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Issue 06/2015

  • Text
  • Bioplastics
  • Biobased
  • Plastics
  • Biodegradable
  • Materials
  • Products
  • Packaging
  • Carbon
  • Germany
  • Composting
bioplasticsMAGAZINE_1506

Films/Flexibles/Bags

Films/Flexibles/Bags Riccardo Tentori (Erretiplast) and Michael Thielen end of the 1990s (fewer than 80 plants, compared to more than 240 today [3]). However, the mentality of the people has changed over the last few years, he said. One reason is that the quality (tear resistance and weld line strength) became better. On the other hand, the consumers also became more educated and better informed about the environmental benefits of the system, for example, via the supermarkets’ communication channels (website, newsletters etc). And the number of composting plants has also increased. Mario is confident that, if this continues (currently only 40 % of the Italian population have access to industrial composting and home composting is rarely established), acceptance will increase even more. Bag manufacturers Just like the supermarket chain mentioned above, the first bag manufacturer visited – Erretiplast in Cassago Brianza – started to produce a few biodegradable/ compostable bags at the end of the 1990s from Novamont’s Mater-Bi ® material. However, after the law took effect in 2011, “we saw a dramatic transition from PE to biodegradable plastics,” as Riccardo Tentori, Business Development Manager of Erretiplast (and son of the owner) told us: “About a factor of 10.” But similar to what we heard in the supermarket, Riccardo also reported bag performance issues in the early years. “And the raw materials were much more expensive in the beginning”, he said. Like most of their competitors, Erretiplast was afraid the supermarkets would comply with the new law immediately, but with paper or nonwoven fibre bags. However, consumers and supermarkets accepted the compostable plastic bags, “after two - three difficult years, this year has marked a turnaround”, Riccardo said. “The demand is quite stable now… no big increases, but also no decline”. Riccardo told us about a coexistence of compostable bags, nonwoven bags and reusable bags. “It seems we have found an equilibrium,” he said. And doing our own statistics, we found this indeed to be true (see below). In the beginning, the situation was quite different, explained Riccardo. Some retailers were reluctant to introduce the compostable bags, others wanted to have compostable bags in every store on the 1 st of January. Even though Erretiplast (and many others) started with Mater-Bi from Novamont, many retailers decided in favour of competition, i.e. any material that was certified compostable by (e. g.) by Vinçotte could be used. So today, Erretiplast mostly uses materials from FKuR, BASF or Biotec. “More than 90 % is imported from Germany” Ricardo told us. And Tommaso Lovati (SIPA Management) is enthusiastic about FKuR: “They tailor compounds to any requirement you may have. If necessary, they could come up with a new compound in a very short timeframe”. Some bag makers from other countries (and from Italy) tried to save money by making the bags thinner. But since supermarkets today purchase the bags by weight, there is no real incentive to reduce the thickness. On the other hand, the production waste (the cut-out sections of the t-shirt-bags) must be put back into the process. “And this is rather difficult if the bags are too thin,” Riccardo explained. The second bag manufacturer we visited within the framework of this report was IbiPLAST in Solbiate Olana. This company, too, started to make biodegradable bags about 20 years ago using Mater-Bi Material. Sales Manager Claudio Puliti supports the characteristics of Novamont’s Mater-Bi. The 3,000 tonnes of material they process annually are almost exclusively Mater-Bi and less than 5 % of what they produce are conventional PE bags. “We prefer Mater-Bi for technical reasons,” he said. “The quality is unique and constant – it’s the better product”. However, sometimes the clients ask for specific materials. “Some for cost reasons, some for smell reasons,” Claudio tells us, “some do not want starch-based materials – others want potato starch…”. Apart from this, he more or less confirmed what Riccardo had told us about quality, wall thickness etc. Composting The Annual Report of the Italian Composting and Biogas Association (CIC) 2015 [3] says: “The presence of postconsumer plastics by error or negligence into source separated food waste represents a problem for composting facilities; compostable bags used for separate collection of food waste can strongly improve the quality of organic waste.” And further: “In 2013 CIC conducted an investigation on types of bags used for source separated biowaste collection. It shows that: • about 50 % of bags fulfilled the standard UNI-EN13432 (certified compostable bags); • about 15 % of bags are oxo-(…)degradable or bags made (with) other (…) additives (non compostable bags); • Unfortunately, about 35 % of the bags are traditional plastic bags (non compostable bags). The most recent data (2014 CIC’s survey) prove that the percentage of certified compostable bags for organic waste collection is strongly increasing. It is probably correlated with the (new) law 116/2014 which since August 2014 has imposed fines for single-use shopping bags selling.” We are not able to verify whether the latter is true or not, based on our single visit to a single composting plant. However, we saw quite some non-degradable plastic bags, and Stefania Miranda of ENTSORGA (the company running that plant) confirmed that they find virtually anything arriving at their facility: “including car batteries sometimes,” she 20 bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/15] Vol. 10

Films/Flexibles/Bags said. “But we have a visual control so that improper materials or items can promptly be sorted out before entering the composting process,” she added. “However, the plastic does not disturb the composting process,” Stefania explained. “At the end, the plastic and all other non-compostables, such as metals etc. are separated and disposed of separately. And this costs money … the more plastic, the more expensive”. And if a truck delivers waste which obviously contains more than 5 % plastic, they charge an extra fee, Stefania told us. “For anaerobic digestion however, conventional plastics are indeed a problem,” she told us. 36,000 tonnes of mixed bio-waste is processed at the plant in Santhía every year, resulting in 5,000 tonnes of compost that can be sold. “Mostly to the rice fields in the area”, Stefania said. The rest is mainly water and CO 2 . The plan is to add an AD (Anaerobic Digestion) plant to produce the energy needed to operate the plant. Asked what her biggest wish was, Stefania told us: “more compostable bags, less plastics bags, please…”. Real Life Even if the law states in article 182, that biodegradable bags for the collection of biowaste must be certified compostable, obviously, there are bags on the market that are not certified, Barbara Calabria of Vinçotte said. In fact, we found bags in a discounter store that stated they were biodegradable/compostable acc. to EN 13432 in print on the bag. However, no logo of any certification body could be found anywhere on the bag. We called the manufacturer of the bags and talked to a spokesperson (who asked to remain unnamed), who confirmed that the bags were indeed certified, but that the discounter didn’t want any logo on the bag. Why this should be is a different question … We started our survey of real life in the supermarkets with some undeniably unrepresentative statistics. We started at 7 p.m. at an Ipercoop market, where we counted the customers coming through 4 checkout counters. We discovered that about 50 % were using compostable shopping bags (in most cases 2, sometimes even more), while 50 % used their own reusable bags (mostly PP or PET nonwovens) which they had brought from home. The picture was different the next morning at 10:30 a.m. at an Esselunga supermarket. Here, Production of biodegradable shopping bags for Penny supermarkets at ibiPLAST Biowaste bins in curbside collection: consumers dispose their biowaste in biodegradable bags (the yellow bag is such a bag from supermarket Esselunga) Harald Kaeb and Stefania Miranda at the ENTSORGA composting plant bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/15] Vol. 10 21

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