Do you want to be like Coca Cola, Ford or Nike & swap oil-based plastics for bioplastics (May 2014)

These big name brands are paving the way for the move across to using bioplastics as a replacement to standard oil-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Bioplastics are polymers (chain like molecules) that are made of repeating chemical blocks, which can be long in length. The “Bio” prefix means that they are produced from biological sources, such as plants or even bacteria.

Bioplastics have a wide range of applications and big brands such as Coca Cola, are using bio-PET in their soft drink bottles, even though bio-PET is exactly the same as ‘oil’ PET but with a current maximum of 30% of the material being derived from renewable ‘bio’ sources. (The other 70% can’t yet be made from bio-sources on a commercial scale.)

Newer bioplastics, such as PLA, are 100% bio-based and can match the performance of PET in most respects (although barrier performance does remain an issue for carbonated soft drinks). Whilst PET is effectively at the end of its development cycle, PLA can already match the performance of this material and a wide range of additives (such as Floreon) are in development, which will take its performance to the next level, boosting toughness, durability, barrier performance and heat resistance even further.

What’s more, PLA has more end-of-life options, such as industrial composting or energy efficient feedstock recovery. These options are still to be fully realised but bioplastics, such as PLA, offer many more options for the future compared to established plastics, in terms of both performance and environmental credentials. That said, bioplastics still offer real value today.

The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, Ford, Heinz, Nestle, Nike, Procter & Gamble and Unilever have joined the World Wildlife Fund to launch the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance (BFA).

Nestle is already using bioplastics, such as PLA (in Purina One pet food packaging), bio-PE (in beverage caps) and bio-PET (in Vittel bottled water). At the Ecochem conference, Nestle’s packaging environmental sustainability expert, Lars Lundquist, noted the difficulty of using compostable/biodegradable plastics in some of its packaging requirements, and found more favor in bio-based materials, such as bio-PE and bio-PET, especially in food and beverage products.

Floreon is essentially a specially formulated compound, which is added to the standard bioplastic PLA. Floreon offers significant benefits over conventional PLA and oil-based PET, being up to four times tougher than virgin PLA, allowing it to be used in many different packaging applications. It also requires less energy to produce respectively, which adds to the environmental benefits.

The price of Floreon is also incredibly stable when compared to the cost of oil-based products. There have been many predictions made that indicate the price of oil is set to increase, which will allow Floreon to become less expensive than other plastics.

Smithers-Rapra have conducted rigorous independent tests on Floreon and has been deemed safe for food contact, adding to the wide range of commercial applications. It can also be processed by extrusion, injection molding, film & sheet casting, and spinning, providing access to a wide range of finished goods.

Floreon has the potential to transform packaging and change the way we think about plastics forever.

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