New Materials, Applications Among Highlights of SPC Bioplastics Converge Conference

Highlights of the D.C. held event included two dynamic panel discussions.

I had a terrific opportunity to attend an action-packed full-day new conference, Sustainable Packaging Coalition—SPC Bioplastics Converge,  organized by the environmental non-profit GreenBlue on June 1, in Washington D.C. In addition to some promising advances in new materials and applications highlighted below, there were also interesting discussions that brought together individuals from across the supply chain.

A brand panel addressed the topic:

What are we looking for in bioplastic technologies, performance and recovery? 

The four brands on the panel included: PepsiCo, represented by Dr. Sridevi Narayan-Sarathy, senior principal scientist, global snack packaging R&D; Mars, represented by Rachel Goldstein, global sustainability director scientific & regulatory affairs; TetraPak, represented by Elisabeth Comere, director environment for U.S. & Canada; and Seventh Generation, represented by Derrick Lawrence director of packaging development. Some takeways:

● PepsiCo is striving to use next-generation bioplastics with better price/performance, according to Narayan-Sarathy.

● Tetra Pak has led the use of bioplastics in carton beverage sector, starting with Green HDPE caps, according to Comere. Moreover, in the U.S., the company will soon launch beverage cartons made totally of recycled and bioplastic components.

● Seventh Generation, according to Lawrence, has focused on Green PE for its laundry bottles but would like to get a hold of Green PP from Braskem.

NOTE: Braskem temporarily shelved Green PP in 2013 as it focused on developing the market for its Green PE. Still “the only kid on the block”, the company has by now secured 17 solid partnerships for Green PE. As for Green PP, the company is actively seeking partners before committing to producing commercial volume material.

● These brands also say they are increasingly more involved in communications with both converters and raw material suppliers. They also are looking for evolution of new bioplastic technologies with better functionality along with lower price, as well as securing a robust supply chain. They also acknowledged the challenge of lack of secondary markets for flexible packaging vs. rigid packaging.

 

The second panel discussion, The Consumer and the Customer Angle: Brands Working with Retailers, featured Target, represented by Kim Carswell, director of packaging; Coca Cola, represented by Sarah Dearman, sustainable packaging program; and Amcor Rigid Plastics, represented by Charlie Schwarze, global sustainability manager.

It focused on recyclability, price and the challenges of bioplastics, including educating the public about the materials. Amcor’s Schwarze said his biggest wish is for bioplastics or other novel materials that allow you to thinwall to have price parity.

Here are some interesting emerging materials and applications unveiled by bioplastics suppliers:

NatureWorks, along with many 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 layer of Ingeo’s construction, which is compostable, has been shown to exceed that of the 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, non-leaching, excellent printability, and density advantage vs. compounded materials. It also offers an opportunity to downgauge capsule sheet thickness.

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● The new Total Corbion PLA 50/50 joint venture 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, is being constructed at Corbion’s site in Thailand, with start-up slated for the second half of 2018. Corbion has been premarketing new PLA grades in North American for a year, including a range of high-heat, high-performance crosslinked PLA homopolymer resins, specifically targeted to applications where durability and/or heat resistance are key. Meanwhile, Derek Atkinson, Total Corbion’s senior business director for the Americas, highlighted the company’s processing capabilities at its LaPorte, Texas facility, including injection molding and compounding.

● BiologiQ, 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. It can also be blended with 25% LLDPE. ESR can be designed to biodegrade or compost and is said to achieve a 1.85 kg reduction of carbon dioxide emissions for every one kg of LLDPE.

Danimer Scientific 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. The way to go is reactive extrusion. 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 has 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 its proprietary extrusion process. The compostable alternative boasts improved heat-deflection temperature, improved crystallization for faster molding cycles, and meets acceptable pricing for commercial adoption.

● Christian Lenges, who manages business development for biomaterials at DuPont Biomaterials, said his company is targeting 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 in filler applications, 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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