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Rigid Packaging New

Rigid Packaging New technology for PLA-based thermoforming When Solegear began working with a major retailer looking to shift its rigid thermoformed packaging to a bio-based solution, the challenge was to create packaging design that not just maximized bio-based content, but provided equal clarity and impact resistance to existing PET options. The client trusted Solegear to lead the development of this breakthrough formulation because of Solegear’s commitment under its Polysole ® product line to meet competitive price expectations while using all non-toxic additives and maximizing bio-based content. What’s more, Solegear understood that by reviewing processing, printing and fulfillment techniques, the packaging’s environmental impact could be further reduced. A differentiated design was the final element to meet the client’s stringent requirements to protect the product and make it easy for consumers to see what they were buying and open the package. As this case study demonstrates, manufacturers, brand owners, and consumers are keenly interested in the benefits of bio-based materials, especially those that can address consumer concerns around product safety. Bioplastics clearly play a key role in meeting consumer demand for safer, more sustainable packaging that minimizes environmental impact during each stage of the product cycle; however, not at the expense of packaging performance and customer acceptance. A recent international study from Germany’s nova-Institut (cf. page 22) shows that demand for bio-based polymers is skyrocketing. According to the study, production capacity will reach nearly 12 million tons by 2020, up from 3.5 millions tons in 2011. “With an expected total polymer production of about 400 million tons in 2020, the bio-based share should increase from 1.5% in 2011 to 3% in 2020, meaning that bio-based production capacity will grow faster than overall production,” the study states. A vast majority of this production in thermoformed PLA-based rigid packaging to date has been pointed at the disposable foodservices market as tensile strength, heat deflection and clarity would not meet industry expectations for more durable applications. Solegear believes it’s poised to change all that. 12 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/13] Vol. 8

Rigid Packaging By Toby Reid Founder and CEO Solegear Bioplastics Inc. Vancouver, Canada Solegear is focused on green chemistry practices, which means formulations are designed from the start to reduce or eliminate negative environmental impact through their entire life cycle from product design to end of life. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), green chemistry is a highly effective approach to pollution prevention because it applies “innovative scientific solutions to real-world environmental situations.” By designing products using green chemistry principles, Solegear’s Polysole ® TF 2000 and TF2020 thermoform and die-cut formulations use non-toxic additives and maximize the amount of bio-based material used in production to create a compostable end product. While there are multiple end-of-life options for bioplastics beyond composting, including recycling and energy creation through incineration, Solegear believes composting certification remains an objective measure to clearly signal the inert nature and relative safety of the bioplastic formulation. Solegear’s technology is also designed to run on existing extruding and thermoforming equipment under normal operating conditions. This allows Solegear’s Polysole ® TF product to be leveraged across multiple production partnerships to meet customer demand and localization. As an example, Solegear was approached by a multinational building materials company looking for a more sustainable thermoformed packaging solution for its products. Other companies’ PLA-based bioplastics would have required design changes to accommodate performance limitations, but to meet existing shipping requirements, this was not an option. To fully leverage green chemistry principles and further reduce the environmental impact, Solegear was able to identify local supply chain partners that were not only more cost-effective, but allowed the company to significantly reduce its transportation footprint and increase speed to market. These factors combined allow Solegear to achieve relative price parity with thermoformed PET. End-of-life options, from industrial composting to incineration to recycling, remain a cornerstone in most customer conversations – especially to respond to a growing trend where municipalities are increasingly putting the onus on companies to provide more sustainable packaging alternatives. Consider the change that recently took place in British Columbia, where Solegear is headquartered. The government announced in 2011 that it’s transitioning responsibility for end-of-life management of packaging and printed paper from governments and their taxpayers to industries and their consumers. As a result, companies that sell products in plastic and/or paper packaging were required as of November 2012 to submit a stewardship plan to outline that they will collect, recover and re-use 75% of packaging and printed papers by spring 2014 as set out in the province’s materials collection regulations. British Columbia’s decision to transfer responsibility to companies and consumers also demonstrates how the move to a more bio-based economy will require the support and effort of many players, including companies like Solegear, with a green chemistry philosophy that prioritizes the importance of the full life cycle, from procurement of raw materials through to collection after the consumer is done with it. In fact, bioplastic adoption will continue to require the coordinated support and action of many stakeholders, including converters, recyclers and municipalities. It starts with companies like Solegear, but it takes a community of companies, citizens and civic leaders committed to a bio-based economy to make the change real, beneficial and lasting. bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/13] Vol. 8 13

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