Automotive tainable product,“ says Reed Paget of Belu, “and they suggested we use a sort of biopolymer“. As PLA was not ready for commercial use in those days, Belu started the launch of Belu Mineral Water with glass bottles. After the successful launch of BIOTA, Belu finally introduced in May 2006 the Belu PLA bottle, using preforms purchased from Planet Friendly Products. The bottles are blown on SIG Corpoplast stretch blow moulding machines and filled at Brecon Mineral Water in a factory located near Llandeilo in South Wales. To set up a socially responsible water company was the idea with which Michael Keeffe of +1Water in Canada approached co-founders Paul and David Smith a few years ago. “We wanted to contribute 20% of our profits towards water development organisations like WaterCan and Ryan‘s Well Foundation in Canada and Operation Hunger in South Africa,“ says Michael. These non profit organisations help provide communities in need with access to safe, clean water. “Unlike most people living in North America and Europe, there are over one billion people in the world that do not have access to safe drinking water,“ he adds. Within a few months they found out about PLA and decided it would provide the environmentally responsible component to round out the socially responsible dimension of the product. With the technical support of NatureWorks, Krones and Ben Benedict at Iroquois Water +1Water was able to launch their PLA +1 bio-bottle last January. +1 bottles natural spring water from a family owned spring called “Bell Falls“ in Quebec. Iroquois Water, use Krones equipment, to blow and fill the bottles for +1Water. Bernd Merzenich (today head of german bioplastics) has acted as a consultant to different companies with regard to the production and marketing of organic food for about 25 years. In recent years he has also been keen to use bioplastics as a packaging material for organic produce. When working for the German drugstore chain “Ihr Platz“, establishing a new range of organic food products and natural cosmetics, he came across the BIOTA bottles. He found exciting the idea of using PLA as a packaging material for a pilot project of wellness beverages with a strong appeal to health and environment, which Ihr Platz was planning to introduce. When Hycail (today with Tate&Lyle) could not cona c 10 Years ago Published in bioplastics MAGAZINE Special BIOTA Brands of America, Inc. / Planet Friendly Products Telluride, Colorado, USA David M. Zutler, Founder and CEO Belu Mineral Water, London, UK Reed Paget, Co-founder and Managing Director Ihr Platz GmbH + Co. KG, Osnabrück, Germany Bernd Merzenich, former Consultant now: Managing Director of german bioplastics GmbH & Co. KG Plus One Water, Inc., Montreal, Canada Michael Keeffe, CEO Naturally Iowa, LLC, Clarinda, Iowa, USA William Horner, President Five PLA bottle pioneers A significant number of companies have launched beverages in PLA bottles in recent years. bioplastics MAGAZINE spoke to the responsible people at five of the early pioneers in this field about their motivation, their experience and their future plans. Motivation Being asked how they came to the idea of using PLA as a bottle material, David Zutler of BIOTA said, that as early as 1996 he was already looking for a better material. In May of 2002 he read an article in the local Telluride newspaper how plastic bottles were helping to destroy the environment of our planet. Just shortly after Cargill and Dow opened their production plant for PLA in Blair, Nebraska, USA, he and Planet Friendly TM Products, a bioplastics consultancy firm also founded by him, contacted Cargill Dow (now NatureWorks LLC) and with the support of Cargill Dow, Husky and SIG Corpoplast they started the rollout of the World‘s First PLA preforms, bottles, and labels with the intention of “helping change the world as far as plastics is concerned,“ as David puts it. A similar idea drove Bill Horner of Naturally Iowa, when his company established the guidelines for creating a new all natural or even all organic dairy company. In October of 2005 they saw a major shift in consumer demand for organic products. “We decided to make a shift in our business plan as well, and with regard to packaging we wanted to set ourselves apart from all the others,“ says Bill, “and the only real breakthrough in plastics packaging that we could see was PLA“. Two years earlier they had contacted Cargill Dow, just an hour and a half down the road, and enjoyed the benefit of earlier experience gained with the help of BIOTA bottles. Naturally Iowa uses Norland blow moulding equipment for their in-house production of the bottles. London (UK) based Belu Mineral Water is an environmental initiative which contributes 100% of its net profits to clean water projects. Working with the charity WaterAid, every bottle of Belu water purchased in the UK provides someone in India or Africa with clean water for one month. About five years ago Belu contacted the Rocky Mountain Institute, an environmental organisation in the USA. “I discussed with them how to make a low impact bottle to create a more sus- http://bit.ly/bottles2007 10 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/07] Vol. 2 46 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/17] Vol. 12
