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News Biodegradable Plastic in German ALDI shopping bags The large German discount supermarket chain ALDI SÜD is now offering shopping bags made of BASF’s biodegradable plastic Ecovio ® . These bags are manufactured for ALDI by the VICTOR Güthoff & Partner Group, headquartered in Kerpen, Germany. The plastic Ecovio consists of Ecoflex ® , a petrochemicalbased polyester and PLA, which is obtained from renewable raw material. And yet, thanks to its special molecular structure, the blend can be digested by microbes under precisely defined conditions: it is completely biodegradable according to European standard EN 13432. Whereas Ecoflex makes the bag flexible, tear-resistant, waterproof and suitable for printing – giving it the properties of a classic plastic – the stiff PLA contributes the renewable raw material. The combination of Ecovio and Ecoflex allows film manufacturers to produce plastic bags and other film products with tailor-made properties. A higher percentage of Ecoflex renders the film more flexible whereas a higher percentage of Ecovio renders it stiffer. Thus, Ecoflex makes it possible for renewable raw materials like PLA to now be employed in high-performance consumer products. Biodegradable shopping bags offer customers an additional advantage: they not only are strong enough to be used multiple times as a shopping bag, but at the end of their days, they can also serve as a bag for collecting and disposing of organic kitchen garbage – in most of the German communities this is already permitted. “We introduced these compostable shopping bags, because we wanted to offer an additional, ecological alternative to the bags made from recycled plastics, that are also available at Aldi Süd,” As Kirsten Windhorn, head of corporate communications at Aldi Einkauf GmbH & Co. KG commented towards bioplastics MAGAZINE. “Aldi always tries to act responsibly – also when it comes to energy, climate and environmental protection. When developing these bags, primarily a careful use of resources and the protection of the environment were in our focus as well as the product quality.” And she added that since December 2008 the new bag is selling very successfully for EUR 0.39. The traditional bag made from recycled plastics is available for EUR 0.09 and carries the European “Blue Angel” label for eco-friendly products. World’s First Certified Compostable Hot Cup and Lid System StalkMarket Products, Portland, Oregon, USA, a leading provider of compostable tableware and food packaging, is launching the world’s first Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified compostable Ingeo hot cup and lid system. “We are very proud of the achievements of our staff,” stated Bret ‘Buzz’ Chandler, President and Founder of StalkMarket products. “(…) to make this 100% compostable system perform like traditional plastic products at competitive market prices.” StalkMarket’s Planet+ line of compostable products are engineered to tolerate more than 93.3°C (200°F) of wet heat and compost in 60 to 90 days in commercial composting facilities. “Hot cup lids are an important part of an ensemble of compostable products,” stated Steve Mojo, Executive Director at BPI. “The BPI compostable logo certification is awarded to products that demonstrate that they meet the requirements of ASTM D6400 or ASTM D6868 based on testing in an independent and approved laboratory. Products that meet these standards will disintegrate and biodegrade swiftly and safely in a professionally managed composting facility, but not in home backyard composting.” The hot cups and lids are made using Ingeo plant-based PLA from NatureWorks LLC. „StalkMarket has used Ingeo in an innovative way to help replace petroleum based products with renewable plantbased plastic products,“ stated Jim Hobbs, NatureWorks’ Commercial Director for the Americas. www. bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/09] Vol. 4

Synthetic Wood Based on Hemp and PHB News Researchers at Stanford University, California, USA, have developed a synthetic wood substitute that may one day save trees, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and shrink landfills. The faux lumber is made from a new biodegradable plastic composite that could be used in a variety of building materials. “This is a great opportunity to make products that serve a societal need and respect and protect the natural environment,” said lead researcher Sarah Billington, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. In 2004, Billington and her colleagues received a two-year Environmental Venture Projects (EVP) grant from Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment to develop artificial wood that is both durable and recyclable. The best material turned out to be natural hemp fibers combined with PHB (polyhydroxy-butyrate). “It’s quite attractive looking and very strong,” said EVP collaborator Craig Criddle, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “You can mold it, nail it, hammer it, drill it, a lot like wood. But bioplastic PHB can be produced faster than wood, and hemp can be grown faster than trees.” The hemp-PHB biocomposites are stable enough to use in furniture, floors and a variety of other building materials, he added. After use it can be anaerobically biodegraded to produce methane that is captured and burned for energy recovery or re-used to make more biocomposites. “It dawned on us that there are microbes that can make PHB from methane,” Criddle said. “So now we’re combining two natural processes: We’re using microbes that break down PHB plastics and release methane gas, and different organisms that consume methane and produce PHB as a byproduct.” Graduate students Aaron Michel and Molly Morse hold samples of the biodegradable wood substitute. Ground Breaking Ceremony for Extension of Production Capacity BASF SE recently announced that the extension of their plant for the production of Ecoflex ® and Ecovio ® biodegradable plastics in Ludwigshafen, Germany has now begun. The ceremony to mark the breaking of the first ground was held on February 2nd. With the scheduled investment BASF is going to extend the production capacity for Ecoflex from the present 14,000 tonnes per year by an annual 60,000 tonnes. The capacity for Ecovio, a blend of Ecoflex and 45% PLA will also be increased. The expanded facilities will go into production at the end of the third quarter 2010. “With this expansion of the Ecoflex- and Ecovio plant we further invest in the Ludwigshafen site and thus strengthen it for the long term,“ says Dr. Bernhard Nick, plant manager of the whole BASF SE location Ludwigshafen. “The market for biodegradable and biobased plastics currently is still just a niche market, however it offers a significant potential for innovation,“ says Dr. Michael Stumpp, head of the global special plastics business unit within the performance polymers division. “Globally this market is growing by 20%. With our expanded production capacities we will further extend our position in this market.“ bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/09] Vol. 4

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