31. Jul 2019
Earlier this month, US hedge fund Quintessential Capital Management leveled a number of serious accusations at Italy-based PHA producer Bio-on, including that it had “fabricated” its figures and that most of its “revenue and credit is fictitious”. QCM’s report went on to state that Bio-on’s “technology has even been called "absurd" and management's statements "rambling.”
After issuing a statement refuting all allegations, Bio-on has now also called on two experts to testify to the validity of its PHA technology. Plastics Hall-of-Famer Professor Paolo Galli and Professor Paola Fabbri, who holds a PhD in Materials Engineering, and teaches at the University of Bologna have both made video statements in which they attest to the biodegradable properties of PHA and the promise this material holds for the future of the plastics industry.
As Galli said: "Today we cannot live without plastics, but we must also give it the property of true biodegradability….This high molecular weight polymer PHA, has a structure that is very reminiscent of polypropylene in its properties, which is a perfect material but not bio-degradable….As a scientist I have always dreamed of such a product, now I see possibilities and I find this future very stimulating, I think it will open new doors for the use of plastic materials in our everyday life.”
Professor Paola Fabbri is also the key senior expert on and author of the “Top Emerging Bio-based Products, their Properties and Industrial Applications” report, carried out within the scope of the BIOSPRI tender "Study on support to R&I policy in the area of bio-based products (BBPs) and services", and funded by the European Commission's DG for Research & Innovation. In her video statement she describes at length the properties, developments, potential and opportunities of PHA. Much has changed over the years and great strides have been made regarding the production of PHA at scale, she said, noting that until recently, the “technologies were not fully mature, but nor were the times and the awareness”.
She said she expected that in “the next few decades undreamt of goals will be reached with the new bioplastics and I say this because we have already achieved results regarding industrial applications of PHAs that only two, three or four years ago we considered completely unrealistic.”
And: “Biodegradability, bio-based content are functionalities of materials…we are willing to pay more for one technical grade than for another, because it has an extra functionality, so what is surprising about paying more for a technical grade that has several additional features compared to traditional grades?”
PHA, she said, had been described in the literature, but its properties were known on the small scale, on the milligram scale.
“Almost all the literature that was available in 2007, when we started working together, was on studies that were based on hundreds of milligrams or a few grams of material, with absolutely no mention of a compound for industrial use.It was a world to be created in which we were gradually able to overcome the limits that we ourselves did not imagine ".
And finally: "When we say that PHAs can replace so many types of plastics we want to go beyond the literal sense. This is not the way to consider the potential of a new material…we have had excellent results with PHA and have produced products ranging from small and functional to large pieces of furniture, with material properties that are necessarily different from those of standard materials. Otherwise, what good would be the evolution and implementation of new plastics?”
Aside from the testimony of the two experts, Bio-on also reported that Luca Tosto, owner of the company Walter Tosto, the supplier of the reactors for the Castel San Pietro Terme pilot plant, has made it known that he has recently invested a large sum in Bio-on. The project had been an important one for his company, he said, and he wished to “support the company at this delicate moment”.
Bio-on stock plunged 70% when the QCM report was published and has still not recovered.