Packaging materials for the future: Bioplastics

Viernes, 15 Junio 2018 06:47

Plastic wastes management is one of the main global challenges we are currently facing. Within the packaging sector (the biggest one), only 14% are collected for recycling, and from those, 2% are incorporated to the value chain for producing new components. This means that plastic packaging is almost exclusively for single use, something to be really worried about, as they are non-biodegradable materials made with non-renewable sources (fossil).

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In order to keep the planet as we know it, we need a complete mentality change affecting our behaviour as consumers and producers and our traditional idea of growth. This is also about long-term thinking and being caring

In addition to this inefficiency we have an enormous environmental threat, as 32% of these plastics escape from the collection system and end up floating in seas and oceans for decades. Current studies show there are more than 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean today. If we do not take the appropriate measures, these amount will continue increasing to the point of having the same weight of plastics and fishes by 2050.

Fortunately, promising alternatives are raising: the bioplastics. These materials are recyclable and present one (or both) of the following features: they are made of renewable bio-based raw materials, and they are biodegradable. The European Union recognizes their benefits and has started to take measures. At the beginning of this year they published the first European Plastics Strategy devoted to set the initial roadmap to curb plastic waste, increase resource efficiency, and to create value and job growth in Europe. There is a need to develop new legislative measures to stimulate the use of bio-based recyclable packaging and bio-based compostable packaging, and to improve market conditions for such products.

As an example of pioneers in this sector, I would like to mention the case of SYNVINA. This company located in Amsterdam has developed the technology to produce a wide range of novel 100% bio-based materials and products by converting plant-based sugars into chemical building blocks, being the most representative the furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) for the production of polymers for the packaging industry. In 2017 the European Joint Undertaking on Bio-Based Industries (BBI) granted 25 million € to a consortium coordinated by SYNVINA, for establishing a complete FDCA value chain. They intend to build a 50,000 tons plant for producing this material.

If you are interested in this exciting new market and want to get more information, the European Bioplastics association disseminates the most recently news and related events. They organize an annual Conference considered as the leading networking and business event. This year will take place in December (Berlin).

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Irene Baena

R&I Consultant at RTDI

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