December 5th, 2019

 

Nordisk Bioplastförening organized bioplastics seminar in Helsinki, Stockholm and Oslo in September 2019. They had 15 speakers during one day, and every speaker had 15-30 minutes to tell about the topic bioplastics.

 

Vesa Kärhä from Finnish Plastics Industries Federation spoke about climate change and plastics. It’s important here in Europe, that we do not move our waste and pollution to somewhere else and we have to take responsible of them ourselves. Carbon neutral Finland in 2035 is a hard target, but he believes we can do it if we want to. I’m not sure how Finnish government is going to do that, but I think the only option is to compensate the carbon emissions, because at least for now it is not possible to reach zero emissions.

In many of the speeches we learned how bioplastics are categorized to bio-based and biodegradable, while of course they can also be both. –We do have bio-based and biodegradable PP in progress and many other solutions for packaging and also other fields like lamination, thermoforming and injection moulding, told Hasso von Pogrell from European Bioplastics. More about the degrading and composting, spoke Katarina Schlegel from BASF SE. She told that there are certain microbes which degrade certain things, so microbes has to be chosen right. BASF has a plastic film which degrades in 4 weeks, because they have answered the question: “Who is eating our product?” and now they are making use of the metabolism of microbes.

 

According to Stefan Söderberg from Iggesund, the paper industry needs plastics, but they should be used wisely. –Because paper is compostable, it is reasonable to use bioplastics in paper industry, Stefan Söderberg encourages people working with bioplastics. Antti Kämäräinen continued with the topic fibers and bioplastics. He presented Stora Enso, which produces bio composites from renewable fibers and bio-based oils. The idea of composites is to combine the good properties of two or more different materials, and it is rational to use bioplastics in composites with fibers.

 

“In plastic industry we all should remember, that plastics should be used where it is necessary, not just because of convenience”, reminds Martin Lidstrand from Trifilon.

 

Some speakers were in the seminar introducing products of the companies they were representing. One of them was Klas Dannäs, who presented some recycled and bio-based products Hexpol has made in Sweden. The examples were toilet brush made from recycled PP and Light my Fire –cup for outdooring from bio-PE.

All bioplastic suppliers said their products are more expensive than the products made from fossil sources, but customers are willing to pay for quality. –Why are fossil materials so cheap even though they are not endless? asked Patrick Zimmerman from FKuR. He had also other excellent questions to think about. Among other things he spoke about plastics paradox, how misuse is the problem, not the material itself. He summarized well the thoughts of people working in the plastic industry.

 

Amerplast has a lot of customers who pack products where virgin packaging materials are not a necessity. Many of our customers prefer recycled materials and for example tissue customers find that recycled packaging film is a good fit for the recycled paper they use in their products. On the other hand, bio-based plastics would suit well for food packaging customers (due to direct contact between the food products and the packaging, the recycled raw materials are not feasible to use).

 

The speakers were interesting, and they all are real experts in their fields. I especially liked Katarina Schlegel’s presentation about microbes. She gave me a perspective on degrading. Very rational way of thinking about it, but I hadn’t thought of it that way before. From Amerplast point of view, the most interesting topics were recycling and utilizing recycled plastics. It is promising that many kind of plastics can be recycled into new products and the used plastic products are just waste no more. Amerplast has already been using recycled PE for many years.

 

In our consumer deep freeze bag product family Amergrip, we use sugarcane based Green PE a bio-based polyethylene. This Green PE is not biodegradable. It is a good thing from an environmental point of view since the bags are sometimes used for long periods of time and multiple times. In addition, the bags can be recycled after use as new raw material for recycled plastic packaging applications, for example. Biodegradable plastics should be used wisely, like in fruit stickers or in other applications were the time of use is short and recycling is not a considerable option.

Written by:

Suvi Harju

R&D Engineer

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