Bioplastics Business Breakfast

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  • Biodegradable mulch film solves a multitude of problems


    Tomatoes are the world’s most-grown vegetable for the food processing industry. Polyethylene mulch films are commonly used to increase yield by controlling weeds, soil temperature and water usage. As complete removal after harvesting is well-nigh impossible, non-degradable PE film residues find their way into the soil and accumulate there.

    nBASF offers a certified soil-biodegradable plastic for mulch films called ecovio® M 2351, made from its biodegradable co-polyester polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT) ecoflex and other biodegradable polymers based on renewable raw materials. Mulch films made of ecovio M 2351 can be ploughed into the soil after mechanical harvest as naturally occurring micro-organisms in the soil recognize the structure of the film as food they can metabolize. Moreover, the use of mulch films made of ecovio can increase tomato yield by 15 to as much as 50 percent, while lowering water consumption and providing better weed control with less herbicides compared to bare-soil farming. Other advantages, say farmers using the films, are improved crop resistance to fungal diseases, an earlier harvest time as well as a better, more homogeneous quality of the crop and a higher Brix index, which refers to the sugar-water ratio in the tomatoes. Thus sustainable agriculture can be combined with efficient food production with higher yields and high-quality produce.

    Sustainable agriculture: tried and tested in everyday farm work
    Rather than being labor-intensively removed and recycled, films made from ecovio M 2351 can be left in the soil after harvesting, which saves labor and costs. A study from ETH Zürich, Switzerland, has shown that soil microbes - bacteria and fungi - can use films made from the plastic PBAT as food. The microorganisms take the carbon from the polymer both to generate energy and to form biomass. The remaining end products after biodegradation are CO2, water and biomass. This means that PBAT biologically degrades in the soil instead of fragmenting into microplastic like PE does. Soil-biodegradable mulch films are therefore also claimed to contribute to a better root development, better plant growth and improved soil quality. Ecovio M 2351 was the first material to be certified as soil-biodegradable according to the European standard DIN EN 17033. The use of mulch film made of ecovio is also accepted for organic crops in many countries.

    Farmers have been using certified soil-biodegradable mulch films made of ecovio for more than six years since its introduction to the market in 2012. “We support farmers in many countries in using mulch films made of ecovio”, says Dirk Staerke from Marketing Biopolymers for Agriculture at BASF. “According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations the global agricultural production has to grow by 70 percent if we want to feed a world population which in 2050 is expected to grow to nine billion people. Bio-degradable mulch films can contribute to this challenge without polluting the soil with non-degradable film residues.”

    Benefits also for film manufacturers
    Ecovio M 2351 is a ready-made compound for extrusion of thin films. It can easily be processed on conventional blown-film lines for PE. Because of its excellent mechanical properties regarding strength and tear resistance these films can be manufactured in different thicknesses of 12, 10 and 8 µm. The compound already contains slip and anti-block agents.

  • Labeling a smarter future


    Finnish producer of self-adhesive label materials UPM Raflatac has become the first label material producer to bring a new wood-based polypropylene film material into the market. The UPM Raflatac Forest Film™ label material has been developed in collaboration with UPM Biofuels using UPM BioVerno naphtha, a 100 percent wood-based solution originating from sustainably managed forests.

    aThe film will answer brand owners’ needs to replace traditional fossil-based virgin materials with renewable ones. It offers companies an efficient and impactful way to reach beyond their sustainability goals without compromising on product performance.

    “At UPM Raflatac, we support the circular economy by innovating circular labeling solutions, but that is not enough. We are aiming higher by making sure that the raw materials we use are as sustainable as possible. By replacing fossil-based raw materials with renewable ones we can ensure a truly sustainable packaging solution,” says Antti Jääskeläinen, Executive Vice President, UPM Raflatac. “Our Forest Film is a natural step on our journey towards labeling a smarter future beyond fossils.”

    UPM Raflatac is leading in sustainable labeling by partnering with different players in the forest and packaging value chain. As one of the signatories of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, the company is committed to developing alternative, circular and renewable labeling solutions.

    UPM is building a more sustainable future beyond fossils by replacing fossil-based, non-renewable amaterials with renewable alternatives from wood-based biomass. The company uses raw materials efficiently to create new products and services based on wood fibre, biomolecules, residues and side streams.

    "UPM Biofuels converts pulp production residue into renewable naphtha, a drop-in raw material for the chemical industry. Replacing fossil raw materials, it brings substantial climate and environmental benefits. This wood-based film is a great example of UPM’s brand promise in action. We help our partners to go beyond fossils with our sustainable innovation," says Panu Routasalo, Vice President, UPM Biofuels.

