Coverage of K2016 Bioplastics Business Breakfast

Bio-based packaging companies push focus on green deficit, aiming to overshadow cost and price issues.

Organised by Bioplastics Magazine, Tecnon OrbiChem attended the first of three half-day   of Bioplastics Business Breakfast sessions at K2016, where 10-12 presenters from producing companies, research and academic institutions gave papers on issues concerning the market for ‘Bioplastics in Packaging’.

Sessions for the following days were:
• PLA, an Innovative Bioplastic, and
• Bioplastics in Durable Applications

A presentation by narocon talked about a commercial market research and policy study published by nova-Institute in 2016. There was some focus on how supportive legal and policy measures within Europe could be expected to significantly drive demand for green packaging. Key themes covered the use of PLA as a key packaging material, the drive for a ‘circular economy’ – production of bio-based plastics from green feedstocks, to composting, and return to the land as a fertiliser for green feedstock (a recurring theme during the day), and the desirability of a EU policy on green packaging, noting that nothing has been established yet although countries such as Italy and France have regulations which drive the market such as bio-based shopping bags or compostable packaging for loose fruit and vegetables, which is required to be home compostable.

A presentation by packaging consultant, Green Serendipity, aimed to provide some stimulation as to the possibilities green packaging could provide. The themes of bio-based and circular economy were re- visited. A number of examples of types of packaging, their origins and destinations were discussed with the prevailing idea that being able to offer packaging that is both bio-based and compostable is the way forward.

Examples included a PLA bottle with a tree seed encapsulated in the base – not so relevant for European markets where PLA bottles can’t go to recycling and must typically be disposed of as mixed waste. PLA bottles made from coffee waste and coffee pads from coffee waste were also given examples of ‘circular economy’ products.

A ‘time to save the earth’ theme came through in a subsequent presentation from Bio4Pack, arguing that with increasing possibilities for use of bio-based compostable laminates for packaging and the right mind- set we could ‘save the world’. Session participants questioned the geographical spread of development and interest in green packaging and comments from speakers at the event confirmed the view that Asia remains primarily price sensitive, limiting adoption; green flexible packaging initiatives are mostly taken-up in Europe. Rigid packaging has stronger demand in the US relative to Europe and Asia.

Emanuela Bardi of Taghleef estimates that the global flexible packaging market will grow at 3.5%/year through to 2018 due to increased consumer focus on convenience and sustainability. In this environment there is growing interest from brand owners and converters in evaluating and introducing bio based and/or compostable flexible packaging in their portfolios. Taghleef offers its NATIVIA® PLA based films for food and non-food market segments.

In the second set of sessions, there was more focus on the bio-plastics themselves.

A comprehensive presentation by NatureWorks included information on rigid and flexible packing applications that require longer shelf life. NatureWorks was keen to emphasis the green nature of the whole cycle and advantages in overall carbon footprint for their products based on full lifecycle assessment.

A presentation by NatureWorks included information on rigid and flexible packing applications that require longer shelf life. NatureWorks was keen to emphasize the green nature of the whole cycle and advantages in overall carbon footprint for their products based on full lifecycle assessment.

First generation sugar-based feedstocks are still the feedstock of choice for NatureWorks as the best possibility today though NatureWorks talked about ongoing work on cellulosic feedstocks and work with downstream products aims to provide the pull for continued development. R&D work continues on methane- to-lactic acid processes with the objective of eliminating the agricultural part of the lifecycle.

For rigid packaging, NatureWorks’ products positioning continues its focus on ‘green performance’ rather than cost/price. Cost has to be acceptable but is not seen as the primary driver. For example, lightweighting of materials such as in plastic cups is being done with reduced material thickness compared with incumbent petrochemical based products in order to keep costs within limits. Nature Works showed data indicating that its green products had lower fossil fuel use and lower total carbon footprint relative to existing products.

A key new development from NatureWorks is a cooperation with Futamura, a major manufacturer of plastic and cellulose films, for green barrier coated cellulose acetate films marketed under the trade name NatureFlex.

Session participants questioned the geographical spread of development and interest in green packaging and comments from speakers at the event confirmed the view that Asia remains primarily price sensitive, limiting adoption; green flexible packaging initiatives are mostly taken-up in Europe. Rigid packaging has stronger demand in the US relative to Europe and Asia.

It was generally agreed that the current oil scenario has changed the outlook for bio-based products. At least one participant voiced the view that this has made bio-based companies need to re-focus on the areas where bio-based products can give advantage such as compostability [hence so much focus on this during the event] and the need to zoom in on performance attributes of green products which are better than those of existing products.

Another presentation from AIMPLAS discussed in depth the physical property requirements of PLA necessary for various applications such as bottles and pouches for fresh products and multilayer trays combining PLA and polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) for packaging such as for fresh pasta and cheese.

Doill ECOTEC of Korea, meanwhile, presented the potential to produce bottles from wood-plastic composite (WPC) with the net result of reduction in virgin plastic use. Wood content of up to 70% was shown to be possible in products such as shampoo bottles. The WPC market is thought of as applicable to construction composites only. Doill ECOTEC wanted to change the perception of this product.

 

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Panel at Bioplastics Business Breakfast K2016.  Photo Source: Messe Düsseldorf, Constance Tillmann

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Gillian Tweddle
Business Manager – Individual Project Studies
Email: gillian.tweddle@orbichem.com

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