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Next-Generation Biodegradable Plastics Being Developed

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 8. June 2016

France’s Carbios expands its patent portfolio on controlled lifetime biodegradation of plastics.

 

The latest bad rap on biodegradable plastics comes from the UN’s top environmental scientist. Referring to such products as biodegradable water bottles and shopping bags, Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist at the UN’s Environment Programme, warned that they are a false solution to the ubiquitous problem of litter in the oceans.

 

Addressing last month’s UN environmental assembly in Nairobi, attended by 170 countries, she said: “It’s well-intentioned but wrong. A lot of plastics labelled biodegradable, like shopping bags, will only break down in temperatures of 50 C (122 F), and that is not the ocean. They are also not buoyant, so they’re going to sink, so they’re not going to be exposed to UV and break down.”

 

She sees the main solution to plastics in the ocean as better waste collection and recycling, particularly in the developing world. She also noted that some of the biodegradable additives currently used in plastics have made such plastics harder to recycle and are potentially harmful in the natural environment.

 

Perhaps next-generation biodegradable plastics with an improved controlled lifespan can help make a difference as well. France’s Carbios, a 5-year-old ‘green chemistry’ company, specializing in breakthrough technologies dedicated to the recovery of plastic waste, is working on that and envisions the first industrial demonstrations to take place next year. The company was just granted two key U.S. patents and has exercised the worldwide licensing options on these patent families.

 

These licenses concern two patent families for Carbios. The first is for the proprietary process of enzyme infusion in plastics for which patents have been granted in France and in the U.S. The second covers a PLA degrading strain for which requests haves also been granted in France, the rest of the EU, U.S., Mexico, China and Japan.

 

Carbios acquired these exclusive licenses in 2012 from the CNRS--the University of Poitiers and VALAGRO Carbone Renouvelable as part of the THANAPLAST academic/industrial collaborative R&D project, for which it is the lead manager. They enable the company to grant sub-licenses on its biodegradation process. To date, the company biodegradation technology is founded on nine patent families: three on biodiversity and six on the production process of biodegradable plastics. (Another eight patents protect the company’s processes for recycling of plastic waste and the production of biopolymers.)

 

Carbios expects its PLA biodegradable technology to expand the breadth of application for PLA. Demonstrated on a pre-industrial scale, the company’s now patented enzyme-based technology, which entails embedding an enzyme in a thermoplastic at the time of production, reportedly renders it fully biodegradable at ambient temperature.

 

For nearly 10 months, the company has been operating a new pilot plant at its Saint-Beauzire headquarters, which enables it to reproduce biodegradable plastic films. The plant houses several production modules, from plastics extrusion to conversion to flexible films or solid parts, as well as the characterization of all properties of the materials produced.

 

Search for more on biodegradable plastics in PT’s Materials  Database.

 

The 5 M’s of Molding—Part 3: Material

By: Garrett MacKenzie 7. June 2016

You’ve accounted for variability in two other “Ms”—mold and man—but materials in their lot-to-lot differences and handling challenges pose a distinct threat to repeatability.

 

Material:  One of the fundamental considerations in processing is the material being used. Processing relies heavily upon the consistency and quality of the plastic that has been chosen for the part’s aesthetic and dimensional make up. Here are some of the primary variables that need to be reviewed during the stages of process development and in some cases continuous improvement.

 

Properties: Every material has its own unique set of molding properties that must be considered as a molding operation is developed. Here is a list of some of these properties as they relate to part aesthetics and dimensions:

 

Temperature- Mold and barrel temperatures are a huge part of the molding equation. Some examples of potential heat-related deficiencies would be long cycles, warping, burn at end of fill, gassing, etc.

 

Shrinkage- Every material has its own rate of shrinkage and this is one key measurable that should be considered as material choice is being decided.

 

Melt Flow: Material viscosity is a key component during process development and improvement review. For instance, a heavily ribbed part might be better suited with a material with a low viscosity to assure that the flowfront moves quickly across the ribs preventing an overpack condition.