Automotive In July 2017, Michael Thielen bioplastics MAGAZINE says: Special I must admit, in the beginning of my bioplastics career, I was a real enthusiast about PLA bottles. In fact, even before I founded bioplastics MAGAZINE, in 2006 I wrote a press release for a PR-client who had supplied the stretch blow moulding machines for the Biota and the BELU bottles. With enthusiasm, I wrote this article you can see here about the five PLA bottle pioneers. And with enthusiasm we organised the first and the second PLA bottle conference… End-of-life options There has to be a way for consumers, and recyclers to easily tell the difference between biobased products and petroleum based products. “All our bottles say Planet Friendly. When the consumer, and recycler, see those words, they know what they are,“ says David. “My number one end-of-life option is what I would call reclaiming,“ he adds. „Reuse or recycle to bottles or into other products such as garden pots etc. And my second favourite is energy recovery. PLA burns cleanly and can help augment the use of fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, etc.) in power plants, helping to generate greenhouse neutral energy and alleviate the devastating problem of burning plastics in landfills.“ Reuse and recycle are also the preferred end-of-life options for Reed Paget, making up the top four together with composting/energy recovery, and with landfill as the last option. Belu is currently working on life cycle assessments and even home composting seems to be a viable option instead of shipping the waste across town to a waste facility. “I did it myself in my backyard,“ says Reed, “and if you know how to do it, it works.“ “Our +1 bio-bottle is clearly stamped both with the number seven recycling logo as well as the word ‚compostable‘ informing consumers that they have disposal options, says Michael Keeffe. +1Water is working (with a number of recyclers) on a pilot project with a company called “Turtle Island Recycling“ in Ontario focused on both bioplastics recycling and composting. And when, after reuse or recycling, PLA ends up in an incineration plant, because it‘s not petrochemical based it is also more environmentally friendly as well. Today, Naturally Iowa‘s percentage of the market is rather small, so that the bottles end up in a landfill where they degrade. But Bill Horner says that first attempts are being made to set up industrial composting facilities. bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/07] Vol. 2 11 looking at the present hype regarding biofuels, the aspect of eco-friendly energy recovery from bioplastics should be stressed: Bioplastics create a much higher added value from agricultural raw materials than biofuels and can generate a similar output of CO 2 neutral energy when incinerated at their end of life.“ As soon as barrier properties and heat resistance are improved, biodegradability as an option will anyway become much less an issue, Bernd adds. “Personally I don‘t believe in biodegradability unless it has practical reasons,“ he says. “For instance when you pack fruit and vegetables you can compost the waste together with the packaging, or when bioplastic shopping bags are available they can be used to collect and compost organic waste.“ Future prospects BIOTA will remain a bottled water company, but Planet Friendly is going to work with different manufacturers to promote PLA and other bio-based packaging. “I would rather help other manufacturers with the different additives and different material properties that are being developed,“ David says. Belu as well as +1Water have further projects on the drawing board. However, “they are not too far down the road as of yet“, Reed Paget points out. “So far we just produce the 0.5 gallon milk bottles,“ says Bill Horner, “but starting in June we are going to be bottling milk in 10 and 12 oz. and possibly even 8 oz ‚grab-and-go‘ containers, and in the fall we start with a probiotic drinkable yoghurt with an extended life that we are really excited about,“ he proudly adds. All of the products will be packaged in PLA, the single serve units with a PLA shrink sleeve. Today my thinking has evolved a little. PLA is an excellent material for a multitude of applications, but it seems not to be exactly the material of choice when it comes to bottles. The mechanical and barrier properties are not optimal and for hot filling of juices neither are the thermal properties. From the composters perspective, composting is not really a valued added end of life option for bottles. And thus, except for some niche applications, e.g. closed loop systems on cruise ships or in big sport arenas, where bottles can be collected and (preferably first recycled or) eventually maybe even composted, a biodegradable beverage bottle material does not make much sense. Special Depending on the individual bottle application, today other biobased materials have entered the stage. PET, currently 30% biobased will eventually be fully biobased, and is completely recyclable together with conventional PET. A new material, 100% biobased, which is said offer better mechanical and barrier properties than PET, is PEF (see pp 12) and for many applications outside the mineral water and soft drink markets, biobased PE can easily be extrusion blow moulded into bottles. So, bioplastics in the bottle space are helping to evolve old incumbents like PE and PET, and as well, bring new bottle entrants, like PEF. We’d do well to stay curious on how the bottle market will continue to change in the coming years. Bernd Merzenich says: “To be pragmatic, just now I only see incineration with energy recovery as meaningful. From n LCA point of view I would favour thermal disposal, beause it generates CO 2 neutral energy. Last but not least, Bernd Merzenich thinks that for many companies in Germany it is a drawback to start using PLA as long as there is only one supplier. First of all, if a company wants to introduce PLA, they can‘t get the material, and secondly, no one wants to rely on a single source. And David Zutler says governments should support companies t up production capacities.