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Issue 02/2020

  • Text
  • Use
  • Horticulture
  • Agriculture
  • Thermoforming
  • Packaging
  • Films
  • Biobased
  • Biodegradable
  • Products
  • Plastics
  • Materials
  • Packaging
  • Bioplastics
Highlights: Agri-/Horticulture Thermoforming Rigid Packaging Basics Land use (update)

Agriculture/Horticulture

Agriculture/Horticulture Figure 1: Hop fibre moulded packaging Hop residues and PLA Within the European Union alone, 2,600 farms are engaged in a hop-growing industry, covering the 26,500 hectares, (60 % of the total surface area used for a hop-growing worldwide), with an annual hop production capacity of over 50,000 tonnes. Slovenia is ranked as the EU’s 3 rd largest hop producer (5 th in the world) and produces near to 3,100 tonnes of hops on 1,700 ha per year. However, the most firmly anchored practice in Slovenia for hop growing management is still the use of fossil-based polypropylene (PP) twines, which on one hand provides an excellent mechanical performance, but on the other hand the periodic entry of non-degradable plastics, pose a serious burden to the environment. Furthermore, hop cones are considered to be the only useful material of the hop plant, while the remaining biomass (vines & leaves) because of the synthetic plastic twine residues, is currently discarded as a non-compostable waste, typically sent to incineration plants or uncontrollably burnt on the fields. In response to the problem described, a new European project LIFE BioTHOP, now proposes a new circular economy-based model to improve hop waste management. This model combines bioplastic twine materials based on poly(lactic acid) (PLA), with an ability for conversion into a novel feedstock for biodegradable, compostable and recyclable packaging as well as horticulture product accessories. The LIFE BioTHOP Consortium is a transnational partnership comprised of 7 partners from 5 EU Member States: Slovenia, Portugal, Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic. Specifically: The Slovenian Institute of Hop Research and Brewing (IHPS), is the Coordinating Beneficiary, and focused principally on research and advisory services for sustainable hop-growing industry. Portuguese industrial corporation Lankhorst Euronete Group is in charge of the development of home compostable PLA twine, intended specifically for hop-growing sector. German SME Zelfo Technology is developing an upgraded technology for reengineering of hop waste fibers to be usable in fiber pulp moulding applications and extrusion compounding processes. Tridas, pulp molding company from Czech Republic, is a leader of the pilot production line for hop-waste fiber transformation into pulp moulded packaging products. Spanish SME Tecnopackaging is the producer of the tailored PLA compounds (granulates) reinforced with hop fibers for injection and extrusion blow moulding applications. Tecnopackaging’s bioplastic granulates are subsequently used by the Slovenian Tool and Die Development Centre - TECOS in its injection moulding pilot line for production of horticulture planting pots in which hop seedlings, cultivated by IHPS, are beginning a new life period. The 3 rd Slovenian partner is the Savinja Development Agency which unites 6 neighbouring municipalities of Lower Savinja Valley, the demo region of the project and the Figure 1: Hop fibre moulded packaging 32 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/20] Vol. 15

Agriculture/Horticulture largest hop-growing region in Slovenia. They are required to stimulate the hop-growers involvement, as well as disseminate, exploit and transfer the project results locally, regionally and transnationally. BioTHOP’s approach is moving towards the cascading valorisation of hop biomass. Since hop cones represent only one third of the total plant biomass, amounting to an annual EU production quantity of 50,000 tonnes, it means that 100,000 tonnes of lost dry biomass is generated every year which could be a source of new raw materials or compost. The BioTHOP demonstration project, will involve 450 tonnes of harvested hop biomass which are to be valorised as potential feedstock for new products & applications. Moreover, BioTHOP is in addition affiliated with 6 municipalities of Lower Savinja Valley (co-financiers), the biggest hop producing region in Slovenia, where in total there are close to 1,100 ha of hop plantations. This means that up to 16,500 tonnes of hop waste could be potentially transformed per year, when BioTHOP methodology will be transferred to this region. The BioTHOP alliance strive to generate a paradigm shift in the hop-growing industry by establishing a novel circular approach, demonstrated with the objectives liste in the representative scheme: • Complete elimination of fossil-based plastics by introducing biocompostable and biodegradable polymer twines based on polylactic acid (PLA), allowing ecologically sustainable hop—growing practice. • The viability performance of modified PLA twine to be utilised in a hop growing sector, with mechanical characteristics equal to traditional PP twines, improved resistibility towards the weathering conditions and facilitated manipulation for farmers. • The compostability allowance of harvested hop biomass with PLA fractions to be returned on agro-fields in the form of organic fertilizers. • The feasibility of turning the harvested hop waste (organic biomass — leaves and bines with PLA leftovers) into new valuable feedstock, such as pulp fibre, reinforcing filler additives and biocomposite compounds, through the most extended manufacturing technologies (pulp moulding, injection moulding & extrusion compounding). • The production and validation of economicallycompetitive bioplastic products made of recovered hop wastes for packaging and horticulture sector. The demonstrative character of the BioTHOP project concerns the validation of the efficient use of raw resources and the exploitation of waste obtained from harvested By: Vesna Žepič Bogataj Head of Laboratory for Applicative Materials, Tecos Celje, Slovenia Barbara Čeh Head of Field Crop Production, Slovenian Institute of Hop Research and Brewing, Žalec, Slovenia Richard Hurding CEO / Innovations director Richard Hurding, Zelfo Technology Joachimsthal, Germany Vanesa Martinez-Nogues R&D Project Manager, Tecnopackaging Zaragoza, Spain hop biomass. The principle concept of this project relies on introducing the biodegradable PLA twine into the hop growing industry, to replace the current in use that is based on fossil hydrocarbons. Although enormous work has been done in the past on providing alternative solutions to PP supporting twines, technically appropriate, sustainable and economically viable substitutions for hop growers are yet not available. The products and technologies to be developed in BioTHOP will go beyond state of-the-art and will supply the mechanically sustainable and environmentally friendly twining alternatives, based on a cascading process for hop waste recovery which in turn offer new marketing products based on up-graded bioplastic materials. There will be three optimisation phases regarding hop fibre extraction and post treatment of hop biomass with PLA residues including industrial application valorisation strategies (packaging and horticulture product accessories). Three new PLA product families are to be developed throughout the BioTHOP project: 1) modified PLA formulation suitable for use in weaving applications for biocompostable twine, specifically adapted to the hop-growing industry. 2) engineered hop waste fibers for pulp moulding applications in the non-food-based packaging industry (i.e. packaging insert trays). 2) recovered hop fibre-reinforced PLA composites for use in the horticulture (planting pots) and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industries. bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/20] Vol. 15 33

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