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bioplasticsMAGAZINE_0905

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bioplasticsMAGAZINE_0905

End of Life Finished

End of Life Finished product producers PLA pellets Sales Partners - PLA producers E nd users End users Lactic acid CCollection Loopla Patented technology Partners S Sorting orting & recovery recovery entities entities Loopla Shipment of used PLA lot A new Cradle-to-Cradle Galactic is a Belgian company involved in the world of green chemistry with its lactic acid being produced by fermentation of a biomass such as beet or cane sugar. Lactic acid is used in different applications such as foodstuffs, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, as well as in industrial applications. Lactic acid is also used as the starting material for the production of polylactic acid or PLA, an eco-friendly, renewable biopolymer with attractive characteristics for packaging and other convenience applications. Introduction to LOOPLA ® Although PLA is derived from renewable resources, Galactic has conceived the LOOPLA process to provide the best ‘end-of-life‘ option for PLA waste and contribute to the development of a sustainable environment. The LOOPLA concept is a closed loop where the used PLA is recovered and recycled back into its original form: lactic acid. This lactic acid can easily be polymerised again to make PLA with exactly the same characteristics as the original material. Carbon footprint The patented technology is a chemical recycling process that goes back from PLA to lactic acid by depolymerisation through hydrolysis. The process does not need harmful chemicals and is optimised to create a minimum CO 2 footprint. Currently there are several ‘end-of-life‘ options available: mechanical recycling, incineration, composting, anaerobic digestion and land filling. All energy and raw materials invested in the original PLA are recovered as the recycling rate with LOOPLA is close to 100% and provides a low carbon footprint. Chemical Recycling vs. other ‘end-of-life‘ options With this concept, GALACTIC is proud to contribute to a more sustainable solution for the ‘end-of-life‘ management of PLA waste: • Less energy consumption • Low chemicals needed • Recycling rate close to 100% • Recycling process is endless • Less agricultural land needed • shorter recycling loop means: - lower CO 2 foot-print - Cheaper process End-users The success of LOOPLA is related to the contribution of the different parties involved in the recycling process. The sorting and recovery of the used PLA is key in the efficiency of the process: PLA is used in a wide range of applications including food packaging, beverage containers, cars, electronic, housing etc. Two types of material are identified: the nearly 100% PLA, and material combinations such as blends, compounds and composites. LOOPLA not only recovers close to 100% of the lactic acid used for the production of PLA, it also takes care of possible contamination of the used PLA. All PLA waste can be put into one of three different categories: • ‘Post-industrial‘ waste or production waste that consists of out-of-specification material or objects produced during trial runs, production start-up procedures or as trimmings or runners and sprue in injection moulding. 30 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/09] Vol. 4

ECO-Benefits (points) End of Life 200 180 160 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 3 10 20 0 Composting Incineration Anaerobic digestion LOOPLA Approach for PLA Article contributed by Johnathan Willocq, Project Engineer Developments n.v. Galactic s.a., Escanaffles, Belgium The material flow is generally very clean and does not need specific sorting. • ‘Short-loop‘ or ‚closed-loop‘ waste that is locally generated during a defined period: cups during a music-festival, catering in aeroplanes etc… and even non-woven carpets, combining a wide range of colours and patterns as used during an exhibition, can be sorted out and recycled. Indeed, the flow of waste generally does contain other materials. A creative effort has to be realised in order optimise the process and efficiently sort PLA from other materials. • And finally, ‘post-consumer‘ waste. The process for this kind of waste is the most complex one. For example, bottles made of PLA and PET are mixed together. It is important to sort PLA from PET to avoid a negative impact on the recycling of PET (yield and quality) and also to be able to recover a single stream of PLA in order to recycle it. Technical solutions are available on the market, including NIR installations or a green chemical treatment able to separate PLA (more than 99%) from PET. LOOPLA technology According to the origin of the used PLA, the process will be adjusted: the treatment is not the same if the stream is clean or dirty, pure or contaminated. The contamination can arise from a problem of sorting or when the product is made from different materials. In case of contamination, the process can be easily adjusted in order to remove the contaminant(s) with no consequence on the quality of the final lactic acid. At the end of the cycle, the lactic acid obtained by depolymerisation will be purified according to the targeted applications (industrial applications or polymer production). A little chemistry Lactic acid is a chiral molecule and has two optical isomers. One is known as L-(+)-lactic acid and the other, its mirror image, is D-(−)-Lactic. L-(+)-Lactic acid is the biologically important isomer. During the polymerisation and the production of the original product, the treatments generate a racemization of the lactic acid. If PLA is made of L-(+)-Lactic acid, only a small quantity of D-(−)-Lactic will remain in the final product. Then, lactic acid coming from the LOOPLA technology contains a low amount of D-(−)-Lactic but the production of PLA is feasible. The research and development team has developed a process in order to reach a high L polymer grade of lactic acid. Galactic has acquired a deep knowledge of the PLA market with its involvement in Futerro, a joint venture created between Total Petrochemicals and Galactic. The project entails the construction of a demonstration plant able to produce 1,500 tonnes of PLA per year using a clean, innovative and competitive technology, developed by both partners. Thanks to the LOOPLA concept, PLA can be then depolymerised back into lactic acid which also could be the raw material for a wide range of products including solvents, detergents, textiles, food and beverages containers... PLA is a renewable and sustainable resource with countless possibilities! www.loopla.lactic.com bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/09] Vol. 4 31

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