And the winner is...
Berlin, 3rd December 2019 | This year the prestigious annual Global Bioplastics Award was given to Bio4Self (16 partner companies form the European Union) for their self-reinforced composites based on PLA fibres.
The trophy was again made entirely from bioplastics. It was 3D-printed from different PLA/PHA based compounds filled with wood and different metal powders fillers.
The prize was awarded by the trade journal bioplastics MAGAZINE to the winning consortium, represented by Centexbel, on December 3rd, 2019 during the 14th European Bioplastics Conference in Berlin, Germany.
Self-reinforced PLA composites
Biobased and easy-to-recycle self-reinforced composites based on PLA fibres with an inherent high stiffness, which are being developed within the framework of the Bio4self project funded by the European Research Fund H2020, open up completely new fields of application for PLA.
An international consortium with the participation of Centexbel (Zwijnaarde, Belgium), Fraunhofer ICT (Pfinztal, Germany), the Institute of Textile Technology of the RWTH Aachen and 13 other partners, has developed a selfreinforced composite of polyactide (PLA). In the Bio4Self project, two different PLA grades are required to produce self-reinforced polymer composites or SRPCs: a low melting temperature PLA grade to form the matrix and an ultra-high stiffness and high melting temperature PLA grade to form the reinforcing fibres. Bio4self innovations overcome several challenges related to the production of PLA SRPC: formulation of a moisture/humidity-resistant PLA grade; melt extrusion of ultra-high stiffness PLA reinforcement fibres; development of (consolidation and thermoforming) manufacturing procedures to produce the highest performance SRPC material; and industrial scaleup of production.
Self-reinforced PLA composites made of 0/90 fabric have a stiffness of 4 GPa, which is comparable to the stiffness achieved by self-reinforced PP, but the PLA SRPC has the advantage of using renewable materials with a better endof- life perspective.
The composites are designed for high mechanical strength and rigidity as well as high temperature and hydrolytic stability. In addition, it is fully biobased, easily recyclable, formable and industrially biodegradable. As a result, PLA is being upgraded to a material suited for more technical and demanding final applications including automotive and household electronics, and offers possibilities for lots of other applications (sports, transportation, and medical appliances). As the first prototypical applications of the material, the partners presented a hybrid seating structure.
PLA materials are based on renewable resources, socalled lactic acids, which can be obtained from agricultural waste or specially cultivated raw materials such as sugar cane. Although the composite materials developed have been functionalised for high mechanical strength and stiffness as well as for high temperature and hydrolysis stability, like pure PLA they are completely biobased, easily recyclable, formable and even industrially biodegradable. These industrial-scale composites represent a milestone in the development of functionalized, mechanically high-strength, biobased material systems. Furthermore, the development makes a significant contribution to the recycling economy.
As an example, the application in a car seat structure was demonstrated at the JEC Composite trade show in March 2019. During the show, this project was awarded a JEC Innovation Award for sustainability, announced at the JEC Innovation Award ceremony on March.
The judges of the Global Bioplastics Award were equally impressed of the concept. "It shows, that the intelligent combination of different forms of the same versatile bioplastic material PLA can lead to sophisticated solutions that enable the use for much more than just packaging applications," sais Michael Thielen, publisher of bioplastics MAGAZINE during the ceremony. Even if the benefit of being biodegradable does not reveal itself at first glance, the whole concept can serve as a good example what can be made possible with bioplastics.
New splint for bone fractures
A novel splint made of PLA for immobilizing bone fractures has been developed that can be repeatedly reshaped during treatment, such as, for example, when the swelling subsides.
The new immobilisation concept, called RECAST was developed by Nölle Kunststofftechnik It makes use of variously sized preshaped splints made from biobased and biodegradable PLA. The splints are heated to between 55 and 65 °C. The temperature of the splints is then reduced to a minimum. The now formable plastic is molded to fit the corresponding part of the body. This process takes about five minutes. If corrections are necessary, the hardened splint can simply be reheated.
The plastics processor worked closely with the polymer developers at the Fraunhofer IAP in Potsdam-Golm on the development of the optimum material. It was decided to use PLA as a base polymer, a bioplastic that has a major disadvantage for most applications: It becomes soft at around 58 °C. The low thermal softening point of PLA is a great advantage when used as an orthopaedic splint. This means that the product can be shaped repeatedly and quickly by heating. The Fraunhofer researchers combined PLA with suitable fillers and developed a formulation that met all the requirements. In addition, they ensured that the material could also be produced in industry-relevant quantities.
