapers while reducing costs by pioneering the use of new materials such as spunbond and SMS nonwovens. New fabrics will require new raw materials, new processes and new after-treatments, but the returns make such investments worthwhile. Considering Reicofil with 300 beam installations for diapers in the last 10 years there is clearly a case for more investment in process technology.

All companies will benefit from global population growth and the ageing of the population, but to be really successful you have to expand into new “adjacent” territories and remain open to “transformational” innovation - inventing for markets that don’t yet exist. For K-C their development of spunbond housewrap was a good example of moving into adjacent territory.

What would be transformational in the nonwoven industry? With raw materials being the major source of costs and benefits, Dr Haynes thought improving the sustainability (reduce, reuse, recycle) of those materials would be the key. Basis weights of nonwovens and diaper weights could be further reduced by moving from melt-blowns to nanofibre nonwovens, and ultra-absorbents for example. However the problem of diaper waste, with 1.4 billion diapers a day being used globally, was not going to go away and the recycling of disposables or the use of biodegradable materials would be needed. Once again there appeared to be a need for “new to the world” process development and rapid progress from prototypes to commercial reality. With only 10% of R&D projects going commercial there was a need for many new programs and as a consequence many more failures. Failing faster, more cheaply and more often was the key!

Our industry must now think big, focus on open innovation and transformational technology, and minimise the costs of development by partnerships, including those with global academia and technical institutes. Large markets for nonwovens could emerge from the demand for cleaner water, air and energy.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Infra-Red Reflective Viscose

Kelheim Fibres, the world’s leading manufacturer of viscose speciality fibres, is extending its range of speciality products by a newly developed viscose fibre that reflects infrared (IR) radiation.

The human body - like any other matter with comparable temperature - releases a large part of its energy via thermal radiation. This radiation is mainly composed of infrared light. It leads to a loss of energy and therefore to a cooling of the human body. The newly developed viscose fibre with incorporated IR-reflecting particles can significantly reduce this process: Thermal radiation emanating from a body is reflected by the particles incorporated in the viscose fibre and sent back to the body, so reducing the cooling of the person.

In addition to this thermal retention function, the wearer of such a textile also benefits from the typical properties of a viscose fibre such as wearer comfort, softness and skin friendliness. This is achieved by the intrinsic quality of the treatment: in contrast to a subsequent finish with additives based on titanium oxide, the mineral IR-reflecting particles are incorporated into the fibre’s core, preserving the typical fibre properties. The effect is permanent as the additive cannot be washed out. 

First test results of the new fibres that have already been successfully manufactured on a pilot scale, show significant temperature effects in comparison to a standard viscose fibre. This opens up a multitude of possible fields of applications: Used in functional underwear, the thermal effect can increase the well-being of the wearer even at low temperatures. In functional sportswear, the new fibre can lead to improved performance and a faster regeneration of the athlete, thanks to improved blood circulation. Along with textiles, different nonwoven applications could benefit from the IR-reflecting fibre, as for example warming shoe inserts.

"Comfortable feel-good clothes and functional special clothing are just two obvious applications for our new IR fibre”, so Dr. Nina Köhne from Kelheim Fibres’ R&D team. And her colleague, Dr. Daniela Bauer, adds: “We would be happy to adapt the fibre exactly to the demands of other applications depending on our customer’s specific needs. In the past, individual development partnerships often have proven very fruitful and we are glad when our customers reach out to us with their new ideas.”

For the next step, the Bavarian fibre specialists are planning physical and physiological textile tests.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Automotive Biopolymers

José Rodilla, Senior Product Development Engineer with Faurecia - the world’s 6th largest supplier to the auto industry with a turnover of €16 billion - described their development of “NAFI Lean”, a composite of 80%PP and 20% hemp intended to replace their P/E copolymer in cockpits, door panels, instrument panels etc.  It’s lower density and reduced thickness compared with P/E copolymer or GRP are the key benefits with reduced fuel consumption being the USP for the auto industry.

Short-cut hemp is compounded with PP to make chips for injection mouldings.  Their use provides:
  ·         25% weight savings.
  ·         20% LCA Savings (CO2).
  ·         Processability on existing machinery with a 6% reduction in cycle time.
  ·         A step on the road to 100% bio-composites.

It is more expensive than P/E copolymer but currently perceived as the best compromise between quality and weight.  It is now used in the Peugeot 308.  3000 tonnes are produced in the EU and a further 10000 tpa planned for  Asia.
Faurecia is also developing its own 100% bio-based polymer “Biomat”,  for non-visible auto parts.  Biomat is 100% poly-butylsuccinate made from tapioca starch using monomer technology from BioAmber and polycondensation technology from Mitsubishi Chemicals.

Friday 24 October 2014

Biodegradable Gas Barrier Films

Domenico de Angelis of Nippon Gohsei (Japan) believes their Nichigo G-Polymer™ (PVOH) makes a better gas barrier film than EVOH and in dry atmospheres it can be 50x better.  So for dry foods in controlled storage at humidities below 60% RH PVOH will outperform EVOH to an extent that downgaging  and cost saving is possible.  

