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Cover Story

Cover Story Beach toys made from PHA Valerie Lecoeur, a mother of three young children who was born and raised in France and now lives in North Carolina, founded Zoë b in 2011 because: “I believe parents deserve options that are both safer for their children and healthier for our planet”, as she says. Take beach toys for an example: It all started when Valerie was walking on the beach with her kids in Amagansett, New York. They were doing one of their Trash And Treasure Hunts— but sadly, the kids were finding mostly trash. Frustrated by all the plastic debris that had washed up on the beach, Valerie had a thought: Why not take one thing every family brings to the beach and make it biodegradable, so it’ll disappear in a couple of years if it gets accidentally left behind and washed out to sea? And since nothing comparable was available Valerie simply founded the company and started production. “Somebody had to do it“, she said to bioplastics MAGAZINE, and I want to have it produced here and not imported from a faraway country.” That’s how the world’s first biodegradable beach toys were born (cf. bM 02/2011). Before that, when Valerie was initially introduced to bioplastics after reading books like Cradle to Cradle, she had done some experiments with bioplastics based on potato starch in order to make babybibs. However that was not successful, so she continued her efforts into beach toys. The five-piece beach kit includes a bucket, sifter (which doubles as the lid), shovel, and cups made from Mirel PHA by Metabolix, a bioplastic that completely biodegrades when exposed to microbial activity in the soil or sea. In addition the PHA (polyhydroxyalcanoate) does not contain any BPA, phthalates, or PVC. In fact, the bioplastic used to make Zoë b is even FDA-approved for food contact. “Not that we recommend your child eating sand out of the bucket,” Valerie adds. They meet U.S. and international safety requirements: EN 71, ASTM F963 and CPSIA. Even though Zoë b toys are durable and designed to hold up to playing just like ordinary beach toys. “And don’t worry about exposure to the hot, summer sun. The material we use is performance bioplastic that can withstand endless sunlight and extreme heat—it’s even dishwasher-safe. And when the toys are not forgotten and lost at the beach — which should be an exception anyway — the proper way to dispose of them is ordinary composting. Valerie Leceour: “Unlike most other bioplastics, the material we use to make our toys doesn’t require the high temperatures of an industrial-composting facility to biodegrade—which is a good thing, since many communities in the US don’t even have these facilities. So when you’re done with the toys, please just put them in your compost or bury them in your backyard—or better still, give them to someone else who can use them.” For the production of the beach toys Valerie Lecoeur found a custom injection molding company in Pennsylvania. Valerie invested in the molds which had to be adopted and optimized for the PHA resin, “which really was a challenge,” as she points out. The people in Pennsylvania repaired my first Chinese 44 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/14] Vol. 9

Cover Story made molds and made them work properly. But finally — after more than three years Zoë b is still successfully selling the products. They have even extended their product range to a series of PHA kids dishes. After all these investments and expenses for marketing and communication that certainly needs to be continued — “many consumers don’t know anything about biodegradation” — Valerie is concerned about sufficient resin supply for an affordable price. “As soon as I can afford it, I’d invest in more molds for different new products,” she says. One idea for example is a placemat to complement the kids dished product line. But her long-term goal is not to be the only supplier of such products. “My wish is that every beach toy should be biodegradable”, Valerie says. “I wish Walmart and Target would come and ask their suppliers to provide biodegradable beach toys.” This would also certainly help to bring the resin price down. MT ISSN 1862-5258 Highlights Fibers & Textiles | 12 Toys | 36 September / October 05 | 2014 ... is read in 91 countries Beach toys by Zoë b made from PHA, p. 44 bioplastics MAGAZINE Vol. 9 Fachkongress 2014 Biokunststoffe – Bausteine für eine Bioökonomie 21./22. Oktober, Berlin Anmeldung und Informationen unter: World Café Biopolymere am 21.10.2014 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/14] Vol. 9 45

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