European Bioplastics Conference – Day 1 (Nov 5)

The conference started with the introduction speech of European Bioplastics's chairman, François de Bie, who thanked the participants for their loyalty to the event and gave the floor to the first keynote speaker. Here are the most important takeaways of the first day, Nov.5.

1 – How the Cradle to Cradle philosophy inspires the future of bioplastics

  • Douglas Mulhall on behalf of Michael Braungart, the inventor of the Cradle to Cradle philosophy.

Healthy ingredients have a competitive advantage eg Climatex for A380 aircraft seats, one of the first products designed following the Cradle to Cradle philosophy. Climatex actually saved from bankruptcy the Swiss textile company producing and marketing it.

The philosophy is to design a product for its purpose but also for incidental usages and end of life. Ingredients for functionality need to be selected as healthy materials. A Positive list of healthy ingredients is also a positive advantage for a regional economy like the EU.

Who is demanding Cradle to Cradle ingredients? Examples given: Google, Carlsberg ( EcoXpac green fiber bottle), Gugler (Austria) totally biological printed paper, DSM (The Netherlands ) marketing performances plastics like Arnitel*for eg 3D printing, G-diapers (flush, compost or toss), Laladoo baby wear.

Which governments support Craddle to Craddle? The EU Commission does, following the example of the Swiss government. The European Commission ask the industry to populate the positive lists of ingredients.

Currently 20 bn Euro sales of C2C-Certified products and 10,000 participating suppliers. Potential value of bioplastic nano-particles to the pharmaceutical and health care industry= 100bn€ +. The positive impact of Healthy ingredients is the distinctive message of C2C. Not reducing the bad or trying to be be less bad (efficiency) but promoting the good: up-cycling, reuse, redesign (effectiveness). C2C certified products are designed to be nutrients to either the biological cycle or the technological cycle. ‘Everything is a resource for something else’, is a funding principle of C2C philosophy.

2 – Promoting bio-based products in the EU

  • Dr. Reinhard Büscher from the European Commission

The bio-economy is a cornerstone of the EU low carbon strategy. Bio-refinery are the heart of the bio-economy. It requires energy, water and hazardous materials like organic acids. Not all hazardous materials are toxic, but their use and impact need to be monitored closely.  EU can help starting up the technologies up to industrial demonstration but scaling-up will require private funding and market response to create sustainable businesses.

4bn euros mobilised in Horizon 2020 for supporting the development of the bio-economy. Bio-based products must demonstrate that their lifecycle assessment is favorable versus legacy products to deserve favorable policies like Green Public Policy. More work needs to be done to set standards that would not be discriminatory (pressure of lobby groups behind this statement???).

A positive list of chemicals is being assembled for food contact materials (complete) and for soil contact materials used in agriculture (starting). The circular economy and the bio-economy have more and more blurred limits eg Compost per se cannot be considered as a safe fertilizer until it is designed as such from the start.

The EU wants to promote certified secondary raw materials in order to create real value chains i.e. compost from biowaste collected separately, which is only 30% of total municipal biowaste in the EU. Incentives exist in Europe to collect waste but not to valorize waste into secondary raw materials.

The circular economy package of the EU is meant to transform waste into value secondary raw materials that have a market and can sustain financially their growth rather than be susbsidized indefinitely. 40% of plastics in the EU are collected but only 5% of this volume is actually turned into chemicals through recycling.

So it is clear that EU requires a scheme to encourage the circular economy for the plastic industry amongst others. And Bioplastics need to demonstrate their role in this scheme with facts and figures.

3 – The new plastic economy

  • Rop Opsomer from the Ellen Mac Arthur foundation

The circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. A recent study by the foundation has evidenced a 1.8 trillion€ positive impact on Europe GDP if implemented massively by 2030. Plastics is an iconic linear materials with significant negative externalities such as the tons of plastics leaking to the oceans every year.

The new plastic economy is one where plastic packaging waste in particular reenters the economy as defined valuable biological or technical nutrients. Biodegradable packaging does make sense if the flow is mixed with organic content and then treated in a methanizer to produce bio-gaz and certified compost (as it is demonstrated by the municipality of Milan / Italy) Global Plastic Packaging Roadmap in preparation by the foundation and first report to be issued in january at Davos WEF.

