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issue 03/2021

Highlights: Bottles / Blow Moulding Joining Bioplastics Basics: Carbon Capture

Cover Story Colourful

Cover Story Colourful and Healthy – sustainably packaged Everyone who once upon a time got the thought “I should get in shape” or “I should eat healthier” knows how difficult it can be to change our behaviour to improve our health – fact is, living healthy costs time, effort, and in many cases money. Jojanneke Leistra, founder of Superfoodguru.shop (Den Haag, The Netherlands) made it her mission to make one of these steps a little easier. As a lifelong healthy food lover, she started her company with a simple idea, bringing healthy food to the people. It started with powdered superfood mixes you could add to your juice or smoothie to improve your diet. However, this simple enterprise soon evolved into the next step of her business. Through all developments, the name Superfoodguru stuck. The new superfood journey she embarked on this time was putting together boxes of organic fruit and vegetables so people could make their own juices or smoothies more easily – a kind of HelloFresh idea. On top of that, she added smoothie recipes to the box – five novel juice & smoothie ideas every week. Over time they realized that they were not reaching their intended target group, “Most people don’t make a litre of juice every day, probably only health freaks who want to make time for that.” Again, the problem was time and effort, however, many people asked her if she could just make the juices for them. Jojanneke looked at her partner, “I guess we’re doing this.” At first, Jojanneke started small with a slow juicer in their kitchen, her main customers were friends and family. If there was enough enthusiasm, she would turn it into a business. The sheer amount of interest in Superfoodguru Juice soon forced her to upgrade, the slow juicer just wasn’t cutting it anymore. She rented a building and got an industrial cold press juicer. Now a new issue arose – getting the juice from the machine to the customers, or in other words, packaging. She started with glass bottles and a pick-up system, but the whole reclaiming and cleaning process of the bottles turned out to be too much effort, added to that was the potential hazard if a bottle would break during production. “It was also less sustainable than we had initially thought, due to the cleaning,” Jojanneke told bioplastics MAGAZINE, “so we switched from glass to (conventional) plastic, but the number of bottles we used was enormous – and we couldn’t take them back as you cannot simply reuse them.” Jojanneke started another search for alternatives with sustainability in mind. She first landed on rPET, however, she did not like that even rPET still needs a certain amount of virgin, fossil-based material, which means that she would still create new plastic instead of just recycling it. Another issue was the colour of the material. “The bottles were light grey and not really transparent. When you buy fresh juice, you want bright colours: orange, red, yellow and green, you want it to bring out the natural colours,” Jojanneke said. In the end it was a Coca Cola’ PlantBottle that lead her to bio-PET. “I thought if such a big company uses it there has to be something to it, but even then it was only 30 % biobased MEG – the rest was, again, fossil-based.” Eventually, she found PLA, and after some research, including the decision of different, Jojanneke landed on PLA by Dumocom (Almelo, The Netherlands), based on sugar cane. Dumocom was happy to help them try out the material, but also mentioned that so far, no other beverage supplier had shown any interest. The reason for that was the comparatively poor barrier properties of PLA. Jojanneke was willing to give it a shot, they made a prototype mould with their logo. “The oxygen-barrier is a problem if you want your product to be durable, but that was not a problem for us as by default our product has a fairly short shelf-life with only 8 days,” so Jojanneke. “It is a very fresh product, that is kind of the point. We are the first fresh juice supplier in the Netherlands, and maybe even in Europe that uses PLA,” she told us proudly. One of the initial hurdles with PLA was that she didn’t have labels made of PLA so they started with paper labels. Ideally, the labels needed to be water resistant as the bottles tend to get wet during production and need to be cleaned from the outside before being shipped. Now they are using compostable NatureFlex labels from Vila (Breda, The Netherlands) that fulfil that requirement. “The only thing we haven’t figured out yet is the bottle cap which is still made from conventional plastics. PLA caps did not close properly.” 22 bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/21] Vol. 16

By: Alex Thielen When Jojanneke applied for the Dutch packaging award she got told that the end-of-life of PLA is still problematic, due to the low amount of PLA in the market and the lack of a designated recycling stream. Another worry of the award team was that a compostable bottle may lead to more littering as most of the general public would not know about industrial composting. “Be aware that this bottle, has by far the best carbon footprint compared to any other bottle,” she said. Currently, Superfoodguru offers their healthy juices in 325 ml bottles, as well as ginger shot bottles of 60ml. When asked about the suggested end-of-life for her bottle Jojanneke admitted that there are still many issues as it would need to go to an industrial composting plant, but current composters do not seem to want PLA in their compost streams as it could lead to longer “cycle times”. For now, she suggests to just discard it with the regular trash as that would mostly end up in incineration, which in a round-about way would be renewable energy (as PLA is made from plants). Superfoodguru is likely to grow further but they will never be big enough to have a through put of 5,000-10,000 tonnes a year that might be necessary for realistic recycling considerations. Incineration is actually not the worst option. So, the “normal rubbish” is the best solution for now. There are plans to establish a separate PLA recycling stream in the Netherlands, but until that actually happens, we need more pioneers like Jojanneke that use PLA, making a designated recycling stream more likely. When asked to sum up the project Jojanneke told us that she needed to learn everything from scratch, how the machine worked, what bioplastics even were and which might work for her product. “It is always a good idea to start small, learn, adjust and once you understand it properly you can start scaling it,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to take a risk, sometimes you just need to try something you believe in – you feel good when you do good.” And we at bioplastics MAGAZINE agree, we could use more brave pioneers like Jojanneke, that take the risk to try something new in order to improve the world around them. Blow Moulding / Bottles https://superfoodguru.shop bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/21] Vol. 16 23

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