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News Ciao, Ciao, Plastic

News Ciao, Ciao, Plastic Bag The Italians are said to account for more than a fifth of the plastic bags used in Europe: the Italian environmental group Legambiente estimates about 20 billion plastic bags per year are used. But since the beginning of this year the use of plastic bags has changed completely: A new law bans bags that are not biodegradable and shop owners are instructed to use bags made from cloth, paper or other biodegradable materials. Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo regards the new law as great achievement - the mass of garbage can be reduced, littering is less and the environment is improved in general, she says. Existing stocks can continue to be used without a fine being levied, but the shops will have to reorganize their packaging. With this decision Italy falls into line with some other countries that ban or at least reduce the usage of plastic bags. Surcharges on such bags are known for example in Belgium, Germany or Ireland, a measure that cut the usage in some countries by more than 50%. Other countries forbade very thin plastics bags, as for example in China, Great Britain and South Korea. Only few countries dared to ban plastic bags completely so far. In 2003 South Africa started, Tanzania and Rwanda followed, also pointing out the potential the death risk for animals swallowing plastic bags or getting trapped in them. In the U.S. the bans work on a local level. Since 2007 plastic bags are banned in supermarkets and drug stores in San Francisco, the first U.S. American city that introduced such a law. In the meantime other cities followed. But Italy is definitely the first European country to ban plastic bags completely. The Italian law is based on a decision in December 2006 and should have come into effect in January 2010. Intense opposition by the industry delayed the law by a year. And the industry is still opposed: The EuPC, the Trade Association representing the European Plastics Converters based in Brussels, Belgium, has complained to the European Commission. They regard the Italian decision as a ‘short-sighted view’ and claim that the ban ignores Europe’s existing Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. Furthermore the EuPC says that plastic packaging is in fact perfectly well recyclable and reusable. After all the plastics industry reached a turnover of about 800 million Euros per year with such plastic bags, according to calculations by the Italian publication ‘il sole 24 ore’. They further state that the reorganisation of the machines, in order to produce new bag types, costs about 50,000 Euros per machine. This fact, plus the forecast, that more and more people will change for bags of their own, causes the industry to expect some remarkable losses. In the end they fear the loss of jobs. However, environmental organisations and the bioplastics industry are pleased with the decision. Frederic Scheer, CEO and Founder of Californian bioplastics manufacturer Cereplast, attacks the argument of reusability in his blog: Only 45 minutes is a plastic bag’s life, he writes; this means simply that it is thrown away rather than being used once again. In contrast to the usage time of a plastic bag it takes 77 million years to generate one drop of fossil fuel, he continues. Cem Özdemir, politician of the German Green Party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) recently said to bioplastics MAGAZINE that “we must find alternatives, away from oil and pollution towards sustainability. A successive abolition of plastic bags would be a simple but very effective initiative.” For a long time plastic bags were seen as an alternative to paper bags in order to save deforestation. But the wind has changed, because of littering and the not-so-simple plastic bag recycling. The Italian agricultural association Coldiretti has stated that the production of plastic bags in Italy used around 430,000 tonnes of fossil oil. In addition they complain about the long resistance of the material: once thrown away the bags take either 400 years to decompose or they produce harmful gases in incineration plants. Coldiretti points out that a hundred socalled ecofriendly bio shopping bags can be produced with half a kilo of maize or one kilo of sunflower oil. These bags are said to be stable at least for half a year. Consumers have varied reactions. Many of them (not only in Italy) obviously feel good with the new law. In Austria the news-portal asked in a web based poll if plastic bags should be forbidden in Austria too. An intermediate result (as per mid January) was that 76% of the voters endorsed this approach and 21% were against it. However some consumers nevertheless fear that other bags won’t be stable enough and will be much more expensive. The awareness that the ban is for real, and the alternatives for customers, seem to be the key elements for the success of the new law. BSL bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/11] Vol. 6

News PLA Compound with Engineering Plastics Properties Purac from Gorinchem, The Netherlands has developed a PLA compound with heat stability and impact strength comparable to ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). This material utilizes stereo-complex technology which is based on Purac’s unique L-Lactide and D-Lactide monomers for the second generation PLA. The new PLA compound performs at a comparable level to ABS in injection moulding applications. “Purac’s L-Lactide and D-Lactide monomers now create solutions for high value added applications. We are proud that we have achieved this milestone, as it will further enhance the application of PLA in semi-durables and consumer goods”, says Dr. Kees Joziasse, Manager of Purac’s Innovation Center for PLA. Purac will continue to develop PLA applications for use in automotive, electronics and electrical appliances together with its technology and business partners in the bioplastics value chain. These sustainable solutions are welcomed by industrial stakeholders and consumers because of their performance and eco-profile. Purac is currently building a 75,000 tonnes per year Lactide plant in Thailand which will enable its partners to bring new products to the market. The plant is scheduled to start production in the fourth quarter of 2011. Erratum We sincerely apologize, but in our latest issue (06/2010) we mixed up two pictures. And since this is about oxo-degradable bags, this is again more important to be corrected here. On page 44 the two pictures ‘Samples 3 and 4’ (oxo) and ‘Samples 5 and 6’ have to be exchanged. These are the correct captions: Samples 3 and 4 Samples 5 and 6 Leading Industry Event End of last year, European Bioplastics organised its industry conference already for the fifth time. On 1 and 2 December, over 360 experts from all around the globe came together in Düsseldorf to exchange information and insights about new bioplastic materials and products. Hence, European Bioplastics was able to tie in with the success of last year’s record-breaking event. “Despite the temporal proximity to other important plastics events, the European Bioplastics Conference has definitively established itself as the leading business forum for the bioplastics industry”, said Andy Sweetman, Chairman of European Bioplastics. This year, more than 70 percent of the participants came from Europe, almost 20 percent from Asia, and the better part of the remaining 10 percent from North and South America. Besides numerous speeches focusing on new products and applications for bioplastic materials, 28 exhibitors showcased a variety of their samples at the conference. Many products introduced in the presentations could be seen and examined at the exhibition. Another highlight of this year’s event was the Bioplastics Award 2010, which was conferred for the first time during the European Bioplastics Conference. Presented by bioplastics MAGAZINE and European Plastics News the 2010 award went to EconCore, a company offering core technologies with regard to cost efficient honeycomb panels and components. The jury based its decision on the potential to considerably reduce weight and materials needed in construction as a result of the consistently applied sandwich structure with its cost effective core. The products of EconCore would contribute decisively to more sustainable construction. European Bioplastics’ Managing Director, Hasso von Pogrell, was very satisfied with the course of the conference: “The demand for exchanging information, creating networks and forming cooperations obviously increases with the opportunities offered. Our association and the annual conference provide an optimal platform to do so,” he concluded. bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/11] Vol. 6

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