 

Aesthetics & Dimension: There are many variations on engineered materials that either benefit or detract from the overall performance and functionality of part production. Utilize the knowledge and resources of your material manufacturer whenever possible to find the appropriate material solutions.

 

Additives: There are many situations where material additives can create problems or provide solutions. For instance, the use of color mixing may seem cost effective, yet generate scrap due to poor diffusion leading to faulty parts via color swirls. Or from a different perspective, adding a lubricant to polypropylene might eliminate parts sticking in a mold where draft cannot be added. Work with your material supplier to develop and/or improve a part’s molding capabilities.

 

Drying: Drying is always a major factor in process consistency. Verify that your dryer throughput is sufficient enough to allow adequate time to properly dry the material being used. It is also important to verify that the material is truly dry through moisture analysis.

 

Characteristics: When choosing a material, it is important to understand what the typical characteristics are regarding a material’s performance and drawbacks. For instance, nylon has a tendency to shrink; polypropylene tends to have sink issues over large or deep ribs. Look for materials that match the functionality of the part being molded while avoiding potential problems associated with material choice.

 

Garrett MacKenzie is the owner and editor of  www.plastic411.com. Mackenzie started in plastics at the age of 19 as an operator, eventually moving up through the ranks to engineering and management over a 29-year timeframe. He currently works as a plastic injection consultant in engineering and training capacities. He can be contacted at garrett.mackenzie@mail.com.

 

Next week, Part 4 in The Five “Ms” of Molding: The Machine

 

Read Part 1, Man

 

Read Part 2, Mold

 

“Most Powerful Man in Polyethylene” Sees Flat-to-Downward Pricing

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 6. June 2016

Great to get an update from RTI’s Burns on PE and note his bringing home the gold medal from a world bench press championship.

 

I have made several industry friends through my years of reporting for Plastics Technology but none that ever won a gold medal until now! Mike Burns, v.p. of client services for PE at Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi) has been my go-to guy for PE market updates for several years.

 

I know some things about Mike’s family, his musical tastes (he’s crazy about “The Boss”), and that he takes good care of his body in terms of good food and running. But, it wasn’t until earlier this year that he told me about his weight lifting and the significant and constant training that he has put into it for three decades. And, we joked about his colleagues referring to him as “the most powerful man in PE”.

 

Well, two weeks ago at the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) World Bench Press Championships in Potchefstroom, South Africa, Mike grabbed the gold medal. The event was the first “raw” championship hosted by the IPF, whereby competitors were not allowed to use equipment such as bench compression shirts to assist in making their lifts.

 

Mike was part of the U.S. National men’s team which finished second to Japan in the 50-59 age group and won the overall gold medal for the championship. Mike bench-pressed 386 pounds on his final lift, beating the number-one ranked Nakazawa Tadafumi of Japan in the 205-pound class. My PT colleagues and I salute Mike for this terrific win, and will rally for him at next year’s event in Killeen, Texas, to which Tadafumi assured Mike through his translator he’ll be at.

 

Meanwhile, here are a couple of takeaways from Mike's PE update:

 

• Expect the April 4ȼ/lb increase to stay put through this month and maybe the next as suppliers will work hard to maintain any increases achieved. As such, a “buy as needed” strategy is advisable. Mike notes that processors’ inventories have largely returned to normal.

 

• PE inventories are expected to improve both because the planned maintenance outages are being completed and because there is global oversupply. U.S. exports increasingly will be challenged by lower-priced Asian exports in places like Latin America. This could tip the supply scale the other way.

 

• Expect PE prices to be on a flat-to-down trajectory, possibly for the remainder of the year, barring major supply disruptions.

Multiple Stakeholders in Minnesota Work to Recycle Agricultural Plastic

By: Heather Caliendo 3. June 2016

There’s plenty of talk about consumer plastic packaging waste but what about agricultural plastic?

