New Materials, Applications Among Highlights of SPC Bioplastics Conference

New PLA, PHA, starch-based resins emerge.

Advances in materials and applications were among the highlights of  an action-packed full day new conference, Sustainable Packaging Coalition—SPC Bioplastics Converge,  organized by the environmental non-profit GreenBlue (greenblue.org) last month in D.C.

NatureWorks, Minnetonka, Minn., among others in the industry, has been aiming for solutions to single-serve beverage capsules that won’t end up in landfills. The company has now come up with an Ingeo PLA multi-layer film capsule design that is said to provide a cost-effective compostable solution. Moreover, capsules can be designed for compression molding, thermoforming, and injection molding.The oxygen barrier of Ingeo construction with a compostable barrier layer has been shown to exceed that of incumbent PP/EVOH structure, even at high relative humidity; eliminating the need for secondary packaging. In addition to barrier, the multi-layer film construction boasts excellent sealability, measurable aroma barrier, non-scalping, and non-leaching, excellent printability, density advantage vs. compounded materials. It also offers opportunity to downgauge capsule sheet thickness.

NatureWorks also announced that it is licensing the Opticure chemical processing technology for the production of D-lactic acid from U.K.’s Plaxica. The license provides NatureWorks with a low-cost route to produce D-lactic acid, a building block for a further range of performance Ingeo PLA grades. This is part of the company’s long-term strategy for leading the market with cost-effective, functional biopolymers. While small volumes of D-lactic acid have previously been available from European and Asian producers, they have until now been at a substantial price premium to the L-lactic acid currently used by NatureWorks. “D” and “L” monomers are essentially identical yet “mirror images” of each other. When combined, they can produce polymers that offer unique features such as higher melt point and melt strength. The company is aiming to start sampling new Ingeo grades to customer in the second half of 2017. 

● The new Total Corbion 50/50 joint venture (U.S. office in New York, N.Y.) announced late last year has been received with ‘open arms’ in this industry. The world-class PLA polymerization plant, with a capacity of 165 million lb/yr being constructed at Corbion’s site in Thailand, is slated for startup in the second half of 2018. Corbion has been premarketing new PLA grades in North America for a year which include a range of high-heat, high-performance crosslinked PLA homopolymer resins, specifically targeted to applications where durability and/or high heat resistance are key. Meanwhile, Derek Atkinson, Total Corbion’s senior business director, Americas, highlighted the company’s processing capabilities at its LaPorte, Texas facility, including injection molding and compounding. 

● BiologiQ, Idaho Falls, Id.,  founded in 2015, has launched its Eco Starch pelletized resins (ESR) which are derived from waste starch (e.g., potato skins). The company claims ESR bioplastic’s strength allows for significant downgauging vs. LLDPE or can be blended with 25% LLDPE. ESR can be designed to biodegrade or compost and is said to achieve 1.85 KG reduction of CO2 emissions for every one KG of LLDPE.  

Danimer Scientific, Bainbridge, Ga., discussed its PHA and PHA blends and ongoing partnerships all aimed at “good” packaging, according to v.p. of business development John Moore. He noted that the company creates its own additives to enhance PHA as existing additives may adversely affect food contact or compostability attributes. The company’s PHA products can have properties ranging from those of LDPE to PET.  According to Moore, no one material is the answer—due to minimal mechanical properties and/or poor oxygen barrier. Way to go is reactive extrusion: blend materials, increase properties/performance, target price, and additives. He offered two case study examples:

  PepsiCo/FritoLay used metallized OPP with sealant layer and wanted to develop a new compostable film to be used in select brands of chip bags. Danimer developed a new resin based on PLA and its own proprietary reactive extrusion process. The resulting package boasts improved processability and feel, meets ASTM D6400 compostability standard, and acceptable pricing for commercial adoption.

 UrthPact’s coffee ring utilizes PP and the company wanted to replace it with a compostable material. Danimer developed a new resin based on PLA and it proprietary extrusion process. The compostable alternative boasts improved heat deflection temperature, improved crystallization for faster molding cycles, and meets acceptable pricing for commercial adoption.

DuPont Biomaterials, Wilmington, Del., according to business development for biomaterials Christian Lenges, is targeting first commercial scale supply through its ongoing pilot plant for its developmental Nuvolve engineered polysaccharides (e.g., cellulosics, starch). They are said to show promising performance results across multiple markets and applications including thermoplastic composites and hot-fill applications. Also, thermoplastic filler applications as they can be efficiently compounded into PP, PE, PLA and more, enhancing tensile strength, thermal stability, and boosting whiteness. In addition, PLA/polysaccharide compounds for both injection molding and extrusion are being explored for improved thermal stability.

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