PVOH gives films with glass-like transparency which biodegrade like cellulose and are therefore fully compostable.  The packaging film used PVOH as the middle layer of a sandwich with PLA as the outer layers.  There were problems with adhesion and these had been solved using a special tie resin.  The 3-layer film could also be ground and recycled as PLA; the PVOH being water soluble could be washed away. A typical construction would be 20 microns of G-Polymer inside  30micron layers of PLA each bonded to the G-Polymer with 10microns of adhesive to give an oxygen transmission rate of 0.02 ccs/square metre/day at 23C and 50%RH.

Nippon Gohsei make 70,000 tonnes/year of PVOH in Japan.  Nichigo G-Polymer™ is the world’s first amorphous PVOH and combines the strengths of regular PVOH and EVOH.

Friday 26 September 2014

Certification of Biopolymers

More from AIMPLAS Valencia...
Miriam Lübbecke of DIN Certco (Germany) specialises in biopolymer certification using a scheme which is totally transparent with all details publically available on their website.  When a manufacturer applies for a certificate, DIN Certco assesses the relevant literature and decides how to test the product.  It uses appropriate independent test laboratories chosen from its list of 130 accredited and contracted testing partners, issues a report on the results,  and if appropriate, the certificate of conformance and permission to use the logo.  “Biobased” certificates cover three levels, 20-50%, 50-85% and >85% biobased according to ASTM D 6866 methods which requires a total organic carbon of >50% and a C14 content above 20%.  Testing is required every second year.

“Compostable” certificates can include 4 logos, “the seedling” for industrial compostability, and 3 “DIN-Gepruft” logos covering industrial, home composting and additive content. ASTM D6400 is among the approved tests, but only the Australian standard AS 5810 is used for home composting certification.  The tests include ultimate biodegradability, disintegration, plant toxicity, EN 13432 chemical analysis and, for home composting the ASTM E 1676 earthworm toxicity test.

“Recycled Content” is determined by DIN EN ISO 14021 and audits of the manufacturing site to determine traceability under DIN EN 15343.  A new “All-in-one” DIN Certco logo covering all 4 properties is now available.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Biocomposites from Starch, Natural Fibres and Polymers

More from AIMPLAS, Valencia...
Leon Mentik of Roquette (France) explained how they bought maize, potatoes, wheat, tapioca and peas for processing and used the extracted starches to make bioplastics.  After cellulose, starch was the second most abundant polymer on the planet with 1.3 billion tonnes being produced annually in plants.  6% of this (80 million tonnes/year) is extracted very easily, the by-products being proteins and fibre for use as food.  Starch is highly reactive and easily grafted or alloyed with other materials to add desirable functionalities.  It can be used directly to make starch-based plastics, either as blends with other polymers or in the form of durable thermoplastic starch.  It can also be easily hydrolysed to glucose to provide the starting point for the whole range of bio-based or bacterially produced polymers.

Gaialene® is Roquette’s durable, i.e non-compostable, starch-based plastic which has been certified against ISO 14040/44 by Price Waterhouse Coopers with a carbon footprint of 0.74 kg CO2 eq./kg resin or ~1/3rd that of PP.  It has applications in replacing polyolefins in  films, injection moulding and foams, to produce  shopping bags (for recycling or incineration), multilayer shrink wrap, moulded paint containers, fabric coatings, mud-guards, sound insulation and packaging foams.  It is fully recyclable, GMO-free and does not compete with food crops.

Sergio Fita of Aimplas provided another comprehensive overview of the Technological Institute and its work on composites for those who joined the conference late.  He reiterated the variability issue which arises because natural fibres are inherently variable and moisture sensitive and said AIMPLAS was working to overcome this deficiency.  Examples of successes were the woven Flax/Jute battery case which used an epoxidised acrylate soybean-oil resin (ASEO); the Roadside Grit Box using wet compression moulded Flax/biobased unsaturated PET resin (thermoset); the woven flax/PLA tractor door, the Cayley project honeycombs based on FR-treated bio-resins and natural fibres and the Ecoplast project for automotive parts made by extruding PHB polymer onto flax fabrics, calendaring to impregnate and then moulding to shape.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Biopolymer Waste in Spain

More from AIMPLAS Valencia...
Francesc Giró of the Catalonia Waste Agency was concerned that the desertification now occurring in southern Europe needed to be corrected by adding massive amounts of organic matter to the soil, and this required more composting infrastructure.  In reality 70% of waste organic matter in the region is still land-filled or incinerated and action was needed to allow this to be collected separately and composted.  The target is to compost 50% of organic matter by 2020 and in Catalonia a tax on landfill and incineration is encouraging movement in this direction.

  • ·         Door to door collection of food waste is required.
  • ·         Compostable bags need to be used for this collection.
  • ·         Disposable nappies were a huge problem, accounting for 2.5% of all waste.
  • ·         Compostable diapers could make a large contribution to compost production, but they were currently twice the price of the petro-diapers.
Judit Janasa of TOMRA Sorting and Recycling commented on the difficulties of separating mixtures of plastics containing biopolymers but concluded that their sorting machines would soon be able to remove compostable bioplastics from the recycling stream.  They have installed 3470 sorting machines worldwide, mostly in the Iberian peninsula.  These machines use electromagnets, high intensity visible light, infra-red both transmitted and reflected, X-ray, atomic density, and laser fluorescence sensors to identify different materials.

The machines are tuned to the key wavelengths reflected or transmitted by each polymer and digital images taken at these wavelegths are analysed pixel-by-pixel so that for a bottle for example, the cap, label and body polymers are identified and recorded.  Problems arise with black polymers (no reflection), and labels made of paper prevent the underlying polymer being seen.  PLA and PET bottles which look identical can be separated easily.  The software in use can be updated for every new polymer once samples have been tested.