Stay tuned!

4 – The July 2015 Green Growth legislation in France

  • Christophe Doukhi de Boissoudy President of the Club Bioplastiques

The so called “Energy transition” legislations was passed on July 15 by the French Parliament. From the numerous fields affected, we examine specifically the ban of single use plastic lightweight carrier bags unless they are made with bioplastics and are home compostable.

The law basically prohibit the use of single use in-store plastic bags and check out bags unless they are home compostable. Additionally, it prohibits oxo-fragmentable bags across the board. It also gradually rise the content of bio-based material up to 60% for plastics to deserve the label of bio-sourced or bioplastics.

Home compostability of lightweight plastic bag is defined by standard T51-800 which is in line with AIB Vinçotte standard for home composting.

5 – Overarching policy objectives on waste

  • Joachim Quoden MD of EXPRA (Extended Producer Responsibility Alliance)

60% recycling for plastic packaging in 2025 from 23% today, which most EU report to have reached today. However, eurostats results are published without being verified and they are doubts states might be reporting flawed data as definitions and methods are not fully harmonized. EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) itself has been implemented in nearly as many schemes as there are member states.

The exemplary scheme is mentionned as being the cooperation with CONAI in Italy and the scheme that was implemented in this country. The very ambitious target of 60% recycling of plastics by 2025 is meant to eliminate non recyclable or compostable plastics from the packaging waste. Risk is to kill or at least hamper innovation. A modularity of fees would be a good tool to progressively force all producers to a higher value proposition.

6 – European bioplastics

  • Hasso von Porgell MD

70 members today. Still advocating the definition that “bio-platics are bio-sourced or biodegradable or both” , oxo-fragmentable being excluded. Total global capacity for the production of bioplastics is forecasted to explode between 2014 and 2019 from 1.7 million tons ( less than 170.000 tons produced in Europe) to 7.85 million tons or a factor of 4.5. Bio-based non bio-degradable expected to represent more than 80% of this volume and 20% by bio-sourced biodegradable.

Lobbying activities focus on some of the EU Commission initiatives like the Circular Economy Package due by the end of November this year. Also on a mandatory separate collection of organic waste ( biowaste) in all member states if proven actionable. As well as amendments of definitions and articles of the PPWD ( Plastic Packaging Waste Directive)

7 – The UNFCCC

  • Toshinori Kimura UNiversity of Hokkaido

First ever recognition of the role of bioplastics in the reduction of GHG emission by the UNFCCC ( United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change). In Japan the definition of bioplastics is bio-sourced ( from surface biomass) AND biodegradable ie the same one the editor of this blog decided to adopt.

Biomass plastics in Japan is the labelled name of bio-sourced non degradable plastics and the biomass content based on C14 AMS method is specified on he label .450 biomass plastic certifications ” Biomass Mark” have been delivered to date in Japan.

Biodegradable plastics are certified by a different body. It is a very small niche market reportedly because Japan has no agriculture and no methanisation infrastructure.

Japan produces only 140.000 tons of biomass plastics, a bit less than the EU for the same reported reasons: lack of competitiveness, lack of incentives from the government and lack of private money to risk on the sector. Intense lobbying is taking place to convince the Ministery of environment to reestablish the right environment in Japan for the growth of bioplastics.

8 – Zero Emission Ressource Organisation (ZERO)

  • Marius Gjerset

ZERO is a Norvegian NGO advocating that bio-based industries, including bioplastics , need to be able to compete in a level playing field if we want them to succeed. ZERO obtained from Coca Cola to have all bottles made of 100% renewable PET as of October 2015 in Norway’. It also contributed to a policy favoring the purchase of electric cars for which Norway is best in class globally (18% of new cars purchased in Norway are electric).

Global GHG emission of plastics is equivalent to the one of aviation or 1.5 Gigatons of CO2. So the replacement by non fossil based plastics is key to reduce these heavy external effects on GHG emissions on top of physical leakage in the environment.

Tax on fossil plastics is envisaged and advocated by ZERO as tax on fossil fuel cars have proven efficient to foster the use of electric cars. The Liberal Party member of the government coalition proposed a tax of 0.35€ per kg on fossil based plastics. Parliament discussion planned by year end. Stay tuned!

