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Issue 03/2022

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Highlights: Injection Moulding Beauty & Healthcare Basics: Biocompatibility of PHA Starch

Automotive Events

Automotive Events Everything PLA Conference review The 7 th PLA World Congress, organized by bioplastics MAGAZINE, was held in Munich on the 24 th and 25 th of May with overall over 90 participants (42 in the room and 45 online). The hybrid event brought together players from all parts of the industry and after the long Coronacaused in-person conference break did feel at times like a class reunion of the industry, with many old and wellknown as well as new faces coming together to talk and discuss everything PLA. Trying to summarise 25 presentations and seven Q&A sessions ranging from very technical and scientific topics to passionate and politically focused calls to action is no easy feat. The first day of the two-day conference had many noteworthy presentations and fruitful discussions, kicking off with a keynote speech by Remy Jongboom from Biotec (Emmerich, Germany) where he talked about the fossil addiction of our society, pointing to the painfully obvious that the status quo needs to change (see also bM 02/22). One of these changes might lie in chemical recycling and Francois de Bie (TotalEnergy Corbion, Gorinchem, the Netherlands) was the first to talk about the recyclability of PLA and how it is inherently more suitable for chemical recycling then conventional fossilbased plastics (see also p.32). Another thing that is inherently more suitable is having a representative of the industry on the cover of bioplastics MAGAZINE – Allegra Muscatello from Taghleef (S. Giorgio di Nogaro, Italy). Next to looking great on the front page and introducing the PLA materials Taghleef has to offer she also pointed out some of the drawbacks of PLA, which to a large degree are on the legislative side, including a lack of infrastructure but also education and communication about biodegradable materials. And while this conference focussed on PLA, somehow a presentation about PHA managed to sneak in – not without reason. Hugo Vuurens from CJ Bio (Seoul, Korea) gave a quick intro into PHAs (pointing out that technically PLA, as a matter of fact, is a PHA too) before going into more detail about what makes CJs PHA special – amorphous PHA. Compounding even small amounts of amorphous PHA with PLA improve the biodegradability of the overall material – an issue often associated with PLA (the need of industrial composting that is). The first day ended strongly with a highly anticipated presentation of Ramani Narayan (Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA), who talked about the science behind biodegradability and (home)composting – while also addressing the doubts some of the previous presentations raised about the value of biodegradability and compostability of PLA. Ramani had a couple of take home messages: everybody in (industrial and home) composting is talking about temperature, but temperature is not arbitrary – temperature is caused by the microbial process, it decreases and increases due to the microbial metabolism – an exothermic process. Therefore, a drop in temperature 12 bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/22] Vol. 17

By: Alex Thielen Events in a composting process simply means that there is not enough carbon “to chew on” for the microbes. He points out that it makes little sense to test the compostability of material at a certain fixed temperature because the process itself raises the temperature – composting is a continuous process with raising and falling temperatures, which depends on the amount of carbon available and the types of bacteria (mesophiles and thermophiles) that are active. The standard temperature for homecomposting is around 20°C which is at the lower end of bacterial activity (where is just starts but is far from really kicking off), while 58°C (industrial composting standard) is the temperature with the highest bacterial activity. So, standards for home-composting should relate to the actual bacterial metabolism and the heat generated by the process instead of arbitrarily fixing a temperature. He went into more detail how this relates to the conversion of polymers, however, this would be worth a whole article in this magazine on its own. The first block of day two was packed with interesting presentations through the bench, Patrick Gerritsen (Bio4Pac, Nordhorn, Germany) made a charismatic call to action saying that “the problem with PLA” is not the material, it is the traditional (fossil focused) system. To be able to compete against or within this system there needs to be a change of mind in customers, producers, and governments. Capacity needs to increase, much more than it already is as capacity of traditional plastics is also growing, outperforming that of PLA. Regulations and legislations need to actually promote biobased and compostable alternatives, and as pointed out recycling is also a more than realistic option for PLA – the goals of EU plastic pact will be impossible to reach if this does not happen. Patrick said that, “although we know that some of these targets will never be reached we still continue with this lie, and we (the PLA industry) needs to compete with lies. What we do as an industry is for the future, it’s not for now. It’s either change or die.” The solutions lie in taxing non-recyclable materials, proper waste regulation that accept proven compostable materials, force waste processors to accept PLA (to in later steps make recycling of PLA a viable option) – open up the system, if bioplastics and PLA in particular are not accepted the set goals will never be reached. Patrick was followed by Karin Molenveld (Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, the Netherlands) who made quick work of the myth that PLA is detrimental to PET recycling. She said that claims of recyclers are on the one hand unfounded as there is not nearly enough PLA in the market to have examples of detrimental influences, and that the PLA that is in the market has small chance of even ending up in the PET recycling stream. Her research showed that PLA contamination of up to 8 % would not have any effect on the functionality of recycled PET, a number so high PLA producer wished they even had the capacity to cause it if all their material would end in the wrong recycling stream. The first block ended with Ari Rosling from Arctic Biomaterials (Tampere, Finland) showing of biodegradable glass fibre PLA compounds, where the glass fibre actually improved the biodegradation of the PLA materials, giving it higher heat resistance that are suitable for extrusion, injection moulding, and pultrusion. In the second block Lien Van Schueren and Willem Uyttendaele from Centexbel (Gent, Belgium) looked at PLA in fabrics including the coating and printing of fully biobased clothing and later on two presentations from different Fraunhofer institutes (ICT and IAP) did a kind of tag team introduction into stereocomplex PLA materials. The last block started with the last in-person presentation by Zsolt Bodnar (Filaticum, Miskolc, Hungary) who introduced his 3D printing filaments and PLA foams. Zsolt enthusiastically promoted collaborations with other companies that are interested in his materials saying that people should just ask for material to try for their application – trial and error always beats theoretical considerations and that he and his company would help tweak the material to reach the desired attributes. PLA filaments are easy to modify with additives Zsolt said, “it is somewhat my dream to design polymers to customers requirements and we have already done it a couple of times”. The block ended with Shilpa Manjure of NaturTec (Circle Pines, MN, USA) who talked about the importance of taking the shelf life of materials into account especially in consideration with adding PLA regrind to a material. Shelf life does decrease with additional regrind so one should consider both data from accelerated aging (which her research looked at) and real-life data in combination with the performance criteria for the application. This will help make accurate predictions of shelf life of a given product using PLA containing recycled content. This was, of course, only a fraction of the topics, themes, and insights present at the 7 th PLA World Congress, luckily it is still possible to view the recorded videos of all the presentations and Q&A sessions online simply contact for more details. bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/22] Vol. 17 13

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