Asked how multilayer bottles or films would be treated, Ms Janasa said the majority polymer would take precedence.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Biopolymers from waste and Compostable Packaging

More from AIMPLAS 2014 - Valencia..

Mercedes Villa-Carvajal, a biotechnology researcher at the Ainia Technology Centre (Spain) described the use of waste liquor from the orange juice processing industry to produce poly-hydroxybutyrate for bottle production.  The PHB was compounded with cellulose fibres and fillers and injection moulded to make the bottles. (“Phbottle”)

Pretreatments prepared the raw material to receive an inoculation of microorganisms.  Bioprocessing involved fermentation and separation of the required monomer.  Post treatment involved polymerisation.

In principle, any carbon source (e.g. food waste) could be pretreated to receive any one of a range of microorganisms, patented or unpatented, GMO or not, provided with oxygen, and fermentation would result.

Jordi Simon and Matthias Klausmann of BASF (Germany) used the term BioCom to refer to their compostable polymer recommended for use where organic matter is left behind after the food has been taken out of the packaging.  BioCom in fact appeared to be being used as a term of the biodegradable and compostable properties of their Ecoflex® polymers which could be made either from petro- or bio-based sources as required. Ecovio® is their blend of Ecoflex® and PLA.

Ecovio® is finding applications as an agricultural mulch film and as a bag for food waste intended for composting.  A new application was demonstrated at the conference, a 100% biodegradable coffee capsule designed to allow coffee and its carrier to be added to the compostable waste stream.  The capsules packaging was also a 3 layer compostable film.  The system had yet to be adopted by any of the major coffee capsule makers and appeared to be a unique design using a permeable tea-bag nonwoven top cover rather than air-tight foil.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Customised Bioplastics

More from AIMPLAS 2014 - Valencia...

Chelo Escrig of AIMPLAS ran through a range of bioplastics developments underway at AIMPLAS. A new extrudable polyvinyl alcohol had been developed and this allowed production of a 3-layer oxygen and moisture barrier film comprising polyvinyl alcohol sandwiched between layers of PLA (“C-Calpe” and “Bio4map”).  It could also be co- injection moulded with polyethylene. PVOH was unique among polymers in that it was not polymerised in that form.  Vinyl acetate was polymerised to PVAc and then hydrolysed back to PVOH.
PLApack was a highly plasticised version of PLA film which had low modulus and hence suitable for a wider range of packaging films.
Hydrus was a PLA tubing suitable for micro-irrigation with an operating temperature range up to 103oC.
Biopolyim A was a soft PLA containing newly developed plascticisers based on lactic acid oligomers.
Innorex was PLA produced without metal catalysts using ring-opening polymerisation of a lactide in a reactive extrusion process.  The lactide was fed into an extruder with laser, microwave and ultrasound being shown as the initiators of the polymerisation.
BioBottle was injection moulded from PLA with supercritical CO2 injected into the first of two extruders.  The resulting volatiles were vented from the second extruder which delivered odour-free PLA to the mould.

David Bertomeu of FKUR reviewed their range of compounds for use in food packaging.  They buy PLA, PHA, PBAT, PBS and Cellulose Acetate and compound them in different ways to make Bioflex®, Biograde®, and Fibrolon®  for use in agricultural mulch films and flower-pots. For the catering industry they make a complete range of compostable plastic cups, plates, cutlery and disposal bags to that the entire table setting and any food waste can be gathered for delivery to the composter.  They also buy biobased PE and make Terralene™ blends to get a range of properties which allow substitution of the full range of polyethylenes from LDPE to HDPE.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Bio-based Polyamides

More from AIMPLAS 2014 - Valencia...

Pep Catalan, Sales Manager – Speciality Polyamides for Arkema (France) said they intended to continue to lead the field in production of high performance polyamides based on castor oil chemistry.  Their Rilsan® process, established in the 1950’s as a way of avoiding the Dupont nylon patents, did not compete with food, avoided deforestation and used a crop which could be grown in semi-arid areas.  It was now a high-performance, high temperature resistance bio-plastic for engineering applications.

Compared with the petro-polyamides, on a cradle to factory gate basis, it reduced global warming potential by up to 52%, saving 4.7 tonnes CO2 emissions for every tonne of polymer produced.

A new elastomeric version, a PA/polyether block copolymer called “Pebax”, is now available.  Here the PA is bio-based but the polyether isn’t.  “Pebax Rnew” is however based on 95% renewable carbon and has high energy absorbtion and recovery.  This springy polymer is being developed for running shoes and ski-boots.

“Rilsan Clear” is a cycloaliphatic PA, now also bio-based. It has glass-like transparency.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

A New Engineering Bio-Composite

More from AIMPLAS 2014 - Valencia...

Frank Steinbrecher of Mitsubishi Chemicals (Germany) introduced Durabio®, a renewable durable polycarbonate-like bio-polymer based on isosorbide made from sorbitol which in turn came from glucose made from starch.  

