Thursday, 21 December 2017

Bioplastics > and the circular economy

The plastics industry prefers 'recycling' to 'reducing' plastic:
Futures Forum: The plastics industry is "incredibly supportive of recycling legislation over a more long-term… reduction of disposable culture."

In fact, it could be said that recycling is nothing more than 'greenwashing':
It's America Recycles Day, the annual celebration of a culture of disposability : TreeHugger

But with the outcry at plastic pollution growing, the industry will be panicking about how to respond:
World’s plastic waste could bury Manhattan two miles deep - The Globe and Mail

A piece in today's 'Packaging News' looks to embracing new technologies:

Bioplastics are the next generation of plastics

Futamura’s Andy Sweetman examines the bioplastics market and what future they have in the supply chain.

20 December 2017

As the eyes (and ears) of the world are focused on escalating concerns over plastic pollution, it falls to the plastics and packaging industries to continue to educate society, consumers and brand owners alike, about the variety of solutions available for the complex range of product applications that are used in our fast-paced and convenience driven world.

It is fair to say that there are many applications where conventional plastics are the most appropriate materials to use; so long as this is supported by a recycling infrastructure that maximises the material’s reusability and minimises waste.

However, bioplastics can also be a very positive alternative to conventional plastics in a number of cases, but these bio-materials must also be matched according to technical properties and benefits. Once customers are armed with the knowledge of which material is the most sustainable solution for which application, they can then make informed purchasing decisions that can pave the way for a positive evolution in the way our products are packaged and the impact plastics have on our planet. A tailored strategy with this principle in mind is infinitely more favourable than a blanket approach to plastic packaging that does not take in to account the complexity of the individual applications.

Bioplastics are the next generation of plastics; they are not rivals and nor are they a one-size-fits-all solution.

What is Bioplastic? / What are Bioplastics?

Bioplastics can be bio-based, which means they are derived from natural, non-fossil resources. They can be biodegradable and compostable after use and as such need to meet strict norms such as EN13432 (EU) and ASTM D6400 (US).

But you can’t recycle a Bioplastic, can you?

Yes. Most bioplastics are recyclable in the same way as conventional plastics, with the same pros and cons. However, as bioplastics are still a niche product there is currently no mainstream recycling of individual polymers, it is a classic Chicken and Egg scenario.

Recently, the Bio-based and Biodegradable Association (BBIA) expressed its support for a Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) call for the development of separate recycling streams, as well as declaring their vision to employ biodegradable plastics in applications where conventional ‘thermal’ recycling is impractical.

Can anyone claim their product is a bioplastic – who verifies it?

A material needs to be verified in a number of ways in order to reach bioplastic status, these include, the ASTM D6866 test method that measures renewable carbon content, the European standard EN13432 that confirms conformity to Industrial compostability and ASTM

D6400 in the US. Meanwhile, OK Compost Home is a voluntary standard that repeats EN13432 at ambient temperature and confirms the product can be disposed of in the home compost bin.

Are bioplastics a solution to litter?

No, absolutely not. Litter is a societal problem that needs to be tackled through education, infrastructure, resource and penalties. The BBIA has reached out at a recent meeting with the BPF to say that they would be happy to work with all stakeholders on litter reduction programmes. It is important to stress that the role of biodegradable plastics is to facilitate the greater capture and revalorisation of putrescible wastes via modern organic recycling methods.

Bioplastics have an intrinsic role in the Circular Economy – as perfectly illustrated in this infographic from the European Bioplastics Organisation.

What are today’s options?

Bio based PET or PE is a good option for water bottles and milk bottles respectively, there is an infrastructure in place and the materials are easily recognisable in such applications. It is also worth considering bioplastics for other applications such as pots and tubs, however a variety of different plastics is used in these applications.

Viable applications today

Foodservice is a market where the use of bioplastics is already a very viable solution. Compostable solutions are particularly good in closed loop situations such as sporting events, concerts or university campuses due to the high likelihood of food and drink contamination. If the pack can be composted with the food waste, that would be a really simple and valuable solution. Applications for this environment include compostable cups, plates and cutlery such as those produced by Vegware, mixed paper/film bags, sandwich packs, bottle labels and fruit labels.

What’s the conclusion?

Let’s reflect on the history of plastics and how this will affect its future innovation. Plastics have been well established since the 1950s; bioplastics are new materials and have only been on the scene since the 2000s and, therefore, their entry into the market is so far very limited.

Plastics have issues around littering, low recycling levels, marine litter, and contamination of bio-waste feedstocks for anaerobic digestion (AD) and composting, as well as being non-renewable petroleum – based resources. Bioplastics can resolve some specific issues around bio-waste feedstocks and composting/AD, as well as being increasingly from renewable resources.

The biodegradable plastics evolution is focused on uses related to food for organic recycling, to reduce waste, improving organic recycling and improving the interception of food waste. There are, however, issues regarding the marking and identification of bioplastics, which needs to be resolved in the UK to avoid contamination of the current plastics recycling stream.

Therefore, by proactively introducing bioplastics into the right applications, and ensuring an effective product identification system we can help to improve overall material-revalorisation levels in particular sectors and improve the overall image of the plastics world by demonstrating that it’s listening and acting.

Andy Sweetman is chairman of the BBIA (UK Bio-based and Biodegradable Association) and sales and marketing manager at Futamura

Andy Sweetman | Bioplastics are the next generation of plastics

Although the technology has been around for some time:
Is This The Next Great Threat To The Oil Industry? | OilPrice.com

Finally, an interesting interview on the history of plastics:
How Fossil Fuels Helped A Chemist Launch The Plastic Industry : NPR

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