First PC/ABS Production from Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic Underway

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 26. April 2016

My colleagues alerted me last week to the news that what appears to be the world’s first production of post-consumer PC/ABS pellets from shredded waste electrical and electronics equipment (WEEE) is now underway. I took one look and saw it was durable goods recycling and technology company MBA Polymers and company founder Mike Biddle immediately came to mind as twice I’ve been fortunate to hear him speak within the last three years at SPE’s Global Plastics Environmental Conference (GPEC).


Biddle launched MBA Polymers in 1994 in Richmond, Calif. with a vision of being the first company to automate plastics recycling from very complex waste containing materials such as metals, glass, and various plastics, and on a large scale. He and his team of chemical, mechanical, electrical and mining engineers developed a separation process—for which there is a mix of different patents--of an energy-efficient, cost-effective way of extracting plastics from complex waste streams. MBA’s proprietary processes are said to use less than 20% of the energy needed to product standard virgin resins. The company is now recognized as the world’s leading multi-national pioneer in recovering plastics from complex waste streams like computers, electronic appliances, automobiles, and household wastes.


In mid-2013, the company closed its pilot-scale facility in Richmond and moved its R&D and headquarters to its 126,000-sq.ft. facility in Workshop, England. At the 2014 GPEC event I attended, Biddle said the move was made because Europe does more recycling and offers more R&D opportunities, at least in the near term. While the U.K. plant is reportedly the world’s largest and most advanced facility for recovering plastics and rubber from automotive shredder residue, MBA’s plants in Austria and China have been focused on WEEE since 2006.


It is MBA’s Kematen, Austria facility that just began to produce post-consumer PC/ABS from WEEE, for which excellent mechanical properties are claimed, with production expected to steadily build up through the year. It will be distributed under the tradename EvoSource. and aimed at automotive, electrical and consumer electronics applications. In electronics, for example, designers will be able to specify EvoSource PC/ABS to increase the use of post-consumer recycled plastics in order to achieve the higher ratings required by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment tool (EPEAT).


Said MBA Polymers CEO Richard McCombs, “The decision to develop PC/ABS products reflects our determination to meet the growing demand from customers for post-consumer recycled plastic as well as extending our commitment to sustainable growth. Every 1% increase in the usage of our waste benefits our return on investment enormously. MBA is unique in being able to extract the degree of value that we are achieving today from WEEE.”


As for Mike Biddle, he remains a non-executive director of MBA Polymers. Last year, he started up San Francisco Bay area Material Solutions, an organization that aims to help other “clean-tech entrepreneurs” shorten their path to developing their businesses. The company also consults with a wide variety of companies, organizations and communities around the world to capture material benefits from putting “circular economy” principles to work—including turning waste into resources and designing more favored new products with sustainable supply chains.


Search for more recycled resins in PT’s materials database.



The Future of Biopolymers Looks Bright

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 20. April 2016

NatureWorks’s 2016 conference showed that innovation in biopolymer technology will continue to thrive.


Despite some pundits who opined that low oil prices would stop growth in biopolymers in its tracks, it appears that this has not come to fruition.


In fact, biopolymers are already playing a broader role in the industry: as base materials, as blends/alloys, as specialty additives, and as 3D printing filaments. This just one of the many things I learned by attending the 5th edition of Innovation Takes Root (ITR) in Orlando, Fla., a three-day event sponsored by manufacturer of Ingeo PLA NatureWorlks LLC, Minnetonka, Minn.  


Global Ingeo PLA channel partners from the entire bioplastic value chain came together to learn more about the innovations emerging in a host of markets—from 3D printing to flexible and rigid packaging to durable goods. PLA is a bioplastic made up of long molecular chains of the polymer polylactide derived from naturally-occurring plant sugars, at least so far.


But change and innovation are underway for PLA, and its feedstocks, and biopolymers in general. Take for instance two key announcements that were made right around the time of this conference:


• NatureWorks opened a $1-million, 8,300-sq.ft. laboratory at its world headquarters. The new lab represents the latest milestone in a multi-year program to commercialize a fermentation process for transforming methane—a potent greenhouse gas, into the PLA building block lactic acid. The methane-to-lactic acid research began in 2013 as a joint effort between NatureWorks and Calysta Energy, Menlo Park, Calif., to develop a fermentation biocatalyst.


