Bioplastics – the North American agenda

There are different standards for different settings including industrial and home composting (ASTM D6400, D6868, D7021; EN 13432; ISO 17088) and marine biodegradability (ASTM D7021).

For brand owners the issue of sustainability is high on the agenda. Procter and Gamble is a leader in this area with the guiding principle “to touch and improve lives, now and in the generations to come”. The aim is to switch to sustainable sources of materials in products and packaging including recyclate, and to replace 25% of petroleum-based materials by 2020.

The solutions should be affordable to consumers, who want to be “green” but can’t pay a premium, and also practical at a social level, for example, not requiring a separate waste bin. The company prefers bio-identical resins like the Braskem bio-sourced polyethylene from sugar cane feedstock, which provides a drop-in solution and can enter the existing recycling stream.

However this comes at a premium cost and Dr Emily Boswell commented that consumers expect the same packaging and price. Biodegradable renewable plastics may be useful in emerging markets without recycling facilities.

Japan leads the world in its application of bioplastics with Fujitsu and Sony using PLA in mobile technology in 2002. The NEC Corporation has an environmental action plan to use bioplastics in most of its hardware products by March 2018. It has developed materials specifically for electronic products, including flame-retardant polylactic acid (PLA), which is modified with aluminum hydroxide and other additives, giving a V-0 rating at 1.8-13 mm thickness.

This PLA is in use in the housing of business PCs. NEC has also developed a new cellulose-based material bonded with cardanol, which is extracted from cashew nut shells. The inventor Michio Komatsu of Nissei has developed an injection molding system for PLA and a Mucell foaming system can be added. It includes tools to optimise the cycle to provide the required crystallinity.

North American compounders are seeing increased demand for bioplastics materials as brand owners and processors look to the next stage of development. RTP Company is engineering compounds for demanding applications. For example, PLA has low impact properties and is very brittle if unmodified; compounding with a copolymer can raise the notched Izod impact strength to comparable levels to HIPS giving a 90% bio-content.

The heat distortion temperature (HDT) is low at around 120F; this can be raised by alloying, increasing the crystallinity, or by adding glass fiber or mineral. PLA is not recommended for areas of high heat and humidity such as dishwashers, because as with other thermoplastic polyesters it undergoes hydrolysis degradation, which in turn is a necessary precursor to biodegradation. The company is also working with nylons synthesized from castor oil giving up to 100% bio content, the product is around 3-5 times more expensive than conventional polyamide.

In Germany FKuR Plastics started as a research institute project and now it produces a total of 10,000 MT/year of bioplastics (the third largest bio-resin producer in Europe).

It has several products including a PLA for extrusion and injection molding and a cellulose material. The company’s main application markets are hygiene film, bags and pouches, general injection molding and automotive, with a lesser percentage going into mulch film and specialty areas.


sent: 2012-02-12 10:24:02 Pretty sure Wellington now has a group. One pseron’s trash is another pseron’s treasure.


sent: 2012-03-12 22:08:18

Crunchy,As long as cigarette feltirs will not count as hazards to wild and domestic animals, I doubt ocean plastic dumping will raise much fuss.My thinking is that tobacco companies got caught lying about the dangers of smoke, of second hand smoke, of third hand smoke residue (residue deposited by cigarette smoke in vehicles, rooms, and on clothes that later causes bad effects). So now the 'conversation' is over. Those discarded cardboard and foil packages, the filter parts (containing residues of the cigarette as well as their chemical composition -- I don't see 'biodegradable' used to describe feltirs any time recently -- or non-toxic after use, either).I am completely sold on the notion that recycling is dangerous to America and the world - it burns tax dollars and oil. Even the recycling that is shipped to Mexico 'cause they don't have our EPA banning the processing.Recycling, by it's presence, gives permission to those making plastic stuff and those choosing plastics.And yet, there is the plastic cereal box liner -- when was the last time you got a box of corn flakes with bugs going wild? Zip-loc bags - each, when new, is sanitary.If not for plastic buckets - would that mean lots of metal buckets, with the cost in energy to mine, refine, manufacture, and transport the metal and metal products? I am thinking of the massive use of plastic 55 gallon barrels for oil products, for lead detector solution, etc. Paint buckets for the big jobs, in five gallon buckets.Aluminum was once called 'solid electricity', from the practice of building a hydroelectric generator/dam near a bauxite (aluminum ore) mine, to smelt the aluminum on-site.I remember years ago the angst over how much more energy a can with a pop-top took to make than a simple can that you used a can opener to puncture. It seems that conversation diet. But now, look at the number of two-liter soda and half-liter water bottles are churned out. Or disposable juice six-packs and eight-packs. With a market place seemingly addicted to plastic bottles - what is the alternative? The old 48 ounce juice cans can still be found, sometimes. How many people today have ever bought one? When single-serving frozen meals (TV dinners for us old-timers) moved from the oven to the microwave, they moved from aluminum foil to plastic - with plastic film tops.Is waxed paper still made with petroleum/plastic coating or paraffin, or still real wax? I doubt the wax part. And, again, how many homemakers have ever wrapped a lunch sandwich in waxed paper -- that was still 'sealed' when opened?I am not disputing that reducing plastic use is essential. What I don't see is a path forward.Using glass in the microwave works well. Also ceramic. But that pretty much eliminates the reduction of spoilage from single serving packaging. And also contradicts the single-serving lifestyle so many families seem addicted to (and the only heritage their children will realize).It seems that in order to diminish relying on plastics, you have to first dismantle the current lifestyle of endless ambition, and the corporate-like rush to efficiency.And stop recycling. It is 'false efficiency'.@ Beth Terry,I find the 'pure cornstarch' baby powder works pretty good.