The technology had been developed by Roquette.  In 2010 the Durabio® capacity was 300 tpa and last year it was 5000 tpa.  The injection moulding grade has high hardness and the end-products are positioned between PMMA and PC for transparency. Compared with PC, Durabio® also performs better on weathering but is slightly worse for tensile strength.  It is being used to make high-gloss coatings for mobile phones by injection moulding and as glass-replacements in roadside sound barriers by extrusion.  Automotive parts are also made by extrusion and have proved to have the necessary optical, chemical and safety characteristics for interior trim.  It is less flammable than either PMMA or PC.  Asked if it was weldable to ABS like PC is, Mr Steinbecher thought it was, in principle, but Mitsubishi would be happy to test this.
Mitsubishi’s GS Pla was their biodegradable polymer originally made from petrochemicals and now available from bio-succinic acid.  Despite its name it is a polybutyl succinate and not a PLA.

Thursday 26 June 2014

Biopolymers in Nestlé

More from AIMPLAS 2014 - Valencia...

Carlos de la Cruz, the Head of Regulatory Affairs for Nespresso Capsules criticised the industry for confusing consumers with too many eco-claims and argued that the packaging was the key to improvement.  It not only protected the product and kept it fresh but could also be used to communicate with and educate the consumer.  Communications had to be based on comprehensive life-cycle assessments of the food and its pack from farm to fork.  Bioplastics made from foodcrops can improve the environment but crops do need fertilisers and pesticides.  These are based on fossil carbon and have additional adverse impacts on the ecology per se.  Irrigation if needed is a further negative impact in LCA terms.  Furthermore, bioplastics food packs must protect the food from spoilage to the same extent as petro-polymers or the resulting extra wastage will easily nullify any benefits. 

Examples of successful packaging using biopolymers where the benefits were explained on the packs included Purina One Beyond dog food, PLA twist wrap for sweets on Quality Street in the UK, Herta Sweet Ham using a 20% bio-sourced wrap in France, the Davy Milk carton bioplastic cap and “Vittel” water bottles using 30% biosourced PET in France.  

The Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance had been formed this year and brought together companies such as Nestlé, P&G, Unilever, Coca Cola, Heinz, Nike and Ford among others.  The next generation of bioplastics (Gen 3) would be derived from non-food sources such as wood, waste, drought resistant plants and algae.  (Gen 1 was PLA, described as food-based and unsuitable for widespread use in packaging.  Gen 2 were the “drop-in” polymers suitable for widespread use but expensive and made from sugar via ethanol.)

Monday 23 June 2014

Green and Sustainable Composites

More from AIMPLAS 2014 - Valencia...

Kerry Kirwan of Warwick University (UK) has re-evaluated the use of jute, flax and hemp in composite reinforcement.  These materials have been used mainly in electric cars where weight reduction c.f steel or GRP is a virtuous circle, and where, unlike the money-no-object F1 cars, carbon fibre is too expensive.  Unfortunately the variability of tensile properties from these natural product prevents them from performing as well as might be expected, so Warwick has been looking at their energy absorbtion properties with applications in crash-structures in mind.

Surprisingly, woven hemp or flax crash cones in a biobased resin matrix worked better than aerospace grade carbon fibre in epoxy resin.  These biocomposites  have now been incorporated into a Lola F3 car.

Marta Pascual of DSM Composite Resins (Holland) listed the challenges facing the EU composites industry:

  • ·         Replacement of styrene due to its problems of flammability, toxicity and odour.
  • ·         Replacement of the catalysts used for hardening: cobalt salts and tertiary aromatic amines.
  • ·         Reducing dependence on fossil carbon sources and their price volatility.
One of their key products was in fact that contradiction in terms, the thermostable thermoplastic, an unsaturated polyester resin used in automotive applications (“Palapreg”) and artificial marble (“Synolite”).

Beyone™ (201-A-01) was a  40% renewable, cobalt-free, styrene-free resin used in the manufacture of wind-turbine blades by DSM/Siemens.  Coupled with Blucure™ curing technology, it had won the JEC Innovation award (2012).

Thursday 19 June 2014

Sustainability as a business strategy: Ecodesign

More from AIMPLAS 2014 - Valencia...

Miguel Sibila of the Department of Sustainability and Industrial Valorisation at AIMPLAS observed that our environmental problems were the natural consequence of unrestrained economic growth.  This had been recognised as long ago as 1987 when the Brundtland Report made the case for capitalism giving social and environmental issues equal weight with economic issues.

The resulting sustainability movement began with prevention of pollution, moved to a focus on the environmental impacts of industrial processes and now encompassed the entire global environment.  In fact the production of green products had become one of the main economic drivers, and all consumers would now choose lower carbon footprint products in the absence of any price/quality disadvantages.  40% of consumers are willing to pay a premium.

Mr Sibila made the case for Eco-design or basing a product’s design on LCA,  because 80% of environmental impacts are fixed during the design phase.  

Ecodesign would involve:

  • ·         Minimising raw material use
  • ·         Improving energy efficiency and optimisation of any transportation needs
  • ·         Using natural products, recycled materials and biopolymers rather than petro-polymers.
  • ·         Making biopolymers from organic waste rather than foodcrops.
  • ·         Reducing waste by optimising packaging and its recycling
  • ·         Altering production processes to suit environmentally friendly materials
...and finally using certification and eco-labels to communicate with the consumer.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Bio-polyethylene Life-Cycle Analysis

More from AIMPLAS 2014 - Valencia...

