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Issue 05/2017

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Beauty & Healthcare

Beauty & Healthcare Stronger superabsorbent biopolymers for baby care Ecovia Renewables, Inc. and their research and development team in Ann Arbor, Michigan are working to develop a suite of polyglutamic acid (PGA) biopolymers from their patented EcoSynth fermentation process. Their objective: to produce biodegradable, non-toxic, and highperforming superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) at competitive costs. Ecovia’s PGA SAPs can be used as thickeners for cosmetics, soil amendments for agriculture, and absorbent cores for hygiene products, to name a few applications. “It was a tough realization,” Drew Hertig, Chief Business Officer of Ecovia recalls. “We interviewed parent after parent. Nobody wanted to pay more than a dime extra to switch to a biobased diaper that couldn’t live up to the performance of traditional diapers.” The solution? Develop a scalable process that, at large volumes, reduces the manufacturing cost of high performing materials previously too expensive to use in hygienic products. This concept allows for cost savings without sacrificing performance. Dr. Nina Lin and Dr. Jeremy Minty of the University of Michigan Dept. of Chemical Engineering capitalized on their research in constructing microbial ecosystems to form the basis of the EcoSynth platform. Demonstrating success at small scales, Minty and his team work around the clock applying their platform to produce low-cost PGA, a naturally occurring (and edible) biopolymer, from renewable sources like waste glycerol. “We are looking at application areas that can benefit both the end-user and the environment, all while maintaining profitability and economics of scale,” said Jeremy Minty, Co-Founder and President. “Our long term vision is to replace hundreds of synthetic polymer products with costcompetitive PGA.” One such area is baby care, where thousands of tonnes of synthetic polymers are used and thrown away every day. As the diapers pile up so do the expenses. As a result, parents often have to choose between cost and performance for diapers that are biobased and non-toxic for their baby and the environment. Finding the right diaper at the right price has led to an influx of experts catering to the demand of concerned parents. The result? A plethora of information and opportunities for consumer research. Thought leaders and rating sites like Rodale’s Organic Life and Baby Gear Lab have made it easy for parents and parents-to-be to consider all their options for adoption. Most parents agree that for the superabsorbent material that makes up the core of diapers—averaging 10g per diaper—performance is key. Rigorous tests are performed including absorbency under load, free swell, and centrifuge retention capacity. Many more tests are kept confidential by the market leaders for benchmarking internal products. The winners are usually traditional diapers. Traditional diapers incorporate synthetic polymers like polyacrylic acid and its derivatives. These SAPs continue to outperform most biobased polymer substitutes like polysaccharides (i.e. starches and celluloses). As a result, the material in the diaper core often limits sustainability certifications. However, the bar is rising. Biodegradability tests, including ISO, ASTM, and OECD testing methods are no longer enough for eco-brands to differentiate themselves. Leading brands are looking to improve their sustainability certifications, striving to reach the highest level possible, such as Cradle-to-Cradle Gold status, and Nordic Swan, which examines CO 2 emissions throughout the product lifecycle. “At the end of the day we hope to look back and think we made it one step closer to fulfilling our mission,” Mr. Hertig concludes, “having nature work for us so that we can give back.” MT Linear gamma-poly glutamic acid (PGA). Biobased and nontoxic, linear PGA can be crosslinked and derivatized into superabsorbent materials. Image brightened for contrast. 36 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/17] Vol. 12

Beauty & Healthcare Bioplastic microbeads for cosmetics Few are aware that many cosmetics pollute the rivers and seas due to the presence of microscopic particles of oilbased and non-biodegradable plastic (polyethylene, polypropylene and other types of polymers). To solve this problem and make every beauty product environmentally friendly, Bioon developed and patented a revolutionary, innovative solution in 2016 based on the bioplastic Minerv PHAs, which is made from renewable and biodegradable plant sources. The new formulation, called Minerv Bio Cosmetics (type C1), is designed to make microbeads suitable for the cosmetics industry. The plastic micro particles (known as microbeads) currently used as thickeners or stabilisers in such widely used products as lipstick, lip gloss, mascara, eye-liner, nail polish, creams, shampoo, foam bath and even toothpaste pollute the environment because once they are rinsed off after use, they become a permanent part of the natural cycle: plankton in the rivers and seas swallow these microscopic plastic particles and thus introduce them into the food chain. The level of pollution is so serious that the USA government has decided to bring in a law (Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015) banning the use of oil-based polymers in body care products. This decision was recently followed by other countries. The theme is also the subject of many awareness campaigns around the world and is one of the focuses of Clean Seas recently launched by the United Nations. Institutions and consumers alike are increasingly aware of the issue but often limit their concern to scrub beads, which though small fall within the visible range. The greater danger arises from what cannot be seen, i.e. texturizing powder. These micro powders invisible to the naked eye (10 µm) are made from oil-based plastic (methacrylates and polyamides) and are inserted into almost all formulations to change the sensory characteristics of the product. The new cosmetic grades of bioplastic developed by Bio-on contain highly spherical micro powders with a diameter between 5 and 20 µm, with a porous or hollow structure to guarantee high absorption of oil and sebum. The special characteristics of these powders are further enriched by exceptional optical qualities such as a soft focus effect, which reduces the effect of wrinkles, making the skin brighter and less greasy. The use in cosmetics products of Minerv Bio Cosmetics bioplastic eliminates all pollutants because the micro particles of bioplastic are naturally biodegradable in water and, therefore, do not enter the food chain. What is more, the biopolymer developed at the Bio-on laboratories actually decomposes into a nutrient for some micro-organisms and plants present in nature. The benefit for the environment is therefore two-fold. “Our biopolymer is surprisingly versatile,” explains Paolo Saettone, head of Bio-on’s cosmetics department, “and performs at the very peak of its category, without taking into account its unparalleled biodegradability and non-toxicity, which truly sets it apart.” “From now on, cosmetics companies will have the chance to safeguard the environment and make their products 100 % ecological,” explains Marco Astorri, Chairman and CEO of Bioon S.p.A., “while retaining their performance and effectiveness. Here too, Bio-on bioplastic demonstrates that it can replace conventional oil-based plastic in terms of performance, thermo-mechanical properties and versatility.” Earlier this year, Bio-on had started to build a new plant to produce the Minerv Bio Cosmetics microbeads. The innovative plant, due to be completed by the end of this year and beginning production in 2018 thanks to a 15 million EUR investment, will employ approximately 40 people. The plant will occupy an area of 30,000 m 2 , 3,700 of which is covered and 6,000 land for development, and will have a production capacity of 1,000 tonnes per year expandable to 2,000. It will be equipped with state-of-the-art technologies and the most advanced research laboratories, where Bio-on will test and develop new types of PHAs bioplastic using agricultural and agro-industrial waste as raw material. Bio-on also demonstrates its focus on sustainability in its choice of site, opting to convert a former factory in Castel San Pietro Terme near Bologna, meaning no new land is wasted. “We are pleased because so far we have obtained the necessary authorisations to begin construction on schedule,” explains Marco Astorri.”We expect to keep to that set down in our Industrial Plan which takes us through to 2020. We are also extremely proud,” adds Astorri, “because thanks to our technology the cosmetics sector can now take a ‘green’ turn that millions of consumers around the world have been demanding for some time.” MT bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/17] Vol. 12 37

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