 

For instance, in Minnesota, 460,000 dairy cows alone account for an estimated 15-20 pounds of plastic per head each year. This, combined with plastic from beef and other livestock operations, leaves more than 10 million pounds of plastic waste annually, according to the Environmental Initiative, a Minnesota-based nonprofit organization. Most of this plastic was either sent to a landfill, buried or burned on site—none was recycled.

 

This is where a diverse group of stakeholders identified and established methods for properly managing agricultural as well as boat plastic-wrap waste. Due to its successful efforts, the group—Recycling Association of Minnesota and their partners, including Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management (PDSWM)—were selected as 2016 Partnership of the Year for its Recycling Agricultural and Marine Plastics program at the annual Environmental Initiative Awards.

 

Back in 2014, the Recycling Association of Minnesota identified and worked with all stakeholders to address the problem. Other partners included Tri-County South, McLeod and Dakota counties, as well as the MN Dept. of Agriculture.

 

"Farmers were calling us because they knew what they were doing with the plastic films wasn’t right," said Brita Sailer of the Recycling Association of Minnesota. "I’m so proud of all of the partners that worked to find a common sense solution to this waste challenge."

 

Over the course of two years, the group worked to identify and establish environmentally and economically sustainable methods for properly managing plastic wrap waste.

 

Pilot hubs were initiated in several separate geographical areas of the state for the purpose of setting up and testing collection points and methods. This includes identifying and locating appropriate equipment, temporary storage models, addressing transportation issues, end markets and educational /promotional strategies. Throughout this project, selected agricultural film plastics are accepted for no charge at McLeod County and by some recycling brokers. In addition, farmers in some pilot project counties can drop off plastics for recycling at no charge. According to the Recycling Association of Minnesota, this increases recycling rates and reduces improper disposal methods. 

 

For instance, the Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management Recycling Center in Alexandria has recycled over 30 tons of agricultural plastics (silage wrap/marshmallow bale wrap) and over nine tons of boat wrap to date.

 

They believe a key to success in this effort stems from bringing together diverse stakeholders, many of whom previously had not had the opportunity to collaborate, to hear and discuss the barriers and realities in place for each of them and to understand that the management of these waste plastics has risen to a level requiring coordinated action.

 

Pretty good study of how a group working on the same page can make a tangible difference when it comes to recycling. 

Dawdle No More: Register for Amerimold Now

By: Jim Callari 1. June 2016

Conference line-up includes more than 30 technical experts discussing tools and technologies for impacting the entire plastic injection mold lifecycle.

 

If you register to attend Amerimold you’ll not only have access to North America’s premier show for all things moldmaking, but you’ll be able to tap into a full slate of technical sessions held concurrently with the show, which is taking place June 15-16, 2016, at Novi, MI’s, Suburban Collection Showplace.

 

The event will feature three comprehensive tracks—Engineer, Build, Maintain—examining design, machining and maintenance strategies for molds. New this year, Amerimold will feature a mold track that highlights process issues related to both injection molders and moldmakers. The full agenda is available at amerimoldexpo.com.

 

Specific topics will include mold design, shop floor automation, tooling and workholding, additive manufacturing, five-axis machining, mold maintenance, material selection and more. This year’s expert panel includes speakers from leading contract mold manufacturers like Unique Tool & Gauge and Crest Mold Technology; product technology suppliers like Makino and GF Machining Solutions; and materials and software providers including Open Mind Technologies, HRS Flow and Ellwood Specialty Steel.

 

Highlighting this year’s conference are two keynote addresses. Laurie Harbour from Harbour Results will discuss how tool and mold manufacturers can improve their business through better collection and leveraging of business intelligence. Wittmann Battenfeld’s Sonny Morneault will examine what Industry 4.0 means to molders and mold manufacturers.

 

Along with the technical program, Amerimold will feature more than 125 exhibitors displaying products and services for moldmaking and injection molding. The event also offers unique business networking events aimed at connecting mold builders, mold buyers and equipment suppliers.

Event registration and details are available here. For more information, contact Anne Von Moll, Registration manager at: 513-527-8800 or info@amerimoldexpo.com.

 




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