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  • Bioplastics
  • Packaging
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Basics efficient

Basics efficient recycling and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Single trip and multiple trip plastic bags are also quickly produced using almost all bioplastics. In Europe they are already available in many food stores and supermarkets. The dominant bioplastics here are a compostable starch based material and PLA compounds. Easy to recycle bio-PE has also recently proven very successful. The ‘plastic bag war’ is being fiercely waged, and is using weapons such as the ecobalance and environmental arguments. For the bioplastics industry the plastic shopping bag is a major communications tool thanks to its high profile and the enormous quantity being produced. It is joining the race as the new favourite. We can also make bottles and durable products Technological developments have driven the emergence of a wide range of bioplastic packaging solutions. Biobased polyolefins have unleashed a real flood of packaging innovations for branded articles. Big companies in particular decide on ‘green’ solutions, and often launch their premium brands in such bio-packaging right from the beginning. Coca-Cola started in 2009 in the USA with partially biobased PET bottles for their main brand - Coca-Cola itself, and its iconic packaging design. Volvic followed a year later with water bottles in Europe. Only a few weeks ago the Heinz food group announced that it would be converting its 500 ml ketchup pack to bio-PET, in association with Coca-Cola. The companies focus in their advertising message on the plantbased content and the recyclability. So we now have not only PET and rPET, but also bio-PET, and soon bio-rPET. Danone in France decided in February to use bio-HDPE bottles for their Actimel yoghurt drinks. Procter & Gamble will use bio-PE for their Pantene shampoo bottles. Drop-in approaches where an already well-established polymers, or some parts of it, are converted from a fossil origin to renewable resources, is already popular with manufacturers. At the moment we do not have much information on consumer reaction. There can however be certain risks when switching to biopackaging. Unlike the ‘drop in’ solutions, for new bioplastics such as PLA, PHA, cellulose or starch-based materials, there was a costly programme of development and application trials necessary to be able to change over to a completely new package. A learning process which, at the beginning, above all needed money and plenty of patience. Meanwhile the number of products on the market is now truly vast. Optimisation is in full swing, newcomers are taking advantage of the work done by the pioneers, but the pioneers are still a step ahead. PLA drinks packaging in particular has had to navigate some rough seas and fight off challenges. A small number of manufacturers still use this material, including the well-known Italian company Fonti di Vinadio (Sant‘Anna) that supplies still water in PLA. The Danone subsidiary StonyField in the USA uses PLA yoghurt pots – more than a decade after the first trials in Germany the material is being given a new lease of life. And the PepsiCola subsidiary Frito Lay is not running away from the difficulties of launching PLA packaging for SunChips in the USA. The loud crackling noise, which the consumers seemed to object to, has now been stopped. The many and varied technical hurdles had all been overcome, but nobody even thought about a noise problem! Biodegradable polymers are above all used for short shelflife products. Combinations of materials and multilayer film today allow the manufacture of packaging for longer shelf life products that place an increased demand on the aroma barrier, such as muesli or tea. Bio-packaging has also caught the attention of the cosmetics industry. Jars or tubes are technically quite possible to produce but the required extended shelf-life of moist/oily products represents another high hurdle in addition to the aroma barrier. A combination of natural cosmetics and bio-packaging would be just as acceptable as ecologically produced foodstuffs – in fact this merger is already enjoying some success. How do we move on? Packaging made from bioplastics today still has a very small market share, although there are no precise statistics. The use of biodegradable and/or bio-based polymers in this sector of industry is estimated by the author to be around 100,000 tonnes worldwide (2010). Growth rates are at least 20% per annum. There is growth in all product sectors and for all of the bioplastics The packaging industry finds itself in a real upheaval, which is largely influenced by the ‘sustainability’ megatrend. This is being demanded by the consumer, and additionally by governments as a major factor in their resources and global climate policies. Ways of measuring sustainability of packaging (such as Walmart’s ‘Sustainability Scorecard’) are already being established by the big retail chains and are exerting pressure on their whole supply chain. Trendsetters in the food industry see sustainability as a chance to establish for themselves a better position in a competitive market. If you ask Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble or Danone, then in future packaging materials must be bio-based and/ or produced from recycled material – and in all cases must be themselves suitable for recycling. Energy consumption and CO 2 emissions must be minimised. And all this without having a negative impact on the costs or the specific function to be filled by the packaging in question. Bioplastics thus have excellent prospects of taking advantage of a high level of market pull. But the demands, and the hurdles, are still high. The author is the founder of narocon innovation consulting for green chemistry and bioplastics (since 1997) and political adviser of European Bioplastics. The chemist (PhD) was Chairman of the Board of this industry association from 1999 through 2009. 48 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/11] Vol. 6

Basics Bio-Packaging Development: Pioneers and historic achievements • The first semi-commercial packaging trial was a joint effort of ICI (today AkzoNobel) and Wella (today owned by Procter & Gamble). Wella`s ‘Sanara’ shampoo bottle was made of PHB and sold in a very small quantities already in 1990. • The begin of packaging bags commercialisation could be marked by the first field trial of Novamonts compostable MaterBi biowaste bags in Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany 1992. That might have been ‘the mother’ of all starch material bags. • 1994 was the year of the Olympic Games in Lillehammer where starchbased cups were used for catering – the kick-off for many more ‘olympic cups’ to follow. • Danone launched the world‘s first yoghurt cup made from Cargill-Dow‘s (today NatureWorks) PLA in 1998 in Germany - sold a few months only. Their US daughter Stonyfield dairy did it again starting October 2010. • The seedling logo and compostability mark of IBAW (now European Bioplastics) was designed by a student and launched in 1998. • Back in 2000, the UK retailer Sainsbury‘s launched a fully compostable packaging with breakthrough biodegradable trays on some of their organic produce. Their adoption and public commitment to bioplastics raised the profile of biopackaging worldwide. • Nitted and extruded nets for fresh fruit and vegetables were first introduced first by Novamont in 2001. • The 100,000 household field trial in Kassel, Germany revealed that compostable plastic packaging waste can be separately collected by consumers and recycled through composting in municipal plants without loss of compost quality (2003). As a consequence a privileging packaging legislation was set up to promote compostable bio-packaging in Germany 2005 - 2012 – the first of its kind. • US based water distributor Biota developed the world‘s first compostable water bottle made of PLA and launched it in 2004. • A laminated bilayer film of MaterBi and Natureflex film was used the first time for the Jordan‘s Muesli in UK 2005. • 23 exhibitors showed their bioproducts in the special exhibition ‘Innovationparc Bioplastics in Packaging’ to the global business - the first time at interpack in 2005. By the way the initial spark for bioplastics MAGAZINE. • 2007 Braskem announced its green polyethylene from bioethanol project and went on-stream at a 200.000 tpa scale in 2010. • 2009 Coca Cola launched their PET plant bottle with up to 30% biomass content for some of their main brands in parts of the US. • First compostable triplex film for Boulder Canyon chips using high barrier metallised NatureFlex film to provide shelf life requirements in 2010. • 2011 Danone begins to pack their premium brand Actimel drink yoghurt in bio-based HDPE bottles in France. (Author’s choice. Not necessarily complete or historically warranted) Fig. 5: For many cosmetics packaging application bioplastics solutions are available. Including bottles and labels (Photo: Sidaplax) Fig 6: Compostable Net Bag (Photo: FKuR) Fig. 7: Selection of packaging from compostable film (Photo: Sainsbury’s) Fig. 8: PLA trays with lids (Photo: natura) A German language version is abailable at Dr. Harald Kaeb (Photo: European Bioplastics) bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/11] Vol. 6 49

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