Martin Clemesha of Braskem (Brazil) reminded us that Brazil had the world’s best climate for growing sugar cane and was therefore the best place for producing biofuels and biopolymers.  Once again the land-use issue was dealt with thoroughly. 1 hectare of land can produce 77 tonnes of cane which can make 6700 liters of ethanol or 3 tonnes of ethylene or polyethylene per year.  Braskem’s capacity for PE, now 200,000 tonnes/year represented 2% of Brazil’s total ethylene production or 0.02% of Brazilian arable land.

On a cradle to factory gate basis, the “I’m green” PE had a negative Global Warming Potential of -2.15kgs CO2/kg PE.  The by-products of ethanol production, vinasse liquor and bagasse solids, both contribute to this benefit. The vinasse liquor (13 litres per litre of ethanol produced) is phosphorous-rich and used for irrigation, replacing some petro-fertilisers which would otherwise be needed.  The bagasse (cane minus the sugar) is burnt in the power station providing more than enough electricity for the process.  Overall, the process uses 1/5th of the fossil carbon used for petro-PE production.

Bio-LDPE is now available alongside the linear-low and high density grades.  Illustrations of new applications included Huggies diapers in Asia.

Asked about the costs of the bio-PE Mr Clemesha said it would be a long time before they could compete with petro-PE.  They had made massive investments and “I’m Green” would be a premium product for a long time. He could not say how much more expensive it would be but commented that it could well be the cheapest bio-plastic.  Could the bagasse be used in composites?  No, it was susceptible to rotting.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Horizon 2020: Opportunities for Biopolymers

More from AIMPLAS 2014 - Valencia...

José Manuel Gonzalez, the Spanish Delegate and Contact Point at the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, International Programmes Directorate, European Programs Division (Spain) enthused about the EU’s Bioeconomy objectives for 2020 without getting bogged down in anything too specific.  

The objectives included:
  • ·         Discovering and exploiting new terrestrial and aquatic biomass resources to minimise environmental impacts.  Marine biomass could yield many new molecules.
  • ·         Developing integrated second and third generation bio-refineries.  (First generation refineries used food-crops as raw material.  2nd generation will use forestry, 3rd generation will use waste products.)
  • ·         The work programme for 2014-15 (€486M) will focus on Sustainable Food Security, Blue Growth (Seas and Oceans), and Innovative Sustainable Inclusive Bioeconomics (!).
  • ·         Specifically the “Value Chains” of bio-based industries would be more important. E.g.
         o   Biofuels, biochemicals and biomaterials from lignocellulosic feedstocks.
         o   Utilisation of the next generation of forest-based value chains for new added value products.
         o   Utilisation of the next generation of agro-based value chains to realise the highest sustainability and added value from improved agricultural production.  New oil crops would be sought.
         o   Realising sustainable bio-energy production by backwards integration with bio-refineries making high added value materials.
  • ·         Research on converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into useful chemicals would be encouraged.
  • ·         “Waste” would be redefined as an attractive source of raw materials.

In summing up, Mr Gonzalez said EU programmes (and hopefully the Job TitlesEd.) would become less R&D oriented and more applied.

Thursday 5 June 2014

Bioplastic Opportunities and Challenges

Summaries of the papers given at the Bioplastics and Sustainable Composites conference at AIMPLAS, Valencia in March 2014 are being posted here...

Constance Brükerl, Environmental Affairs Manager at the European Bioplastics Association reviewed how the market for bioplastics was developing, making it clear that the Association which had been set up with biodegradable plastics in mind was now heavily involved with non-degradable materials i.e. conventional polymers produced from non-fossilized biomass.  These were now referred to as bio-based or durable bioplastics.
·         The Durable bioplastics market would grow seven-fold in the 5 years from 2012 to reach 5,000,000 tonnes by 2017, this growth being driven by PET30, a bottle polymer blend of 70% PET and 30% bio-PET.  (Clearly only 30% of the PET30 blend in this statistic is bio-PET)

  • ·         Bio-polyethylene would grow steadily and by 2017 “drop-in” bioversions of  PA, PU, PC, PVC, PP and durable starch blends would all be available.
  • ·         Use of foodcrops to make durable bioplastics was described as negligible: stopping it would confer no benefit to society.

·         Biodegradable plastics would grow from 600,000 tonnes in 2012 to a million tonnes in 2017, with half of this growth being driven by PLA expansion.
  • ·         75% of this market was in packaging, catering and agriculture.  Regenerated cellulose, presumably cellophane and acetate packaging film was included.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Chinese Dissolving Pulp production to reach 1m tonnes by 2016