9 – The Bioplastics Feedstock Alliance (BFA) journey to more responsible bioplastics

  • Erin Simon Deputy Director Sustainability R&D WWF

WWF lead the BFA initiative because the shift from fossil based to plant based plastics will have an impact on crops and land use that is what WWF is trying to protect as the ecosystem’of species including the human beings. WWF has thus now embraced the bio-economy and the circular economy in their care for sustainability and decided to share their data and conclusions to date ( refer to Bioplasticfeedstockalliance.org website ” The lanscape”).

BFA advocates a unified message and a unified voice for the message to get through that a responsible shift to bioplastics is a very positive and necessary step to reduce GHG emissions and avoid other negative external impacts of fossil plastics. Nestlé, P&G, Unilever, Danone, Nike, Coca Cola , Ford are part of BFA.

10 – Panel discussion: main obstacles to large scale realisation of the potential of bioplastics

  • Erin Simon (WWF),
  • Marcel Lubben (President of Reverdia),
  • Christophe Rupp-Dahlem, (VP plant based chemistry Roquette),
  • Stefano Facco (Director New Business Development Novamont).

The cost of entry and access to feedstock is mentioned first as an obstacle specifically for SME, producers or users of bioplastics altogether. Second, IP about recipes and ingredients bringing functionalities to Bioplastics hamper the cooperation between companies as they do not want to share their knowledge. Third party knowledge trustees might be a way to overcome this obstacle. Legal framework is acknowledged as having a huge power to force bioplastics into high volume critical applications for the environment such as mulch film in agriculture. Carbon tax would of course remove part of the cost gap with fossil polymers as it would put a value to the positive externalities of bioplastics. Consumer awareness is not at the right level and they are confused with too many definitions and labels appearing on the consumer packs. Proper guidance by trustworthy institutions are necessary to replace untrusted corporate communication spoiled by too much green washing.

11 – Scale up of bio succinic acid and bio PBS from BioAmber and PTT MCC by Babette Petersen Chief Commercial Officer Bioamber

First commercial size plant with a capacity of 30.000 tons of succunic acid per year commissioned in october this year in Sarnia Ontario Canada. The plant is shipping orders to customers.

The plant was financed up to 50% by loans and guaranteed loans. The criteria to select Canada was a combination of availability and price of biomass, availability of funding and availability of cheap electricity. No other location amongst the 100 or so studied had the same combined scores on all three criteria.

A second plant with a capacity of 70.000 tons is in the pipeline that will be able to produce either succinic acid or 1.4 butanediol currently under development.

The PTT MCC Biochem plant for PBS (polybutylene succinate) due to be commissioned in Thailand will use a significant part of Bioamber’s Sarnia plant capacity. Application of PBS are coatings, mulch film, fiber PBS composites for automotive.

Capital intensive industry. Driver for plant based chemistry and bioplastics development is performance first. Then sustainability. Not vice versa as the pioneers initially thought. Lesson learned: understand the market and where there might be needs. Work with key market players eg Mitsubishi or Faurecia as partners to develop applications

12 – Enabling Low cost bio PET

  • Milica Foli Bus Dev Mgr Haldo Topsoe

The company invented a novel catalytic technology for the production of ethylene glycol from bio-based feedstocks, namely sugars.

Vision was to use heterogeneous catalysis to make low cost monomers for bioplastics. Process is a two step catalytic one. From one ton of sugar combined with natural gas, 700 kg of ethylene glycol and 100 kg of propylene glycol are produced, a proportion close to the market ratio.

Topsoe process is in the upper right corner on a graph combining yield and selectivity for EG. Business model based on a commercial size plant has been estimated with the following results. Capex 130 million USD for a 85kt per year capacity. Estimated value generation is 250 USD per ton of sugar feed which make Topse bio-glucols competitive with Naphta based glycols. Topse needs to confirm the industrial cost model going through the step of commissioning a commercial size plant supplied by the sugar producers or Denmark.

This is expected to be a reality five years from now. Ultimate ambition of Topsoe is to integrate down the chain to the bio-PET bottle through alliances with companies understanding the downstream processes and markets.