  • Avantium releases first half 2019 results


    The company is progressing its technologies towards commercialization. “Overall, Avantium remains confident to deliver on the strategic objectives.”

    aEarlier today, renewable chemistry company Avantium N.V. presented its first half year results. The cash position was €53.1 million at 30 June 2019 versus €83.3 million at the end of 2018, mainly because of the repurchase of the Renewable Polymers business – formerly Synvina - which involved an investment of € 17.4 million and a €3.1 million investment in the new Mekong demonstration plant. Total adjusted EBITDA decreased in line with plan to € -8.8 million in the first half of 2019 (€ - 1.3 million in the corresponding period of 2018), largely in connection with these investments.
    Consolidated first half 2019 revenues decreased by €1.2 million to €5.2 million (HY 2018: €6.4 million) mainly due to the timing of Catalysis order intake – higher revenues in the first half of 2018 and new contracts negotiated towards the end of the first half of 2019 caused a shift in revenues, which was partly mitigated by Avantium Renewable Chemistries and Avantium Renewable Polymers revenue in HY 2019
    Operating expenses increased to €17.4 million (HY 2018: €9.9 million) due to the acquisition of 100% ownership of Synvina and its incorporation into Avantium’s cost base as Avantium Renewable Polymers.
    Tom van Aken, Chief Executive Officer of Avantium, noted that the company’s focus is on those technologies with the highest value potential.
    “Our plant-to-plastics YXY technology to produce FDCA and PEF is progressing towards commercialization with leading engineering services company Worley conducting detailed pre- engineering studies for a 5 kilotons flagship plant. Our focus remains on delivering the milestones on our journey towards opening this flagship plant in 2023. Avantium aims to secure funding and make the investment decision for construction of this flagship by the end of 2020.
    The Renewable Chemistries business unit is focused on progressing our partnership opportunities along with opening the Mekong demonstration plant in November 2019 and successfully operating the Dawn pilot biorefinery. I am pleased that we have been awarded €3 million in EU grants for our Mekong and Dawn Technologies. This support is a strong signal for continuing our work to create and commercialize sustainable chemistry technology solutions.”

    In January 2019, Avantium regained full ownership of its YXY Technology through the purchase of BASF’s shares in the Synvina joint venture. Avantium paid BASF €17.4 million, with the transfer taking place on 25 January 2019. Synvina became a business unit of Avantium, alongside the Catalysis and Renewable Chemistries business units. Avantium appointed Marcel Lubben Managing Director of the new business unit with a mandate to lead the commercialization of the YXY technology. In June 2019, the Synvina business unit was renamed Avantium Renewable Polymers.
    Plans for the future are the construction of a cash-flow positive flagship plant with a planned annual capacity of 5 kilotons of FDCA (built, owned and operated by Avantium) and 5 kilotons of PEF (produced in partnerships).
    Engineering company Worley (formerly known as Jacobs Engineering) has started detailed pre- engineering studies for the intended FDCA flagship plant slated for a 2023 start-up. Site selection in north-western continental Europe is aimed to be completed in the second half of 2019.
    The plant will produce products for high-value markets and performance applications. This includes specialty films that can be used in electronics and displays (LCD/OLED), PEF-enhanced bottles for premium beverages and cosmetics, and plant-based recycle-ready or recyclable flexible packaging.
    Avantium’s Renewable Chemistries business unit continues its focus on developing innovative chemistry technologies that utilize renewable sources of carbon instead of fossil carbon. The technologies enable the production of chemical building blocks and plastic materials. Significant progress has been made in the three lead programs of Avantium Renewable Chemistries in an effort to accelerate the transition to a fossil-free world. In the first half year of 2019, the revenues from collaboration agreements more than doubled to €0.5 million (HY 2018: €0.2 million).
    The company’s proprietary Mekong Technology converts glucose into plant-based mono-ethylene glycol (MEG). This is a major drop-in component used in the production of many materials, including polyesters. Avantium will officially open a demonstration plant for its Mekong technology in Delfzijl, the Netherlands in November 2019. This demonstration plant is a pre-commercial facility with a nameplate capacity of 10 tons of plant-based MEG per year. In August, the demonstration plant will be delivered fully assembled and ready for commissioning to Avantium’s site at the Chemiepark in Delfzijl from engineering partner Zeton in Enschede, the Netherlands.
    The opening of the demonstration plant is a major step forward in commercializing the Mekong technology in that Avantium will scale from lab to a size that mimics the conditions at a commercial- scale plant. Based on the results of the demonstration plant, Avantium will be able to validate the technical performance and refine the economic opportunity. If testing on demonstration plant scale is successful, Avantium intends to make an investment decision regarding a possible commercial-scale flagship plant in 2022.
    In the first half of 2019, Avantium progressed its partnership opportunities to bring Mekong to full-scale commercialization by signing several collaboration agreements around the globe.
    In March 2019, Avantium received a €2.0 million grant from the European Regional Development Fund, facilitated by Partnership Northern Netherlands (Samenwerkingsverband Noord-Nederland). This grant aims to accelerate innovation in the quest for a low-carbon economy.
    In June 2019, Avantium announced that it has been awarded €1.3 million for both its Dawn and Mekong Technologies from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program. This commits Avantium to participate in the VEHICLE consortium whose members aim to widen the business and market opportunities of existing and future biorefineries by demonstrating the applicability of their sugar streams in several downstream options. The role of Avantium in VEHICLE is to provide sugar streams from non-food feedstock over a 4-year program. This sugar is produced in the Dawn pilot biorefinery in Delfzijl, the Netherlands. Avantium will also convert industrial sugars from the consortium partners (including the sugars from Avantium’s Dawn pilot biorefinery) into plant-based mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) through its Mekong Technology.