In 2013, global dissolving pulp capacity approximated 6.3 million tons which were mainly produced in such countries where forest resources are abundant as North America, South Africa and Brazil. As the dissolving pulp industry is fairly profitable during 2009-2011 when a great number of dissolving pulp projects were built in China, the dissolving pulp capacity of China rose to about one million tons till 2013, holding the second place in the world.
Although with a rather large dissolving pulp capacity, China is in short of forest resources and Chinese dissolving pulp manufacturers has a higher production cost than international counterparts. In 2012-2013, China’s viscose fiber industry remained in the doldrums, hence a lower demand for dissolving pulp. This, coupled with the impact of the global low-priced dissolving pulp on the domestic market, led to a universally low operating rate for dissolving pulp devices, thus resulting in the overall loss-making of the industry. In 2013, the output of dissolving pulp in China was only around 360kt, with a mere 36% operating rate but export dependency ratio as much as 83.4%.
In April 2014, Ministry of Commerce People’s Republic of China announced final determination in anti-dumping investigation: starting from April 6, 2014, China would levy tariffs of 17%, 13% and 6.8% on the pulp produced in the United States, Canada, and Brazil, respectively. The implementation period would span 5 years since April 6, 2014. This is good for the sales of dissolving pulp in China and would hinder the impact of the imported dissolving pulp. Although the factors including destocking in distribution and weak demand from downstream market led to the fluctuation of the prices of dissolving pulp in the bottom, the dissolving pulp industry in China is expected to witness a turning point in 2014.
The world’s dissolving pulp industry features quite high concentration and key industrial players consist of Sappi, Aditya Birla, Lenzing, Sateri, Rayonier, etc. In 2013, the total dissolving pulp capacity of the aforesaid five producers accounted for roughly 54.5% of global total. In the forthcoming years, the world’s dissolving pulp capacity will continue to grow and the key increments will involve the successively expanded capacity of 300kt from Lenzing, the capacity of 190kt switched for production by Rayonier, the newly built capacity of 175kt from Thailand’s Double A, and otherwise.
Chinese dissolving pulp manufacturers are mainly medium and large paper-making enterprises and chemical fiber enterprises; wherein, the paper-making enterprises is chiefly composed of Yueyang Forest & Paper, Sun Paper and Zhenlai Xinsheng Paper (putting into production in 2013), mainly producing wood dissolving pulp and with their capacities hitting 300 kt/a, 200 kt/a and 100 kt/a respectively; and chemical fiber enterprises include Jilin Chemical Fiber Group and Yibin Grace Group Company, producing bamboo dissolving pulp in the main, of which the 95 kt/a bamboo pulp project of Jilin Chemical Fiber Group is still under construction and expected to put into production in 2014.
As a large consumer of viscose fiber around the globe, China’s output of viscose fiber is anticipated to keep a growth rate of 10% or so in the upcoming years, which beyond doubt stimulate a rise in the demand for dissolving pulp. After anti-dumping tariff is levied by China on the imported dissolving pulp in 2014, the output of home-made dissolving pulp in China is expected to grow steadily, and it will get to around one million tons in 2016.

Friday 30 May 2014

INDA Vision Dallas: Wetlace, AI, Diaper Bank & Sustainability

Here are the last of the summaries of the Vision papers:

Mark Janulis, Sales Director of NAFTA-Andritz Inc. promoted Andritz machinery in general and the Andritz hydroentangled wet-laid nonwoven production line in particular.  To make flushable wipes the Wetlace line uses a flat-bed one-side only hydroentanglement zone instead of the usual both-sides drum system, and this, when used with fibres no longer than 10mm can make wipe substrate that passes all the latest flushability tests.  The recommended stock is woodpulp reinforced with either viscose or Tencel fibre.  The line can run up to 400m/min but will cost about 2.5x that of a dry-lay line.

Jim Minetola, Technical Services Director at First Quality Enterprises reviewed the progress made since the National Association for Continence launched its initiative to provide quality standards for adult incontinence products.  NAFC comprises Medicaid managers from CA, MA, MN, SC, and TX., AI producers (Attends, FQ, KC, Medline, PBE, SCA), INDA, the Wound and Ostomy Nurses Association and the National Family Caregivers Association.  The performance measures being used on the AI briefs are INDA standard strikethrough and rewet, capacity under load and elastic tension, but the total picture considers size range, absorbency range, closure systems, breathability, and safety.  

Recommended maximum retention under pressure ranges from  400mls for premium-priced products to 250mls for standard products. Strikethrough times range from  50-60 seconds for briefs to 35-45 seconds for underwear.   Rewets below 0.3gms feel bone dry, and rewets above 0.5 feel wet to the user.  Bone-dry products lead to skin damage through abrasion.

·        In 25,000 tests, the modal urine void is 100 mls in the daytime and 200mls overnight.  Most pads are therefore overdesigned and absorbency is overpromoted.

Joanne Goldblum, Founder and Executive Director of the National Diaper Bank, said her organisation was a charity providing free diapers to the poor with Huggies as its main sponsor.  Huggies have so far donated 22 million diapers in the USA and Canada.  She described diapers as a basic need along with food and housing, but said they were not covered by Medicaid  Food Stamps or WIC.  Reusable diapers were not a good alternative because Laundromats would not allow them to be washed.  Without disposables, mothers could not access child-care and could not get a job.  Asked how many children suffer diaper-poverty, Ms Goldblum thought it would be about 100million.

Lee Ann Head, VP Research and Insight at Shelton Consulting has found that in 2013, 66% of consumers care about sustainability compared with 60% in 2009.  68% are looking for low-energy light bulbs, 65% for sustainable home cleaning products and 63% for sustainable paper products.  Their top environmental concerns last year were climate change, pollution and ozone depletion.  They feel most guilty about wasting food, water and electricity and worry about failure to recycle.  However over half do recycle and a third actively avoid disposable products such as plates, cups and towels.  10% will seek out bioplastics or other compostable disposables. 48% say a company’s environmental reputation will affect buying decisions and claim they will stop buying from companies exposed as harming the environment.  The key features encouraging them to buy are “Made in the USA”, “No chemicals”, “No animal testing” “Creates no chemical waste”, and “made from recycled material.”

