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News Will the claims of

News Will the claims of oxo-degradable plastics stand up to scientific lab scrutiny? That’s precisely what OWS (Organic Waste Systems nv, Ghent, Belgium) and IKT (Institute of Polymer Technology, University Stuttgart, Germany) intend to find out. They are setting up a multi-client study to provide a definitive answer to the question: do oxo-degradable plastics biodegrade or do they not? After all, biodegradable plastics, whether oil-based, such as PBAT or PBS, or derived from biomass, such as PLA, PHA or TPS, all share one thing in common: they are certified as biodegradable. Simply put, these materials have been tested and proven to be capable of being “broken down especially into innocuous products by the action of living things, such as microorganisms.” And this is the sticking point - the heart of the ongoing biodegradable – oxo-degradable controversy. Basically, scientifically based studies characterizing the microbial degradation of oxo-degradable plastics are lacking. To remedy this situation, building on a desk research study conducted last year by OWS for Plastics Europe, a comprehensive laboratory-testing program is now planned, with the ultimate aim of delivering the necessary scientifically based proof of whether or not oxo-degradable products biodegrade. What are oxo-degradable materials, anyway? They are simply conventional plastics, such as PE, PP, or PET, that are mixed with a small percentage of an additive, which subsequently accelerates free radical degradation of plastics. Proponents of these materials argue that by breaking down the long carbon-hydrogen bonds and reducing the plastic‘s molecular weight, the molecules become ‘wettable‘ and able to sustain a biofilm on the surface supporting microorganisms, which then consume the molecules and reduce the plastic into water, carbon dioxide, and reusable biomass. However, lacking proof from independent laboratories or certification bodies that this process actually occurs, critics of these materials doubt whether complete biodegradation takes place, and have dubbed these products oxo-fragmentable. Experts fear that these fragments will disperse into the environment, causing further problems with microplastic waste. The fight is a fierce one. The controversy has already led the European Commission to consider a possible ban on oxodegradable carrier bags. And in France, a group of MPs in the French National Assembly have called for a similar ban. Predictably, the oxo-degradable plastics industry has reacted furiously, calling this “a skillful lobbying attempt to take oxobiodegradable plastics off the French market and leave the field clear for bio-based plastics which are not competitive with oxo-bio and have very limited usefulness.“ Biodegradable materials offer advantages in certain functional biodegradation applications. These materials are particularly suitable for applications such as agricultural film, sod netting, and plant pots, or, closer to home, as bio-bags for organic household waste. Whether such biodegradable plastics are a solution against littering is a different discussion. Oxo-degradable plastics, however, are specifically being marketed as the solution to worldwide plastics refuse. It’s a message that’s being heard around the globe. As countries increasingly adopt the widespread use of oxo-degradable plastics, the time has come to establish once and for all, what happens to oxo-degradable plastics at the end of life. The multi-client project aims to put the issue to rest by investigating the claims and by attempting to verify these in the laboratory. “To make this study as objective and neutral as possible, we are aiming at a broad participation including government agencies, consumer goods producers, NGO’s, oxodegradable producers and the bioplastics industry,” said OWS. In a first phase a number of oxo-degradable plastic products available in the market will be abiotically treated. In a second phase, the fragmented parts will be used for further biodegradation testing according to internationally accepted ISO and ASTM standards. Throughout the project, interim results will be provided on a regular basis. These intermediate results will be sent to all project partners, enabling them to keep track of the progress made. At the end of each phase, a report will be published and distributed amongst the project partners; a final report will appear at the end of the study .KL More information can be found in the official proposal: Meanwhile manufacturers of oxo-degradable plastics object against this study in a statement that by its very vehemence raises incredulity. Shakespeare put it rather nicely when he wrote: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” KL Read the full commentary at (Sept 22) 6 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/14] Vol. 9

News Improved performance of PLA-packaging The plastics processing industry has been faced with an ever growing number of demands from end consumers calling for responsible action to protect our environment. Added to these demands, are those of packaging materials producers whose concerns are not only environmental but are also focused on better and simpler processing of PLA-materials. The GRAFE Group (Blankenhain, Germany) has expanded its product portfolio to include a new masterbatch under the name of Biocolen which is not only suitable for coloring PLA but also provides improved performance for packaging manufacturers. The new material offers many advantages to processors, and new application options to manufacturers of consumer goods. The batch improves the temperature stability of PLA during the thermoforming process, by optimizing the material which must be stored cool and then reheated. One of the most important applications is for packaging microwave meals. The benefits available to the packaging manufacturers are clear. The masterbatch improves the durability, achieving a higher flexibility and reducing the brittleness in the end product without impairing transparency. The packaging product is very easy to process and cut due to its material composition. New high-strength biocomposite Processing of Bioplastics – what is feasible ? In the automotive industry the increasing pressure to use sustainable or renewable thermoplastic materials has led to the use of polyolefins filled with short natural fibers for parts that are not mechanically demanding. To date, however, there have been no sustainable or 100% natural biocomposites for performance applications with high mechanical demand. Now, (within the EU project Ecoplast), Biomer (Germany) and AIMPLAS (Spain) have developed a continuous production process for high strength renewable thermoplastic composites. These biocomposites are renewable, and have unexpected properties that enable the materials to be used for high-performance applications. The biocomposites show a modulus of over 6 GPa, a tensile strength of 70 MPa, and an impact strength of 40 kJ/m 2 . The biocomposites can be thermoformed at 175°C. They can be used for structures in transport that need to withstand large temperature changes from –40°C to +60°C, or for stiff, shock absorbing arrangements. For over 15 years, Biomer has focused on transforming PHB biopolyesters into high-performance durable bioplastics that are designed to be used in technical applications and last for years. The latest developments are fogging-free PHB thermoplasts that can be used in car interiors and that parallel PP or HD-PE in most mechanical properties. Biomer formulations are fully biodegradable in soil, sludge, rivers, ocean, or in garden composts at the end of life. KL A wide range of marketable biobased engineering materials such as PLA, Bio-PE, PA, PHB, etc., has become available by now and there is growing demand from the industry. But what is the exact performance range of bioplastics and how involved are the necessary modifications to the materials and in the production process, before they can be used as desired? These and other questions are most vital for the processing industry and thus received great attention at the symposium held by IfBB – Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites, and SKZ, September 17-18, in Würzburg. Germany Basically, the participating practitioners were given a presentation of the first results from the collaborative project „Processing of Biobased Plastics and Establishment of a Competence Network within the FNR Biopolymer Network“, followed by contributions from the industry. The project is funded with a grant from the Federal Ministry of Nutrition and Agriculture (BMEL), administered by the Agency of Renewable Resources (FNR). Visitors to the trade fair FAKUMA (October 14-18, Friedrichshafen, Germany) can visit IfBB at their booth (Hall 7 / 7508) and get more first hand info about the institute and the Biopolymer Network. MT bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/14] Vol. 9 7

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