    Dawn Technology - The Future of Biorefining
    Avantium’s proprietary Dawn Technology produces industrial sugars and lignin from forestry residues in its pilot biorefinery in Delfzijl. These sugars are an excellent raw material for chemistry and fermentation processes to produce a broad range of chemicals and materials. The lignin is energy dense and ideal for energy generation as well as other higher value applications like asphalt. With proven technical and economic feasibility, the pilot biorefinery is the prelude to a commercial-scale flagship plant. The investment decision regarding a possible Dawn flagship plant is expected by 2021.
    Dawn is a feedstock flexible technology which means that future biorefineries can use its own locally sourced non-food biomass like forestry and agricultural residues. Avantium aims to globally deploy the technology via licenses and is steadily progressing its partnership opportunities around the world.

    Volta Technology
    Avantium’s Volta program is a platform technology that uses electrochemistry to convert CO2 to higher value products and chemical building blocks. The Volta team is currently scaling up from lab scale towards pre-pilot installations. The first units aim to capture CO2 from the atmosphere and are part of consortia where Avantium will operate the units at the Prodock building in the Port of Amsterdam.

    Avantium actively participates in industry associations and currently cooperates with over 35 partners in European grant consortia, providing the company with over €5 million in grants.

    Avantium Catalysis - Tomorrow’s Catalysis Today
    Avantium Catalysis provides advanced catalysis testing systems and contract R&D. The Contract R&D business offers the execution of in-house customized contract research projects. The Systems business comprises Avantium’s unique and advanced Flowrence high-throughput catalyst testing systems, which are tailored to accelerate catalyst screening and to study catalyst deactivation.
    Avantium Catalysis has developed a strong, international customer base, including several industry leaders. In May 2019, Shell renewed its long-running partnership with Avantium Catalysis for four additional years for the execution of catalyst testing programs with Avantium’s Flowrence technology platform. In June 2019, Avantium decided to significantly expand its capacity to test commercial catalysts for hydrotreating and hydrocracking applications, to serve the strong demand for its independent refinery catalyst testing services.

  • Sustainability comes into fashion

    Sustainability comes into fashion [06-08-19]

    While fashion may not be the most obvious place to look for sustainable choices, this industry, too is increasingly aware of the need for better choices. From biobased shoes and eco-cotton to sustainable dyeing and production options, eco-friendliness today has definitely come into fashion. [more]

  • Reduce, Recycle, Replace: SÜDPACK takes 3-pronged approach to sustainability

    Reduce, Recycle, Replace: SÜDPACK takes 3-pronged approach to sustainability [05-08-19]

    Using less material, improving recyclability, and using renewable raw materials: at this year’s FachPack, SÜDPACK Verpackungen GmbH & Co. KG will unveil a range of solutions tailored to today’s packaging concerns.  [more]

  • Coloring the “Circular Economy”

    Coloring the “Circular Economy”  [02-08-19]

    In the run-up to K 2019, Clariant is sharing its views on some of the issues facing the plastics industry as it embraces the Circular Economy. Philippe Lazerme, Head of Marketing Segment Plastics at Clariant’s Business Unit Pigment, weighs in on how to add color to sustainable plastics. “The selection of the right colorants will be crucial,” he writes. [more]

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