Friday 23 May 2014

Bio-Based Polyolefins

James Kahn, Commercial Manager of Braskem America Inc. observed that while there were no Environmentally Friendly packaging claims on new product launches before 2006, since  2010, 10-12% of all product launches featured such claims. Most of these claims were based on the use of bioplastics,  either “drop-in” replacements for petro-polymers or compostable polymers.  (To further clarify the distinction between the types, “drop-in” uses the same molecules as petro-polymers, but uses them before they’ve been buried for millions of years.)

Braskem’s Green Polyethylene plant started in Sept 2010 and cost $290 million to make 200,000 tonnes of HDPE and LLDPE.  Further investment has now occurred allowing LDPE production to start.  Sugar cane is is crushed, fermented to alcohol and distilled prior to conversion to ethylene.  The sugar-free cane is burnt to produce electricity.  Current partners in replacing the petro version of PE with the bio-version are P&G with Pantene, Coca-Cola, Yuhan Kimberly with Huggies, MSA and Ecover.  

They are also working with Natureworks and Fitesa to produce a bio-based bico spunbond nonwoven using a PLA core and PE sheath.  These have comparable tensiles but slightly lower elongations than the PE/PP bico spunbonds.  LCA on a cradle to gate (in Brazil) basis showed a favourable carbon footprint and energy usage compared with the petro-polymer.

Monday 19 May 2014

Millennials become Parents

More from INDA Vision - Dallas 2014...

Jeff Fromm, Executive Vice President, Barkley defined Millennials as those born between 1977 and 1995; 60 million people in the USA whose mind-set is also affecting the buying habits of their parents.  

For Millennials, the most respected companies and the best companies to work for are the same:  No.1 is Google, No.2 is You-Tube (Google-owned) and No.3 is Amazon.  Apple is No.11.  The products they look for must have the usual functional and emotional advantages over the competition, but in addition they must now offer “participative benefits”.  

The new consumers want to be treated not as a target audience but as a partner in the product development process with a view to becoming active co-creators of the next generation of products.

Other words of wisdom from his book “Marketing to Millennials” included:

  • ·         Millennials are 2.5x more likely to be early adopters of anything new.
  • ·         You must engage the early adopters.
  • ·         Move from storytelling to storydoing.
  • ·         Great storydoing brands can be outspent by their competitors but are rarely outperformed.  They stand for more than the bottom line.
  • ·         Design a sense of adventure and fun into new products e.g exotic but affordable new food.
  • ·         Millennial mums demand “useful” products.  (Useful is the new Cool).
  • ·         Millennials don’t simply buy a product or service; they buy into a “brand idea”.
  • ·         Millennials are not loyal to a product or service and have great power to change things.  They have yet to reach their maximum earning capacity.

Monday 12 May 2014

Bio-based feedstocks for non-biodegradable plastics

More from INDA Vision - Dallas 2014...

Dr Jim Lunt, MD of Jim Lunt & Associates LLC differentiated bio-based and bio-degradable products.  The former must test positive for carbon 14, proving that new plant matter had been used, but need not be biodegradable. The latter must meet recognised biodegradation standards but can be free of C14, i.e. made from fossil fuels.  

The most common feedstocks for bio-based plastics are food crops: corn, sugar beet, sugar cane, sorghum, sweet potato, wheat, coconut oil, palm oil, and soy beans along with the non-edible castor beans and jatropha. 

Conversion of food to fuel transportation is becoming unacceptable so lignocellulosics (wood and agricultural residues) algae and food waste are being considered.  Currently, the major routes to “drop-in” monomers for today’s polymers are:

1. Sugar cane -> ethanol -> ethylene ->ethylene glycol
2. Sugar or corn -> paraxylene (Virent process) -> terephthalic acid
3. Sugar or corn -> succinic acid -> butanediol or adipic acid
4. Corn à glycerol -> propane diol
5. Sugar or corn -> furan 2,5 dicarboxylic acid (YXY Technology)

First generation bioplastics such as Polylactic acid, starch PLA blends and Poly hydroxyl alkanoates all have problems with hydrolytic stability because they were designed to be biodegradable when that seemed to be a good idea.
Now the second-generation bioplastics are identical to the non-degradable petro-polymers but are made using some monomer from biomass e.g 

  • Braskem's Polyethylene (route 1 above), 
  • Syncom’s Polyester (combining monomers from Routes 1 and 2), 
  • Rennovia’s Nylon 6,6 (Route 3 monomer with some of the glucose converted to hexamethylene diamine).  
  • Dupont’s Sorona, Poly trimethylene terephthalate, a nylon substitute, combines monomers from routes 2 and 4).
Bioplastics are expected to grow from 205,000 tonnes in 2005 to 1.2 million tonnes in 2020 as the emphasis is switched from biodegradable or compostable to non-degradable drop-in replacements for petro-polymers.