In order to make the splint even more comfortable for patients, RECAST products also feature a fleece padding made of PLA and viscose, which was developed jointly with the Saxon Textile Research Institute in Chemnitz.
Enzymatic masterbatch to make PLA home compostable
In December 2018 Carbiolice (Riom, France) launched its innovative and unique enzymated Evanesto® masterbatch – an additive that enables PLA to biodegrade under typical home composting conditions.
Even if PLA offers very good properties for rigid applications, its biodegradability is currently limited to industrial composting.
Carbiolice has now developd Evanesto, a new enzymatic additive to be used as a masterbatch, that will make PLA polymer compostable under domestic conditions.
“The masterbatch, in a concentration of less than 5%, is added to a compound with a high content of PLA during conventional converting processes like film extrusion, thermoforming, injection molding. It accelerates the natural PLA biodegradation process, making it suitable for home composting.” explained Clémentine Arnault R&D Manager at Carbiolice.
Initial tests carried out by independent laboratory OWS on thin films containing 30% of PLA and 5% of Evanesto, and the rest being other biodegradable and biobased polyesters, such as biobased PBAT, TPS…) have shown that complete disintegration is achieved within a time frame of 182 days (6 months) under home composting conditions.
Tests on thicker films obtained by calandering and thermoforming are still ongoing, but the initial results are very positive.
Earlier this year Carbiolice and Carbios have signed a joint development agreement with Denmark-based Novozymes, a global producer of enzymes, for the production and supply of enzymes for the manufacture of self-biodegradable PLA plastics.
First modular storage system from Bio-on’s bioplastic
Kartell (Noviglio, Milan, Italy) is offering a new eco-friendly and sustainable edition of one of its best sellers - a modular storage unit in the 100 % natural bioplastic material by Bio-on (Bologna, Italy). The Componibili storage unit, which is cylindrical in form with sliding panels, was first created by Italian designer and Kartell co-founder Anna Castelli Ferrieri in 1967. The 50-year old design is available in four colours: green, pink, cream and yellow in the three-module version.
Originally made from ABS plastic in the 1960s, the updated bioplastic unit is made from Bio-on’s PHB Material, made from agricultural waste.
For Kartell, research is a mission, said company president Claudio Luti. “We will continue to experiment to combine innovation and design.”
“We have worked with Bio-on to be able to offer our public a very high-quality bioplastic product and we have chosen to do it on one of our historic products, one of the most recognized in the world. Research on bioplastics fits with our quest for innovation and is part of the ‘Kartell loves the planet’ project aimed at enhancing good sustainability practices.”
For Bio-on, it is “an honour”, said (meanwhile resigned) founder and CEO Marco Astorri. The company is proud to see its bioplastic showcased with one of the most famous Italian design brands in the world. To reciprocate and in gratitude for the trust placed in the material, Bio-on has given the biopolymer used for this specific application the name CL, the initials of Claudio Luti.
In February 2018, Dantoy, manufacturer of quality toys in Denmark for more than 50 years, launched its new line of BIO products, which has gained much more attention than initially anticipated. Today, more than 15% of all dantoy’s products are bio made from Braskem’s Green PE™, supplied by FKuR, a development clearly contributing to this toy company’s healthy sales figures. Located in the middle of Jutland in Denmark and employing some 50 employees, most of whom have been with the company for more than 10 years, dantoy’s production facilities span an area of 15,000 m2. In addition, dantoy employs a number of affiliated colleagues who assemble the products at home or at sheltered workshops. All this says something about dantoy’s DNA, and the company culture dantoy is known for.
All of Dantoy’s Plastic toys are licensed for the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, thus they must comply with the world’s strictest requirements for plastic contents, going far beyond the Danish law.
In addition to using biobased plastic raw materials for the bio and the brand new Tiny lines, dantoy tries to minimise the impact of its operations on the environment. The company has therefore implemented eco-friendly processes to manage the consumption of energy, water and raw materials and to prevent the possibility of accidental releases or emissions via the manufacturing process.
The success is not only based on the superior quality of the products, but also on the communication strategy. On every box it is clearly marked and explained what it’s all about with this bioplastic. A series of excellent Youtube videos also explain it.