13 – Environmental benefits of biodegradable mulch film in China

  • Jens Hamprecht, GM Biopolymers BASF

Advantage of mulch film is well known but the negative externalities of non biodegradable PE film are significant. One third of it remains in the soil. 50% is burned or landfilled. Only a fraction is recycled.  BASF Ecovio compostable mulch film can stay in the soil and contribute to its fertility.

Three independent institutes, including Dekkra and the Chinese university for agriculture, made three independent LCA studies of the use of Ecovio mulch film for the cotton fields of Xinjiang province in China and delivered evidence of considerable savings in terms of water usage, equivalent to the needs of 8 million inhabitants city, and electricity, equivalent to the consumption of Shanghai, resulting in turn into GHG emission reduction.

The results of 15 years of monitoring are released for the first time by BASF and will now be largely publicized to advocate use of bioplastic mulch film everywhere

14 – PLA high heat resistant food packaging innovations eg the coffee capsules case study

  • Hugo Vuurens, Business Director Bioplastics at Corbion Holland

Two hurddles needed to be over come use PLA as an alternative to aluminium : heat resistance and O2 barrier properties . PLA copolymer combining D lactic acid and L lactic acid does not deliver heat resistance above tg of 55°C. On the contrary PLLA homopolymers has heat resistance up to 95° C and can thus be use for injection moulded PLA coffee cups. The barrier properties is obtained by compounding barrier resin with PLA without hampering industrial compostability. La Coppa introduced Barrier PLA capsules in Muller stores

15 – Global BioPlastics Awards of this number 10 edition of European conference

  • CEO and Founder of Polymedia publishing

The winner amongst the five finalists presented in a former article of this blog are : Mitsubishi and Sharp who jointly developed the bio-based front panel of the latest model of Sharp smart phone. The First example of an engineering bioplastic (Mitsubishi Durabio) replacing polycarbonate in a high volume application is honoured by a well deserved award. Kudos!

16 – Capa for bioplastics specifically PLA

  • Linda Zellner, project mgr Bioplastics Innovation Perstop

Backbone of Swedish chemicals company formed in 1881 is engineered chemicals and plastics from wood then oil for highly demanding applications and market segments like buildings, transports. Perstop is a 1.4 bn € turnover company operating in 22 countries. Perstop is a significant producer of caprolactane. It recently focused its R&D on using caprolactane in blended formulations with PLA to enhance the functionalities of PLA.

Today, Perstop is presenting its most novel development : Caprolactane copolymerized with PLA to make an amorphous extremely transparent material. Mechanical properties can be adjusted by moving the % of Capa caprolactane in the copolymer. It also biodegrade more rapidly than PLA and closer to the biodegradation speed of caprolactane ( under EN 13432 conditions).

Perstop can make pilot quantities of various formulations to fit the application requirements and then produce them economically in industrial quantities in their plant.

17 – Driving PLA evolution

  • Andrew Gill Technical Director Floreon

Floreon is a UK-based company which partnered with the University of Sheffield to develop Patented PLA compounds to enhance the functionalities of the pioneer of bioplastics for injection moulding, 3D printing and applications requiring high impact resistance and high temperatures ( reportedly up to 180°C).

Floreon patented the formulations of compounds of existing bioplastics and petrochemicals plastics and compound them in a proprietary way that enhance their properties further. Nothing more was revealed in a rather declarative mode presentation.

18 – Biolaminates for packaging

  • Marketing Manager Packaging & Sustainability Innovia Films

Innovia is surfing on the growth of flexible stand-up pouches for dry-food, liquids, pet food etc. Rising concerns that these pouches are designed for the dump by environmental ONGs have moved Innovia and Kraft to work on solving the end of life issue attached to multiple layer laminated materials. This implies replacing each of the three functional layers, the inks and the adhesive by bio-based materials.

The state of the art bio-laminate pack in the coffee pouch with a valve processed by Italian converter Goglio for the Italian coffee maker Molinari. The pack is actually 2 layers and not there thanks to the development of a white metalized Ingeo PLA layer laminates with a bio-based adhesive to a biopolymer film with trapped printing made of bio-based inks.

Cost penalty is still in the range of 2 to 2.5 multiple versus the commodity laminates cost on the market. The brand owner thus needs to integrate this upcharge to its marketing expenses and get a return by leveraging the performance and sustainability of the package.

Here’s the Summary of Day 2

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