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Special Planet Friendly

Special Planet Friendly TM bottle The cost issue “The higher price of PLA is acceptable to us and should be acceptable to everyone because the planet is worth it,“ says David Zutler. And he thinks that the majority of consumers “who care“ think so too. Eventually, David is convinced, when the economy of scale kicks in, the price of PLA will drop. Reed Paget too believes that in the long run, the price of PLA will come down while petrochemical plastics will become more expensive. The environmental sustainability is the starting point for Belu and Reed too thinks that some consumers would accept a slightly higher price. “However, we try to be cost effective as much as we can,“ he says. “I really think the price is dominant and I would like to say the environmental advantages would outweigh the price“, says Bill Horner. On the other hand he considers that the price of PLA today already is almost competitive with PET. “The price for PET is going higher and higher, and although we had a fight on the corn prices that was just temporary. On a long term view the prices for starch are much more stable“, he adds. Michael Keeffe doesn‘t feel that the price is a super-critical factor for the consumer. “As soon as it becomes clear that it is an environmentally friendly bottle, that seals the decision for most people,“ Michael explains. „We hope that the increasing demand for sugar, for example for making bio-ethanol, does not push the price of PLA up through the roof, but as of now the price for us is workable“. “We are talking about environmentally and health conscious consumers who are willing to accept a premium price for corresponding items,“ says Bernd Merzenich. “But you really need a very clear communication strategy with these products,“ he adds. “You need to be transparent and critical, and clearly explain what is bio with these materials.“ Barrier properties and heat resistance As how important do our interview partners consider enhanced barrier properties and the heat resistance of PLA? None of them is currently packaging products that need a container with elevated temperature resistance. However, all confirm that for certain applications such as hot-filled juices etc. enhanced thermal properties will be needed. When it comes to barrier, the picture looks different. Reed Paget thinks that, as for other plastic materials, PLA also needs an enhanced barrier. Michael Keeffe confirms this thought, for their current product, flat water, improved barrier properties will provide greater production and distribution options. “For the long term viability of PLA for other products, such as carbonated beverages or fruit juice, we will also need a barrier against CO 2 and Oxygen“. Bernd Merzenich: “PLA definitely needs to be improved regarding its barrier properties and heat stability. For still water the presently available level of material and technology is OK, on the premise that the turnover at the point of sale is sufficiently fast. But for more sophisticated uses in the beverage and food industry we need material improvements by developing new bioplastic compounds on the basis of PLA, as well as by using additives, coatings or the like, such as, for instance, the SIG Plasmax plasma coating process or a bioplastic barrier resin for multilayer applications, which has been announced by Plantic.“ Naturally Iowa, cold filling their products, are very satisfied with the quality of the PLA they get from NatureWorks today. Their milk is a short shelflife product and is sold through the cold chain, so that up to now better barrier or temperature properties have not been needed. David Zutler however, is already active in this field. Together with strategic partners Danimer, and the Australian packaging and recycling group Visy, BIOTA is developing a Planet Friendly bottle, that is made of PLA plus an additive which enhances the elasticity properties, and will help provide some additional properties as well. “Our goal is to have such a bottle within the next six months, and in addition to that, to have a bottle material with barrier properties even for use with CSD (carbonated soft drinks) and resistant to water vapour, heat, and O 2 ingress within a year,“ says David. 14 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/07] Vol. 2

Special End-of-life options There has to be a way for consumers, and recyclers to easily tell the difference between biobased products and petroleum based products. “All our bottles say Planet Friendly. When the consumer, and recycler, see those words, they know what they are,“ says David. “My number one end-of-life option is what I would call reclaiming,“ he adds. „Reuse or recycle to bottles or into other products such as garden pots etc. And my second favourite is energy recovery. PLA burns cleanly and can help augment the use of fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, etc.) in power plants, helping to generate greenhouse neutral energy and alleviate the devastating problem of burning plastics in landfills.“ Reuse and recycle are also the preferred end-of-life options for Reed Paget, making up the top four together with composting/energy recovery, and with landfill as the last option. Belu is currently working on life cycle assessments and even home composting seems to be a viable option instead of shipping the waste across town to a waste facility. “I did it myself in my backyard,“ says Reed, “and if you know how to do it, it works.“ “Our +1 bio-bottle is clearly stamped both with the number seven recycling logo as well as the word ‚compostable‘ informing consumers that they have disposal options, says Michael Keeffe. +1Water is working (with a number of recyclers) on a pilot project with a company called “Turtle Island Recycling“ in Ontario focused on both bioplastics recycling and composting. And when, after reuse or recycling, PLA ends up in an incineration plant, because it‘s not petrochemical based it is also more environmentally friendly as well. Today, Naturally Iowa‘s percentage of the market is rather small, so that the bottles end up in a landfill where they degrade. But Bill Horner says that first attempts are being made to set up industrial composting facilities. Bernd Merzenich says: “To be pragmatic, just now I only see incineration with energy recovery as meaningful. From an LCA point of view I would favour thermal disposal, because it generates CO 2 neutral energy. Last but not least, looking at the present hype regarding biofuels, the aspect of eco-friendly energy recovery from bioplastics should be stressed: Bioplastics create a much higher added value from agricultural raw materials than biofuels and can generate a similar output of CO 2 neutral energy when incinerated at their end of life.“ As soon as barrier properties and heat resistance are improved, biodegradability as an option will anyway become much less an issue, Bernd adds. “Personally I don‘t believe in biodegradability unless it has practical reasons,“ he says. “For instance when you pack fruit and vegetables you can compost the waste together with the packaging, or when bioplastic shopping bags are available they can be used to collect and compost organic waste.“ Future prospects BIOTA will remain a bottled water company, but Planet Friendly is going to work with different manufacturers to promote PLA and other bio-based packaging. “I would rather help other manufacturers with the different additives and different material properties that are being developed,“ David says. Belu as well as +1Water have further projects on the drawing board. However, “they are not too far down the road as of yet“, Reed Paget points out. “So far we just produce the 0.5 gallon milk bottles,“ says Bill Horner, “but starting in June we are going to be bottling milk in 10 and 12 oz. and possibly even 8 oz ‚grab-and-go‘ containers, and in the fall we start with a probiotic drinkable yoghurt with an extended life that we are really excited about,“ he proudly adds. All of the products will be packaged in PLA, the single serve units with a PLA shrink sleeve. Bernd Merzenich thinks that for many companies in Germany it is a drawback to start using PLA as long as there is only one supplier. First of all, if a company wants to introduce PLA, they can‘t get the material, and secondly, no one wants to rely on a single source. And David Zutler says that governments should support companies that want to build up production capacities. bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/07] Vol. 2 15

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