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Issue 05/2018

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Events Embracing change

Events Embracing change at Innovation Takes Root The sixth edition of the Innovation Takes Root 2018 conference, NatureWorks’ biannual event aimed at bringing together stakeholders across the global supply chain to connect, to explore new ideas and technological advances in the PLA space, took place September 10-12 in San Diego, California, USA. With about 350 attendees from 27 countries, it was one of the most international editions of the event to date. This year’s event kicked off on Monday with a keynote address from a father-and-son-team who have made it their mission to spread the word about the latest generation that is right now coming into the workplace: Generation Z. Together with his Gen X father, David Stillman, Jonah, a Gen Z nineteen year old filled the audience at Innovation Takes Root on what Generation Z is all about. Moving away from the self-absorbed ‘me’ generations directly preceding them, Generation Z is a more traditionalist group, according to surveys carries out by Jonah Stillman. Willing to work hard and to start at the bottom, they will commit to a company and strive to succeed. They are a driven, competitive group, as well as being the first true digital natives – or “phigitals”, as David Stillman characterised them: a generation for whom the line between the physical and the digital has disappeared. So what did this have to do with innovation – or with PLA, for that matter? Importantly, Gen Zers are also the “do it yourself” generation, not following the well-trodden paths but finding their own way in life, compensating for their infamous short attention spans, by an outstanding ability to find the information they need when they need it. And, in addition to everything else, Gen Zers are hyper-customised, ready to do things differently from what may be expected. They combine an ultra-focussed approach with an agile, flexible connectivity, with as result a need for ‘work-life blend’ rather than the work-life balance of the generation before. And they care about the human connection – “they like people”, said Jonah Stillman. Hence, this generation is one that will drive change, making innovation possible; an important insight for those working with them and who will be employing them – and a segue into the theme that resonated throughout the entire three days of the Innovation Takes Root conference. Sustainable innovation The Stillmans were followed by Mats Linder, a consultant for the Ellen MacArthur foundation, who talked about the New Plastics Economy, with its focus on ‘eliminate-innovatecirculate’ on the path towards circularity. “Right now, 30% of all packaging needs to be fundamentally redesigned before it can be successfully re-used or recycled,” he said. “We need to use resources in a restorative and regenerative way. But change cannot take place in a silo. We have to do it together,” he emphasized. In this, he was echoed by Norman Schmitz, one of the founders of ISCC, the largest sustainability certification system in the world. The system is used by 3400 companies in 100 countries around the world and targeted at the sustainable use of the land. A multi-stakeholder initiative that is organized in an association with 105 members, it safeguards brand values by requiring sustainable and deforestation-free supply chains for renewable feedstocks. ISCC is a one-stop shop, compliant with many important platforms and industries for different markets. Innovation with a purpose was the title of a presentation delivered by Omar Hoek, of Ahlstrom, in which he discussed the process of change and how to innovate successfully. He spoke from experience: Ahlstrom used to be a paper company but turned itself around into a specialty fiber company in just a few short years. As Hoek said: “Respond, don’t try to control. Maximise communication. And B-to-B? It’s not. It’s business-to-humans. We do business with people.” Advancements in PLA technology Tuesday and Wednesday were filled mainly with breakout sessions, themed around, among others, disposable serviceware, biodegradability, 3D printing, nonwovens, and developments in equipment for processing PLA. A number of interesting developments regarding singleuse, disposable serviceware were talked about, including an announcement by Nicole Whiteman, of NatureWorks, of the development of a new extrusion coating Ingeo grade, Ingeo 1102E, for paper cups. As she pointed out, there is a ‘mismatch’ between PLA and the paper cup manufacturing lines for LDPE on which it is commonly used. “When you run PLA on LDPE, inefficiencies occur that can impact manufacturing cost efficiencies by as much as 10 %. The molecular architecture of the two materials is completely different. PLA has a low melt strength and high viscosity, LDPE is just the other way around, which means more PLA is needed.” Networking in California 16 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/18] Vol. 13

Events By: Michael Thielen NatureWorks has now successfully designed a polymer grade with improved melt strength, better drawability and lower viscosity for a better adhesion to the paperboard. The company will be launching the product this fall. Emily Williams, a product development engineer in the Printing and Packaging group at Michelman, introduced that company’s proposed alternative solution to extruded coatings: a waterbourne PLA dispersion coating that was recyclable, compostable and repulpable, able to meet ASTM standards, engineered using NatureWorks’ Vercet technology. As she explained, food serviceware often is not recyclable, due to potential contamination with food waste. Knowing this, Michelman decided to explore the possibilities for a waterborne barrier coating for paper products that would be compostable. The prototype coating is currently undergoing extensive testing; the company is aiming for a formulation launch early 2019. Natur-Tec, a food serviceware manufacturer, talked about the modified Ingeo solution it has developed for disposable cutlery. Amorphous PLA softens at 55 °C, making it unsuitable for high-heat foodservice applications. The answer is to crystallize the PLA. Natur-Tec has launched a two-part compounded solution - Ingeo and an Ingeo-based materbatch - called BF3002HT for injection molding that accomplishes just that. The 3D printing themed sessions focussed on the various ways in which 3D printing technology has advanced over the past years, among others in the healthcare industry for accelerating device design and preoperative practice. As an example, Paul Rothweiler, director of 3D printing and immersive visualization at Earl E. Bakken Medical Device Center in Minnesota, showed how the technology had been applied to model an intervention to separate conjoined twins. Without it, one and perhaps both infants would have died but now: “Both babies survived,” he said. For Gabriel Bentz, president of Slant 3D, 3D printing is far more than a prototyping technology. “We offer an alternative to injection molding,” he said. In fact, he claims his company – a fully autonomous printing farm that operates 24/7 - can 3D print end products in series of up to 70-80 thousand pieces more cheaply than injection molding. “We manufacture consumer products,” he said. While issues such as the limited selection of materials, esthetics or the need to learn to design for 3D printing remain, the fact that using 3D printing, products can be made that cannot be made otherwise, open up exciting possibilities. Plus: “We eliminate tooling,” said Bentz. “It is easy to iterate and – importantly – you don’t have to be rich to get started. No need to invest in an expensive mold. On Wednesday, the morning parallel breakout groups focussed on single-serve beverage delivery and the advances made in compostable coffee capsules; the rise of the nonwovens; and on engineering for degradability. Wednesday afternoon was filled with plenary presentations: from Marco Garilli, Innovation Expert at Electrolux Italia SpA, who worked with NatureWorks since 2012 on the development of a prototype refrigerator in which the visible plastic parts were all made of PLA, as was the refrigeration liner; and Scott Jenkins, board chair of the Green Sports Alliance, of which NatureWorks is a partner. Changing the world The conference ended with a few closing remarks from NatureWorks CEO Rich Altice, about what for him was the first, but awesome, ITR event. NatureWorks, he said, is entering a new phase. Social media and consumer activism have put plastics in the news like never before and consumers, looking for solutions to sustainability problems, are making change happen. NatureWorks, he promised, will respond. “We will expand our portfolio and add manufacturing capability to our assets. We will not be looking to diversify our feedstocks.” We need to establish a sustainable manufacturing and business model, across the world. And we can have meaningful change in the world we live.” Photos ©liz linder photography Rich Altice and a 3D-printed lectern bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/18] Vol. 13 17

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