In 2014, laboratory-scale fermentation of lactic acid from methane utilizing a new biocatalyst was proven, and the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $2.5 million to the project. The lab’s opening represents a major step toward commercial reality.


The aim is to have a pilot plant in place within a three-to-six year time frame. Commercial success of this technology would diversify NatureWorks away from reliance on agricultural feedstocks, and with methane as feedstock, it could structurally lower the cost of producing Ingeo. The company envisions a future where greenhouse gas is transformed into Ingeo-based products ranging from compostable food serviceware, to film for wrapping fresh produce and deli packaging, to durable products such as computer cases and filaments for 3D printers.


Metabolix, Cambridge, Mass., has signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea’s CJ Cheiljedang Corp. (CJ) for a strategic commercial manufacturing arrangement for specialty PHAs, including its newly launched amorphous PHA (a-PHA)—for use as performance additives in PLA and PVC. Which brings its vision for large-scale PHA production that much closer.


Under the agreement, CJ will fund, construct and operate a 20-million/lb PHA production unit at its Fort Dodge, Iowa facility, based on Metabolix’s PHA technology. The facility is operated by CJ’s division CJ BIO, a world leader in microbial fermentation based R&D and manufacturing for a range of amino acids, including lysine, as well as nucleotides. Production startup is anticipated within the next 18-24 months. In turn, Metabolix will buy the specialty PHAs produced at the facility, and market and sell the material to its commercial customers. The team also expects to define a framework for longer-term expansion of the collaboration for larger-scale PHA production and related commercial activities.


The conference was concluded with a terrific presentation by NatureWorks’ president & CEO Marc Verbruggen (pictured below). Among the key takeways:


• Achieving sufficient economy of scale has been a critical factor.


• Diversifying product mix and markets has been key. By 2015, Ingeo PLA markets included food service wear, films, fibers, rigid packaging, durable goods, and performance chemicals.


• During oil drop-off, Ingeo sales increased in five of the company’s six businesses.


• A key goal is to develop a one-step process of turning “greenhouse gas” into PLA, which would significantly reduce feedstock costs.


• New multifunctional barrier structures allow the rethinking of flexible multilayer structures—with some packaging moving from fossil-based three-film structures to 100% biobased two-film structures.


• New advanced PLA injection molding compounds and alloys will be positioned as a functional alternative to ABS in durable applications.


Search for more of NatureWorks Ingeo PLA and Metabolix’s PHA biopolymers on PT’s materials database.

World’s First Aseptic Carton Bottle for Enriched Dairy Products

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 11. April 2016

Nova Chemicals and Tetra Pak collaboration has led to recent commercialization of novel package.


This week at the 2016 TAPPI PLACE conference in Ft. Worth, Texas, Nova Chemicals and Tetra Pak co-presented a paper on their successful collaboration to develop what appears to be the first aseptic carton bottle for ambient white milk.


Moreover, the oxygen barrier properties of Nova’s Surpass HPs667-AB HDPE made it possible for Tetra Pak to expand beyond ambient white milk to enriched dairy alternatives, including flavored and toddler and baby milk in its new Tetra Evero Aseptic package.


“The first generation of the Tetra Evero Aseptic package focuses on ambient white milk, but the ambition was to extend to a range of liquids that could be stored at room temperature throughout the supply chain and in retail outlets. To develop this, Tetra Pak searched for a new polyethylene with the exceptional oxygen barrier properties that this package required. Using Nova Chemical’s HPs667-AB resin, we are able to expand into some of the best performing categories in the global dairy market, such as flavored and vitamin fortified milk,” said Tunc Turkmen, product director for Tetra Evero Aseptic.


Produced with Nova’s Advanced Sclairtech dual-reactor process and single-site catalyst, HPs667-AB is a bimodal homopolymer, 6-melt index, 0.967 g/cc HDPE for cast film and extrusion coating. The material reportedly offers excellent barrier and stiffness performance, which helps converters and brand owners improve the sustainability of packaged goods in a wide variety of applications, including cereal, crackers, dairy and other liquids.


