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Issue 06/2018

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Applications PLA in the

Applications PLA in the fridge Electrolux builds the world’s first bioplastic concept refrigerator By: Michael Thielen E arlier this year Electrolux, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, introduced a refrigerator prototype in which all the visible plastic parts were made of Ingeo PLA compounds. On the sidelines of the Innovation Takes Root conference in San Diego, bioplastics MAGAZINE talked to Marco Garilli, Innovation Expert-Polymers at Electrolux’ Global Connectivity & Technology Center (Porcia, Italy) Sustainability is a top priority at Electrolux and the company is recognized as sustainability leader within their industry of household appliances (Industry Leader in Dow Jones Sustainability Index for 12 years in a row). Through their brands, including Electrolux, AEG, Anova, Frigidaire, Westinghouse and Zanussi, the company sells more than 60 million household and professional products in more than 150 markets every year. “Sustainability is part of the Electrolux business strategy and we are dedicated to innovate for more sustainable products and to reduce our carbon footprint. This (refrigerator) prototype is unique and helps us deliver on our purpose to shape living for the better,” said Henrik Sundström, Vice President Sustainability at Electrolux, in a press release announcing the product. According to Marco Garilli, Electrolux has adopted a 360° approach toward making its full range of appliances more sustainable. “This includes, for example, the energy and water consumption of our products,” he explained. “We have professional dishwashers consuming only 0.4 liters of water per rack. But it also includes the choice and use of materials, which are equally valuable resources.” A fundamental part of Electrolux effort to fulfill its sustainability ambitions is to offer more sustainable products, creating better experiences for the consumers as well as contributing to a better society. Back in the 1990s, Electrolux had already implemented lifecycle analysis as a means to assess the environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life and this has become more and more a key step in the development of new products. This evaluation is not only about the environmental impact, but also includes how a particular development would affect the manufacturing processes and the cost structure. As part of this approach, the company started to explore which materials could be replaced by other, or new materials: fossil-based materials, recyclable materials and biobased materials. “This also meant that we needed to pick the right partners and the right moment to enter into specific developments”, Marco said, “And NatureWorks was such a partner.” As Electrolux manufactures their own parts in house, they know the production processes involved. They first needed to establish whether their manufacturing systems could cope with any new materials. For the refrigerators in this case study, Electrolux wanted to replace the material used to produce the thermoformed liners (hitherto made from either high-impact polystyrene HIPS or ABS) and the transparent PS door shelves. Together with NatureWorks (Minnetonka, Minneapolis, USA) Ingeo PLA compounds were developed for these applications. The PLA could be processed without any modifications to Electrolux’ manufacturing lines. “We found out that the higher melt strength of PLA compared to HIPS offers further advantages, such as an improved homogeneity of the wall thickness of the thermoformed component.” Marco pointed out. “In addition, the inherent stiffness of PLA provides additional structural integrity.” In addition to its biobased origin, PLA offered several performance advantages over polystyrene (transparent PS as well as HIPS). The first, said Marco, is the significantly higher gloss which leads to a more aesthetical appearance. Furthermore, the chemical resistance, for example, against food oils and fats, was found to be very good. In terms of mechanical properties, the PLA also showed a number of advantages, for example in the enhanced impact properties for the transparent shelves in the refrigerator doors. Marco: ”We were surprised that the PLA, which is said to be rather brittle, performed slightly better than the transparent PS.” Another advantage of PLA over ABS to be investigated is the resistance to yellowing (UV resistance). In addition, NatureWorks’ Ingeo PLA systems do not contain any chemicals of concern. Electrolux has already committed to materials efficiency through the use of post-consumer recycled plastics, such as Carborec ® , a plastic compound based on recycled polypropylene, extending the lifetime of plastic coming from non-renewable resources. The bioplastic refrigerator is still in development and there is currently no timeframe set for when the product will be officially launched on the market. However, in the aforementioned press release, Jan Brockmann, Chief Operations Officer at Electrolux , said: “We are very excited and proud to have developed the world’s first bioplastic concept fridge, which is truly groundbreaking. Our ambition is to develop even more innovative, sustainable home appliances that we might see on the market in the future”. (©liz linder photography) 34 bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/18] Vol. 13

Applications Industrial Solutions for Polymer Plants Polylactide Technology Uhde Inventa Fischer Polycondensation Technologies has expanded its product portfolio to include the innovative state-of-the-art PLAneo ® process for a sustainable polymer. The feedstock for our PLA process is lactic acid, which can be produced from local agricultural products containing starch or sugar. The application range of PLA is similar to that of polymers based on fossil resources as its physical properties can be tailored to meet packaging, textile and other requirements. bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/18] Vol. 13 35

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