Spectalite, located in Heidelberg, Germany with its manufacturing unit in Quzhou, Zhejiang, PR China, is a global supplier of different natural fiber reinforced material compounds and sheets for applications in the automotive, personal care, houseware, agriculture and gardening industry. Spectalite is manufacturing durable grades with traditional thermoplastics (Spectadur) as well as 100% bio-degradable and bio-based materials (Spectabio). These are available as compounds and sheets. All grades are either reinforced with mechanically extracted, performance bamboo fibers, rice husk, wheat straw/husk or other natural fibers; they are available for injection, extrusion, thermoforming and press molding processes.
Evegreen, located in Mislinja, Slovenia, is a supplier of 100% bio-degradable products across different industries. Evegreen recently launched a series of 100% bio-degradable plant pots in soil targeting different gardening centers and chains all over Europe. Seeing a great demand in their natural fiber reinforced, bio-degradable products, the company is now scaling up to meet industrial production using Spectalite materials.
Spectalite and Evegreen decided to enter into a strategic co-operation to boost bio-degradable applications substituting single-use traditional plastic parts. Joint European operations are planned to be set-up in Slovenia, the center of Europe. Both companies will jointly invest into materials R&D, application development, material compounding and part molding. Initial focus will be gardening, agricultural and hydroponics applications. Both companies won international awards for their solutions.
Traditional, non-biodegradable thermoplastics are widely used in gardening and agricultural applications to increase crop yield and to ensure food security. Single-use applications are including flower pots, plant pots, root trainers, etc. Hydroponics is a fast-rising sector in the agricultural industry with most of the hydroponic reservoirs currently being built of single-use plastic pots; thousands and thousands of additional non-biodegradable thermoplastic containers are polluting the environment every day, from an industry that wants to be eco-friendly, clean and sustainable.
The substitution of non-biodegradable plastics with 100% bio-degradable polymers in these applications promises to effectively reduce the constantly rising non-degradable plastics accumulation in the environment. The use of 100% bio-degradable polymers and their products in the gardening, agricultural and hydroponics industry is still very limited; inadequate properties, difficult processability, limited raw material supply, new supply chains, lack of understanding and experience and especially high material costs of bio-polymers are still restricting the use of bio-degradable materials.
Spectalite and Evegreen´s fiber reinforcements in carefully designed material formulations do not only improve the mechanical performance of the final part, they also help to adjust the speed of bio-degradation to customer expectations. Finally, the reinforcements decrease the material price significantly compared to similar materials that are made out of bio-degradable polymers. Only when gardening products, like plant or hydroponic pots, come with a really attractive price, end customers will accept eco-friendly solutions on a mainstream scale.