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People Report Events

People Report Events Review: Innovation Takes Root The fourth Innovation Takes Root (ITR) conference was once again a unique event where NatureWorks LLC brought together, from all around the globe, users of Ingeo biopolymers for three days of collaboration, learning, panel discussions and networking. From February 17 to 19, 2014 more than 300 attendees from 25 countries gathered in Orlando, Florida, USA, where a total of 43 speakers, 30 exhibitors and 11 sponsors ensured that the conference was a fruitful event of learning and networking. There are reports in this article about some of the many highlights at the event. The day prior to the actual conference was dominated by two workshops. The morning workshop covered “Practical Tools for Characterizing and Understanding Product Performance in Biopolymers” and in the afternoon the delegates learned about “Biopolymers - Navigating the Global Regulatory Landscape”. In the first plenary session on February 18 a keynote speech by Jim Carroll, futurist, trends & innovation expert caught the attention of the audience. Statements like: “Most of today’s kids will work in professions that don’t even exist yet”, or “Sustainability is like teenage sex”, proved to be more than just food for thought. Carroll asked the attendees to reconsider their attitude towards innovation, and their willingness to adapt to change in our economic, social and environmental global ecosystem. Another speaker in the plenary session, Allan Rasmussen, Senior Project Manager of LEGO, explained that the company (who, by the way, started to produce their toy bricks from wood and later cellulose acetate – an early bioplastic) is continuously testing alternative sustainable materials, such as PLA. However, responsibility towards the environment and performance requirements must both be met. So, as an example, if Lego bricks from modern sustainable biopolymers cannot perform the necessary friction properties, i.e. bricks must not fall apart by themselves, but must cling together when required, and also little kids must nevertheless be able to take them apart when they want, then Lego would not do it. Another brand owner that shared its “Approach to Innovation for Sustainability” was Unilever, represented by Ravinder Reddy. Unilever’s big goals, as the company moves towards 2020, include 100% sustainable sourcing of agricultural materials and cutting the environmental footprint of their products. One means of achieving these goals is to partner with other companies. The afternoon was split into three parallel Market Focus Sessions. Experts from NatureWorks, as well as customers and partner companies shared their expertise with the delegates. This included mainstream topics such as the development of film products, form-fill-seal packaging, labels and foam, but also niche applications such as honeycomb board. A presentation on “Innovations enabled by 3D-printing” was rounded off by a live demonstration in the exhibition area. Metabolix has developed new amorphous PHA biopolymers with the physical characteristics of an elastomer. These new resins have been shown to improve the ductility and flexibility of PLA as a type of rubber modifier, while also retaining clarity and compostability. These modifiers allow the production of more flexible films that are still compostable, but are less ‘noisy’ than those chip bags, as Bob Engle, Metabolix’ vice president for biopolymers explained. On the second day Scott Jenkins from the Board of Directors, Green Sports Alliance & VP Ballpark Operations at Seattle Mariners, shared his experience on how large sports leagues and sporting events can influence the public towards a more sustainable behavior. “In the USA 13% of people follow science, but 61% follow sports,” he said. The Market Focus Sessions on the second day focused on topics such as fibres, durable applications, or high heat performance of PLA. The conference was concluded by a plenary closing session. Francois de Bie, Chairman of European Bioplastics, 8 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/14] Vol. 9

Events shared the industry association’s view of the recent and future market developments. He spoke about topics such as the availability of land for food/feed AND bioplastics. He also discussed European legal framework conditions including the recent developments in bagislation, recycling issues and greenwashing. The last speaker at the conference was Marc Verbruggen, President & CEO of NatureWorks. In a breathtaking ride through NatureWorks’ history and future, the 3Ps of success (properties, price and preferences), feedstocks, applications and business figures were covered. Here are just a few highlights: One billion pounds With an aggregated volume of one billion pounds (450,000 tonnes) of PLA sold by the end of last year, the Blair/Nebraska plant has reached its capacity limits. Hence NatureWorks is planning to set up a second plant, most likely in Thailand. 30% of NatureWorks sales is to Asia and the Far East, and is one of the company’s reasons to install a regional headquarters in Bangkok. “And ultimately we will have a production plant in that region,” Verbruggen said. Allan Rasmussan, Lego Economics of PLA “There is one number – and one number only – that you have to remember,” Mark Verbruggen stated, “and that is 1.25.” There are 1.25 kilograms of sugar needed to make 1 kilogram of PLA, compared to 2.14 for bio-PP, 2.77 for bio-PET, or even 3.22 for bio-PE. This is the economics of PLA and that also means that NatureWorks will be able to compete with polystyrene and PET in economic terms. Mark Verbruggen took polystyrene as an example: If sugar is available at a price of 0.17 to 0.20 US$ for a pound – which it is today – from a feedstock point of view, PLA is cost competitive to PS when oil is around 50$ a barrel. But oil is 100 $ a barrel! Do it in a sustainable way Of course, especially now with a view to finding a location for next Ingeo PLA plant (most probably in Asia), NatureWorks is very thoroughly looking to use feedstocks that are produced in a sustainable way. But Verbruggen also asks the stakeholders to observe what NatureWorks is doing in a fair way – which is not happening today. “(When I look at) my polystyrene cup, nobody seems to care where the oil is coming from. Nobody seems to care whether that (oil) drilling in Nigeria was actually done in a sustainable way. Marc Verbruggen, NatureWorks Two billion pounds So, at the end of his talk, mentioning the first billion pounds of Ingeo PLA, Verbruggen said: “Now, if you’re in the chemical industry, you probably say: so what? True — polystyrene in the United States … 6 billion pounds, seven billion pounds? Granted — it’s significantly larger. But in the world of bioplastics, having produced and sold a billion pounds means that we have come a long way.” And this is only a beginning. Even if NatureWorks is proud of that achievement, “getting to two billion pounds is going to take us a heck of a lot less time than it took to get to a billion pounds, and we’re going to get pretty quickly to a situation where growth of our industry is no longer depending on demand, it’s going to start depending on supply.” MT bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/14] Vol. 9 9

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