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Issue 04/2020

  • Text
  • Bottles
  • Biodegradable
  • Packaging
  • Sustainable
  • Environmental
  • Renewable
  • Plastics
  • Materials
  • Biobased
  • Bioplastics
Highlights: Bottle Applications Beauty and Healthcare Basics: bio-PDO, bio-BDO

Materials Bioplastic

Materials Bioplastic from plant protein World’s first commercial plant-protein bioplastic set to hit the market A University of Cambridge spin-out, Xampla, has engineered the world’s first commercially viable biobased material from plant protein. Unlike bioplastics based on plant polysaccharides, Xampla’s plant protein materials can achieve high performance without chemical cross-linking. As a result, they decompose quickly and completely in the natural environment, making them particularly interesting in locations or use cases where recycling is not viable. The company is currently working with pea protein, a sustainable and renewable feedstock, and is also investigating other sources including soy and rapeseed. Earlier this year it received GBP 2 million (EUR 2.2 million) in investment to take its prototypes into products, with the first expected to launch in the autumn. A breakthrough in plant protein research Xampla’s technology is based on research from the Knowles Lab at the University of Cambridge. Inspired by the process a spider uses to create silk, the chemists have succeeded in exploiting the natural ability of proteins to self-assemble into different supramolecular structures with remarkable properties. The team’s key breakthrough came in the discovery of how to form performance materials from plant proteins. Historically, these have been more challenging to work with than animal-derived protein materials such as gelatin or silk. The resulting ‘Supramolecular Engineered Protein’ can be structured into films, gels and capsules. Xampla holds two patents for the new material, with two more to be filed shortly. According to CEO Simon Hombersley, the commercial opportunity is significant. “Supramolecular Engineered Protein is a platform technology. It has the potential to replace fossil fuel derived synthetic materials and plastics in multiple global markets. It is compostable, and even edible. We are committed to helping manufacturers make the transition from traditional plastics to high performance, plant protein-based bioplastics that protect the planet.” Initial target is the USD 12 billion microencapsulation market The company’s first product will be a microcapsule for encapsulation of fragrance in homecare and beauty products. Microcapsules are small particles or droplets surrounded by a protective shell or coating. The microcapsule shell isolates the microcapsule contents from the surrounding sample matrix, improving shelf-life stability for sensitive ingredients and ensuring the contents are released at the desired point of use. The industry has found it challenging to replace polymeric microcapsules with biodegradable alternatives. The shell walls of current bioderived microcapsules are typically too permeable for fragrance encapsulation. Yet, with the European Chemicals Agency proposing restrictions on this type of intentionally added microplastic, and indicating strict testing of alternatives’ biodegradability, there is an immediate business need for a solution. Early testing of the Xampla plant protein product indicates it provides mechanical performance more comparable to polyurea or polyacetate microcapsules than current alginate and cellulose products, without the requirement for solvents. Beyond microplastics, the company reports that it expects to launch packaging products including sachets, bags and films in 2021. MT www.xampla.com Info See a video-clip at: tinyurl.com/xampla-video Vial of Xampla plant protein microcapsules Xampla plant protein sachet Simulation of protein reassembly into SEP 44 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/20] Vol. 15

Automotive A byproduct of a byproduct Dairy waste is being turned into bioplastics Photo: pixabay Dairies in Europe are major economic drivers in rural areas, but they produce significant waste from cleaning and processing. Wastewater and milk residue, which are typically disposed of, are now being turned into new products such as phosphate-rich fertiliser and bioplastics. The EU produced 172.2 million tonnes of raw milk in 2018 and demand for milk is expected to rise in the coming years, particularly for export. People regionally and internationally rely on milk products. But dairies are part of food systems that have a huge impact on the planet. “Food systems remain one of the key drivers of climate change and environmental degradation,” according to the European Commission. Its Farm to Fork strategy, unveiled in May, aims to shift the region’s food system to bring environmental, health and social benefits and ”ensure that the recovery from the (Covid-19) crisis puts us onto a sustainable path”. One way to achieve this is by turning waste streams into value-added products. Dairy is the second-largest agricultural sector in the European Union after vegetables and horticultural plants, with more than 12,000 milk processing and production sites in member states. For every litre of milk produced, about 2.5 litres of wastewater is generated. Finding sustainable uses for dairy waste is increasingly important as demand for milk grows. In Ireland, in the last year alone, milk demand has gone up by 50 %, says Bill Morrissey, programme manager of the AgriChemWhey project, which is exploring how to convert dairy waste into new products. Six years ago, Morrissey and colleagues at Glanbia, Ireland’s largest dairy processor, realised as they watched dairy demand rise, that they needed to manage this growth in a sustainable manner – and that one of the major bottlenecks was dairy waste. Whey permeate Whey from cheesemaking now forms the backbone of Glanbia’s sports nutrition arm. Whey proteins are predigested and easily absorbed and promote muscle growth – something in high demand amongst athletes. However, once the whey protein and solids have been extracted from the dairy waste, whey permeate – a liquid – is left behind. Glanbia worked with a number of research partners to develop a biotechnological process to transform whey permeate into PLA bioplastic, which could be used in packaging and fabric, for example. Their pilot facility is able to handle about 10,000 litres of whey permeate, but with the new industrial facility, the project is targeting 25,000 tonnes. “The PLA produced from the feedstock we use is more sustainable than current methods,” Bill said. “It is a secondgeneration feedstock – a byproduct of a byproduct.” From a sustainability point of view, he says it ticks a lot of boxes. “This is very important in terms of climate change.” The company is partially owned by the Glanbia Cooperative Society, which is made up of farming cooperatives and farmers who benefit from this additional revenue stream. “It allows us to manage a sustainable disposal, but also adds value to our farmers’ milk and supports family-owned farms,” Morrissey said. Irish farming comprises numerous relatively small farms – of about 100 cows per farmer – many of which are familyowned and passed down through the generations, he says. According to the Irish statistics office, of the 137,500 farms in Ireland, 137,100 are family-owned. He sees projects of these as safeguarding a rural way of life as farming space globally becomes more constrained. It offers an enticement for people to stay in rural areas, according to Bill Morrissey, instead of moving to cities in search of opportunity – something not unique to Ireland. “That is the big part of this project for me: this is a project that can be replicated throughout the world.” The research in this article was funded by the EU. A more comprehensive article by Sarah Wild was originally published in “Horizon”, the EU Research and Innovation magazine. MT www.horizon-magazine.eu | tinyurl.com/dairy2plastic bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/20] Vol. 15 45

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