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.

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