Experts from Nova Chemical’s Center for Performance Applications and Center for Applied Research in Calgary, Alberta, worked closely with the Tetra Pak team to qualify the HPs667-AB resin to meet the Tetra Evero Aseptic performance requirements. In addition, the Nova team helped Tetra Pak ensure that the barrier properties were retained throughout a complex, unique production process and the use of pigmented resins.


Search for nearly 100,000 grades of polymers on the Universal Selector by clicking here


Tetra Pak Evero Aseptic Package

Samsung Gets ISRI’s 2016 Design for Recycling Award

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 8. April 2016

First time a television has been built with a greenhouse gas emission as a building block.


Samsung Electronics America, Ridgefield Park, N.J., is the recipient of the 2016 Design for Recycling (DFR) Award for the use of environmentally-conscious materials and advanced recyclable design in its 2016 Curved Full HD TV awarded by The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).


The 2016 Curved Full HD TV (UN55K6250) incorporates easy-to-disassemble, snap-together parts that are made with minimal chemical content. The snap closures eliminate the use of 30 screws, making it easier for recyclers to disassemble their products. In fact, this television should take less than 10 minutes to disassemble.


Moreover, in its efforts to create an eco-conscious product, Samsung opted to substitute conventional plastic with eco-friendly polyketone made from carbon monoxide, making this television the first to be built with a greenhouse emission as a building block (read more about polyketone here).


Said ISRI president Robin Wiener, “Samsung’s products showcase the company’s efforts to focus on resource and energy efficiency as well as the use of single materials, unbleached chlorine-free paper, and nonuse of hazardous substances. Samsung’s concern for product recyclability has allowed them to move forward with an industry-first design that combines best-in-class experiences with an eco-friendly outlook, which makes them a perfect selection for this year’s award.”


For over 25 years, the DFR Award has been ISRI’s most prestigious award, annually given to the most innovative products designed with recycling in mind. To be eligible, a product must be designed/redesigned and manufactured to:


• Contain the maximum amount of materials that are recyclable;


• Be easily recycled through current or newly designed recycling processes and procedures;


• Be cost effective to recycle whereby the cost to recycle does not exceed the value of its recycled materials;


• Minimize the time and cost involved to recycle the product;


• Have a net gain in the overall recyclability of the product while reducing the overall negative impact on the environment; and


• Reducing the use of raw materials by including recycled materials and/or components, among other qualifications.


Search for nearly 100,000 grades of polymers on the Universal Selector by clicking here


Icelandic Design Student Creates 100% Biodegradable Bottle

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 30. March 2016

Red algae powder combined with water forms a jelly-like material.


A 100% biodegradable algae water bottle created by Ari Jonsson is featured in the March issue of Dezeen, a London-based architecture and design publication. Jonsson, a product design student at Iceland Academy of Arts, first presented his eco-friendly invention at DesignMarch, an annual design festival held in Reykjavik in mid-March.


He noted that he felt an “urgent” need to develop a replacement material after reading about the amount of waste plastic produced daily, particularly single-use products such as water bottles. He started by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of different materials to determine what could be suitable for use as a water bottle and eventually came across a powdered form of agar—a substance made from algae.


When agar powder is added to water, it forms a jelly-like material. Once he determined the right proportions, Jonsson slowly heated the substance before pouring it into a bottle-shaped mold that had been kept in the freezer. He then rotated the mold while submerged in a bucket of ice-cold water, until the liquid inside took the shape of the bottle. It was then placed in a refrigerator for a few minutes before the agar bottle was extracted from the mold.


Here’s how it appears to work: while the bottle is full of water, it keeps its shape; and, as soon as it is empty, it begins to decompose. Jonsson said, “If it fails, or if the bottom is too thin or it has a hole in it, I can just reheat it and pour it into the mold again.” Now, here is the clincher: Because the bottle is made from 100% natural materials, the water stored inside it is safe to drink. However, Jonsson did report that after a while, it (the water) may extract a small amount of taste from the bottle. He went further noting that “if the user likes the taste, they can bite the bottle itself when they are finished drinking.”


According to the Dezeen article, designers are increasingly experimenting with seaweed and other forms of algae. For example, seaweed has been recently used as architectural cladding and to create lampshades, while algae has been the base material for a rug-weaving yarn and a textile dye. Algae has even been used as an energy source to power buildings.


Search for nearly 100,000 grades of polymers on the Universal Selector by clicking here

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