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Issue 02/2017

  • Text
  • Bioplastics
  • Packaging
  • Biodegradable
  • Materials
  • Products
  • Biobased
  • Films
  • Plastics
  • Compostable
  • Germany
bioplasticsMAGAZINE_1702

Report By: Michael

Report By: Michael Thielen Bioplastics Survey In our previous issue, we started a new series “special focus on certain geographical areas”. Our idea is to conduct simple surveys in various countries and regions around the world, in order to gain an idea about the general perception of bioplastics in these countries. In this second edition of this new series, we again visited shopping centers in a number of towns, this time in Germany and Austria, where we interviewed at random a (non-representative) number of regular people – average citizens who were not expected to have any special knowledge of or connection with bioplastics. Of course, while Germany and Austria are close neighbors, they are two completely different countries, each with its own array of cultural peculiarities. The people in both countries speak German, albeit with slightly (?) different accents or dialects. The results of the surveys, however, were so similar in both countries, that we could easily include all the results in a single set of graphs. Of those we interviewed, 46 % were male and 54 % were female. About 80 % were aged between 20 and 40, while 20 % were between the ages of 40 and 60. This represents the average distribution of people browsing these particular shopping centers. When asked whether they knew what bioplastics were, a markedly small percentage (18%) responded with yes (and went on to back this up by correctly defining these as materials of biobased origin and/or with biodegradable features). We did find that the people in the city of Cologne, with its one million inhabitants, were slightly better informed than those in Mönchengladbach (Germany, population 260,000) and Salzburg (Austria, population 150,000). Overall, the other 82 % all indicated that they were interested in hearing more about what bioplastics were. We briefly explained that conventional plastics were made from oil, a scarce and non-renewable resource, and that burning petroleum-based products contributed to the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. We talked about how biobased plastics can be made from renewable resources or waste streams, such as corn, sugar beet, sugar cane or, e.g., waste starch from the potato industry and pointed out that biodegradable/compostable plastics (whether biobased or otherwise) also had significant benefits to offer, depending on the application. The majority of our interviewees responded positively to our explanation, expressing the opinion that bioplastics were better for the environment, with fewer harmful effects on the climate. A few saw bioplastics a way for them personally to actually do something about climate change. Asked whether they would buy products made of bioplastics, if they should happen to see them on display at the store, all confirmed that they would. Yet, echoing the interviewed Dutch shoppers in the previous edition, here again “only” 90 % reported that they would be willing to pay more for such products, with most responding: “a little more, yes”, or “but not twice as much”… In sum, consumers who know about or are aware of bioplastics and their potential are still a minority. Yet, once informed, and given the opportunity, consumers – at least those we interviewed- indicate that they would opt for products using bioplastics and even be willing to pay a small premium. This indicates an obvious need for comprehensive end consumer education. Consumer behavior can make a significant impact on the ways products affect the environment. Educating consumers about bioplastics offers a huge opportunity to promote these materials and to effect positive changes in the shopping choices people make. female 20-40 years 40-60 years Do you know what bioplastics are? Would you buy? Would you pay more? male YES 18% NO 86% YES 100% NO 0% YES 90% NO 10% 54% 57% 53,3% 57% 43% 46% 43% 46,7% 100% 78% 22% 80% 20% 80% 20% 100% 50% 50% 46 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/17] Vol. 12

From Science and Research Thermochromic bio-pigments Chromogenic materials change colour or transparency depending on temperature, electrical voltage, pressure or exposure to light. In thermochromic materials, a pre-determined temperature change triggers this change in colour. For example, in the food industry, thermochromic packaging can reveal whether the refrigeration chain has been interrupted. The temperature-sensitive additives used in this application are currently only available on the market as oil-based pigments. “In particular bioplastics – which will play a major role in day-to-day life in the future – lose their biobased status when commercially available thermochromic dyes are added. Our department has already demonstrated that the idea of thermochromic bioplastics can work. This is why we would like to use renewable raw materials when developing these materials for various applications,” explains Department head Christian Rabe. The move to Potsdam- Golm (Germany) enables the eight-person team to profit from the 25 years of expertise at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP) in the area of biopolymer research, and to take advantage of synergies. These relate to the access to technologies and characterization methods, as well as a more intensive exchange of knowledge with members of the Biopolymers research division. In addition to integrating thermochromic effects into biopolymers, the department Chromogenic Polymers, at its new location in the Science Park in Golm, is currently focusing on the development of particularly stable electrochromic windows for architectural applications or boat-building, and irreversible thermochromic packaging films. MT www.iap.fraunhofer.de Christian Rabe’s bio-based thermochromic dyes will enable purely biobased materials to change color in the future (Photo Till Budde, Fraunhofer IAP) bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/17] Vol. 12 47

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