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7/25/2017 | 3 MINUTE READ

Sustainable Packaging Conference Highlights New Materials, Applications

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Among them: a compostable PLA sheet for beverage capsules.

Advances in materials and applications were among the high- lights of a new conference, Sustainable Packaging Coalition—SPC Bioplastics Converge, organized by the environmental non-profit GreenBlue and held June 1 in Washington, D.C. The headline grabbers:

NatureWorks LLC, Minnetonka, Minn., among others, has been aiming for solutions to avoid landfilling single-serve beverage capsules. The company has developed a multi-layer thermoformed capsule using its Ingeo PLA that is said to provide a cost-effective compostable solution. (Capsules can also be designed for compression molding and injection molding.) Barrier properties are said to exceed those offered by PP/EVOH structures, even at high relative humidity; eliminating the need for secondary packaging. What’s more, the structure reportedly offers excellent sealability, measurable aroma barrier, non-scalping, non-leaching, excellent printability, and a density advantage vs. compounded materials. It also offers opportunity to down-gauge capsule sheet thickness.

NatureWorks also announced it is licensing the Opticure chemical processing technology to produce 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 range of high-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 carried a substantial price premium compared with 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 aims to start sampling new Ingeo grades to customers in the second half of 2017.

• The new Total Corbion 50/50 joint venture (U.S. office in N.Y.C.) reported that its world-class PLA polymerization plant in Thailand, with a capacity of 165 million lb/yr, is slated for startup in the second half of 2018. Corbion has been premarketing new PLA grades in North America since last year, among them a range of high-heat, high-performance crosslinked PLA homopolymer resins—PLLA & PDLA, targeted specifically for applications requiring durability and/or high heat resistance. These materials are tailored for injection molding, film and sheet extrusion, thermoforming, and fiber spinning, and are billed as well suited for packaging and disposables as well as durable applications.

• Danimer Scientific, Bainbridge, Ga. creates its own additives to enhance PHA, maintaining that commercially available additives may adversely affect food contact or compostability attributes, according to John Moore, v.p. of business development. 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. Danimer relies on a reactive extrusion process to develop materials with properties and performance tailored to the application. Moore offered two examples:

PepsiCo/FritoLay had been using metallized OPP with a sealant layer, but wanted to develop a new compostable film for a select brands of chip bags. Danimer developed a new resin based on PLA via reactive extrusion. The resulting package boasts improved processability and feel, meets ASTM D6400 compostability standard, and offers acceptable pricing for commercial adoption, Moore said.

UrthPact, Leominster, Mass., produced a coffee ring utilizes PP and the company wanted to replace it with a compostable material. Danimer developed a new resin based on PHA with its proprietary reactive extrusion process. The compostable alternative cycles, and acceptable pricing for commercial adoption.

• DuPont Biomaterials, Wilmington, Del., is aiming for the first commercial-scale supply through a pilot plant for its developmental Nuvolve engineered polysaccharides (cellulosics, starch), according to Christian Lenges, business development for biomaterials. These materials are said to show promising performance results across multiple markets and applications, including thermoplastic composites and hot-fill applications. The materials can also be used as a filler for PP, PE, and PLA, enhancing tensile strength, thermal stability, and whiteness. In addition, PLA/ polysaccharide compounds for injection molding and extrusion are being explored for improved thermal stability.

BiologiQ, Idaho Falls, Id., has launched Eco Starch pelletized resins (ESR) which are derived from waste starch (such as potato skins). The company claims the material allows for significant down-gauging vs. LLDPE, or can be blended with 25% LLDPE. ESR can be designed to biodegrade or compost and is said to reduce net CO2 emissions by 408 lb for every 2.2 lb (1 kg) of LLDPE replaced by Eco Starch.