Friday 9 May 2014

German Federal Court prohibits Lenzing acquisition of Kelheim Fibres

The Austrian Company Lenzing AG intended to purchase 90% of the German company Kelheim Hygiene Fibres GmbH. Kelheim is an important producer of viscose fibres, which are mainly used for manufacturing tampons. Lenzing is the only competitor. In 2012 Lenzing and Kelheim notified the Federal Cartel Office about the intended merger, but argued that the only market concerned was a de minimis market (ie, a market on which goods or commercial services had been offered for at least five years and which had a German sales volume of less than €15 million in the past year), with the result that the specific transaction in question would not have been subject to merger control.(3)
Kelheim and Lenzing took the view that their combined German sales of approximately €10 million constituted the entire German market volume, and thus the market for viscose fibres in Germany was a de minimis market. Kelheim and Lenzing considered their turnover with Johnson & Johnson to be foreign turnover because Johnson & Johnson's central purchasing department was based in Switzerland. However, viscose fibres worth roughly €10 million, while being purchased by this central purchasing department in Switzerland, were shipped directly from the suppliers to Johnson & Johnson's production site in Germany, without first going through Switzerland.
The Federal Cartel Office decided that the turnover with Johnson & Johnson had to be allocated to Germany, since the fibres were delivered by way of a transfer order directly to the production site in Wuppertal, Germany. Consequently, the total German market volume of viscose fibres was approximately €20 million and thus exceeded the de minimis market threshold. On this basis, the Federal Cartel Office considered that it had jurisdiction and prohibited the transaction on these merits.
Lenzing and Kelheim appealed, arguing that the turnover could not be allocated to Germany because the central purchasing organisation managing the purchases was situated in Switzerland. As a result, according to Lenzing and Kelheim, the German market was a de minimis market and the Federal Cartel Office was not competent to prohibit the transaction.

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Protecting the Sewers from Flushables

More from INDA Vision - Dallas 2014...

Cynthia Finley is Director-Regulatory Affairs at NACWA, an organisation which represents ~300 publically-owned sewage works, and hence the majority of the sewered population of the USA.  She mentioned the $100bn US annual maintenance spend on sewer infrastructure and the EPA’s need for an additional $300-$500bn to replace obsolete sewers over the next 20 years.  She was against labelling products as “Flushable” and felt that allowing some wipes to be flushed would cause confusion.  It would be hard to tell the difference between a flushable and non-flushable wipe without reading the packet, and both types would be flushed by some people.

With regard to the flushability testing methods she pointed out that the toilet flush is the most turbulence a wipe would experience in the sewer system.  Flow is laminar in 45mm sewer pipes and even flushable wipes fail to disperse further after the flush.  Slides indicated that colour-coded flushable wipes are leaving the sewer pipes without disintegration. So, a modified “slosh box” test is needed because the current version is too turbulent and passes products which might fail in an actual sewer.

NACWA is now working with INDA, the Water Environment Federations and the American Public Works Association to further evaluate the Maine pilot consumer education project results, to plan a national campaign, and to expand the use of the “Do Not Flush” label.

Friday 2 May 2014

Progressive Diaper Design. (Part 2)

More from INDA Vision - Dallas 2014:  this is the second part of Carlos Richer's update on diaper design...

Cotton is coming in 2014! 
Hydroentangled 100% cotton topsheets with controlled hydrophilicity were now becoming available in the USA and these would grow in premium diapers.  Cotton had been used in the backsheet of Huggies “Pure and Natural” simply to get the “Cotton” label.  Now it could be used in the topsheet where it mattered, mothers were expected to be even more interested.  MTS testing of the naturally hydrophobic unbleached (greige) spun-laced cotton with an “Ultra-Phil” finish had given satisfactory rewet and acquisition rates, and a new cotton diaper launch could be expected later this year.

Also New For 2014...
·      China would become the world’s largest diaper market and would achieve this at a penetration level of only 29%.  It was expected to double to by 2020 and by the time it reached the western world’s 95% penetration the market for nonwovens would be gigantic.  USA would remain the second largest market but by 2020, Brazil would be No.3. 

  • ·         The “Hottest” markets were listed as China, Brazil, Indonesia, India, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and Nigeria.
  • ·         Pakistan was worth noting especially.  Penetration is 6% and they have the same number of babies as the EU.  P&G is the market leader with an imported diaper, but Ontex is starting local production.  Here there is a large demand for single diapers and these are often bought loose in bulk in preference to the formal packs.
  • ·         SAP/Pulp ratios would average 50% in emerging markets by 2015 when western diapers would be at 2:1.  The move to 100% SAP was required before the much heralded fully elastic diaper became a reality.  To Carlos’s surprise the pulpless “Drylock” diaper was doing well in the UK despite its apparently high cost structure.  Maybe costs had been reduced in the last year, or losses were being tolerated to gain share.
  • ·         The first elastic diaper could be expected to appear in 2014.  This would only be elastic in the cross-direction.  MD elasticity caused problems in conversion.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Life Cycle Analysis: Assumptions determine outcomes?

More from INDA Vision, Dallas...

Calvin Woodings, Consulting Editor to Sustainable Nonwovens magazine gave the paper written with Adrian Wilson (Editor).  He showed how LCAs, while being a good tool for helping to design less impactful products, have proved too flexible to be a basis for comparing different consumer products or for use in policy formulation.  They are complex and costly studies where the output depends on the quality of data input and the assumptions made at the outset.  For instance comparisons of disposable diapers with reusable diapers have invariably “proved” the preconceptions of the organisation carrying out the study.  Furthermore, they are subject to wide margins of error even in the most easily quantified areas such as energy requirements, and conclusions drawn would not stand up to a rigorous statistical analysis.  

In short they lack objectivity and should not be used to guide major policy changes such as the Renewable Energy Directive in the EU.

The slides used follow: