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The application of biodegradable plastics is heating up

Date:2017-01-18 14:53

 

Italy's most influential big supermarket chain, Coop Italia, announced last month that the launch of the disposable cutlery series produced by Cargill-Dow's Nature Works biopolymer resin is a new proof of the high-profile plastic production of plastics.
 
However, one might raise the question that disposable cutlery can be considered environmentally compliant and attractive? Coop Italia's announcement emphasizes that some retailers are focusing on the use of renewable resources and are increasingly becoming the focus of market interest The The use of year-on-year renewable resources, such as corn (such as Nature Works), grains, wood, sugar cane, beet made of polymer, seems to be the ideal solution.
 
To be precise, biopolymers are not actually present, and as early as the beginning of the twentieth century, people had used cellulose to produce cellulose or cellophane. However, although the cellulose film is based on a biological source, it is non-composted. At least in the latest German DIN standard and the US ASTM standard for its testing is non-composting. Composting certification is a key requirement for biopolymers in today's environmentally conscious markets, particularly for biopolymers used for packaging.
 
The film division of a UCB company, a Belgian surface specialty chemicals company acquired by a private conglomerate in July last year, mentioned this when it comes to the company's Nature Flex series of completely degradable cellulosic films.
 
In terms of its natural state, this cellulose film is highly transparent, but has no resistance to moisture and heat sealing. Coatings and lacquers can overcome this drawback, but also hinder the biodegradation of the film.
 
"Nature Flex is a product that can be made with a fully compostable polymer coating," said Andy Sweetman, UCB's specialty packaging film manager, "This is the only one we claim to be degradable." Cellulose was once a pillar of the market for plastic packaging films. But in recent years, it has seriously lost its site, while giving the traditional polymer, especially the biaxially oriented polypropylene film. Sweetman said the cellulosic film is currently limited to use in some very special areas, with an estimated annual demand of just over 100,000 tons. In contrast, BOPP's annual demand is higher than 3 million tons.
 
In any case, the promotion of biodegradable Nature Flex products enables companies to sell cellulose to new applications and replace traditional polymers.
 
Sweetman said: "The most widely used application is to replace cellophane with a transparent tape, but its large number of applications or replace the co-extruded polypropylene film, coated polypropylene film and polyester film, that is, all the mainstream transparent film.
 
Nature Flex can be obtained by a non-coating method or a three-layer coating with resistance to moisture, gas barrier and good heat sealing.
 
Sweetman says Nature Flex, like all biopolymer applications, is one of the important end-user markets for organic fruit and vegetable packaging. However, even in this market, there are still more than the market profits to obtain more technical problems.
 
"A typical problem is that although organic crops are a relatively easy access to the market, it seems that natural products are packaged in natural packaging, but we find that only when you have both the market and the technical advantage You can succeed, otherwise the end user has to endure some loss of performance. "
 
"Although we have to strike a proper balance between market and technological advantages, the fundamental problem is cost, because all plastic based on renewable resources is more expensive than traditional polymers," he said.
 
"There is also a problem with food packaging, that is, bio-plastic gas barrier and moisture resistance is relatively low, and sometimes will affect the preservation and preservation of food." Improve the barrier performance is a technical problem, but Sweetman that this is a major Technical issues. Because if this moisture-tight material also prevents the penetration of microorganisms, it will not degrade. The implementation of a costly, technically low package is always a tough challenge for an important retailer. But if the bioplastic industry manufacturers can strengthen cooperation rather than compete, then it will reduce this challenge. Sweetman now sees the dawn of this sign. "We are all beginning to realize that if someone really wants to take a step, they have to change the whole package." His view is that the user may decide to use a starch-based material as the ideal material for the plate , But the cellulose has a wide range of heat-sealing or high transparency characteristics may be preferred for packaging materials. Considering MaterBi and Nature Works as a competitor and Nature Flex, there is a tendency that we have to strengthen our cooperation in some areas. However, it is not. "Despite the fact that manufacturers such as Cargill Dow and Novamont are making great progress in the extrusion, casting or molding applications of cellulosic films, Cargill Dow is considered to be a living in terms of size and market development, Polymers, a leading manufacturer of polylactic acid polymers from Cargill Dow, Inc., USA, has a design capacity of 140,000 tonnes per year, and Kathleen Bader, the company's chief executive, is optimistic that production capacity may be The production of polylactic acid polymers is not a complex biochemical process. The corn is harvested and ground to separate the starch, the starch is refined into glucose, fermented into lactic acid and condensed into lactide intermediates. So that it is polymerized in a solvent-free melt process.Bader says Cargill Dow's trick is to run the process at a cost that the market can afford.
 
"Our factory produces 140,000 tons per year, which is unique, and it is clear that our production is growing, and when you are still a young company, you will expect this growth, and we are competing with non-renewable polymer products Such a fact, we are willing to see the market can withstand the accelerated growth. "She said. Bader believes that Nature Works and PS can compete in terms of price, but only in the case of higher capacity can occur. In addition to Coop Italia, Cargill Dow has a long list of users, including the Italian supermarket Iper British bag manufacturer, the European packaging, and the Belgian supermarket Bio-Planet. She admitted that the ranking of important big-name retailers had to re-shuffle.
 
"We need to look to people from the early days that can accept biopolymer products and move to big dealers who really control the value chain," says Bader. "They can really make a difference in the improvement of the environment, but there are still few companies that can stay in good faith and remain willing to do so.
 
Biopolymer applications breakthroughs are most likely to occur in the packaging market, and most likely in food packaging. "Since our products are easy to replace PET, about 80% of our market is in packaging, and the market has naturally created a pull force," says Bader.
 
For biopolymers products, people are not only interested in their biodegradability, they are also interested in other aspects, such as oil prices. We have recently seen that the price of oil has risen to its peak, and according to the forecast we will face 20 years, 50 years or even 100 years of oil shortage. This is not a question of whether or not it will happen, but only a matter of sooner or later.
 
Bader pointed out that in the past two to three decades, the price of oil, and the price of associated oil derivative products experienced drastic fluctuations, while the price of corn remained almost unchanged. Cargill Dow's recent business contacts have a lot of customers considering how to control this instability in oil prices. "The ability of the user to predict the market is really underestimated," Bader said.
 
From Cargill Dow's business, Italy is one of Europe's largest markets for biomaterials. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that Novamont has made great progress, Nova-mont has a set based on its MaterBi modified starch biopolymers.
 
The company's starch-based products with an annual output of 20,000 tons. This summer the company also acquired Eastman's biopolymers business, which will be biodegradable polyester products business in the bag. "The introduction of Eastman's biotechnology and patents will be an important strategic advance," said Catia Bastili, director of management at Novamont. "It will make the company's product line look bigger."
 
"The acquisition of the biopolymer business will enable us to further expand the range of Novamont proprietary products and accelerate their own growth based on renewable resources," said Bastioli. "She also said that the opportunity to develop bio-starch / polyester systems Also worth considering.
 
Bio-polyesters are an important goal in the field of biopolymers. DuPont has taken further action to create a bio-polyester. It has a joint venture with Tate & Lyle to produce propylene glycol for Sorona polymer products. DuPont Tate & Lyle BioPrroucts will use its own intellectual property fermentation and purification process to produce propylene glycol in corn plant in the United States, Tennessee, and this new sector is expected to be operational in 2006. In addition, DuPont in the United States North Carolina plant's first corn-derived Sorona polymer production line will also be put into production the same year.

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