The European Commission’s latest circular economy proposal, presented on December 2, 2015, leaves room for more ambitious actions on bio-industries such as bioplastics, says European Bioplastics.

The proposal contains plans to tackle the challenge presented by the waste of energy and resources produced by the linear economy. The European Bioplastics association welcomes these efforts, and is looking forward to contributing to the forthcoming debate on how renewable and biodegradable materials can best fit into this vision.

In ‘Closing the loop – an EU action plan for the Circular Economy’ the Commission acknowledges that ‘bio-based materials present advantages due to their renewability, biodegradability and compostability’. “The proposal is an important step towards closing the carbon loop in Europe”, says François de Bie, Chairman of European Bioplastics.

Yet closing the loop, whilst urgently necessary, should be complemented by measures to boost the bio-economy. Biodegradable plastics contribute to proper organic waste collection and bio-based plastics help to minimise greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, durable bioplastics in particular have the potential to sequester bio-based carbon. If mechanically recycled, this benefit of carbon sequestration can be sustained throughout many life cycles, making a significant contribution to a circular economy. The carbon loop, in which biobased and biodegradable materials play a key role, needs to be recognised and supported within the EU’s legislative framework.

For this reason, bioplastics should be part of any new legislation on revised waste targets, as they contribute to multiplying end-of-life options, such as mechanical recycling, organic recycling and waste-to-‘bio’-energy. Furthermore, the material properties of bioplastics should be recognised within the context of ecodesign measures, given the significant environmental benefits they offer.

The Commission’s proposal to amend the Waste Framework Directive falls short of fully recognising the advantages of organic waste collection for Europe. Organic waste accounts for the largest fraction (30-45 percent) in municipal waste. Yet, today, only 25 percent of the 90 million tonnes of bio-waste in Europe is collected separately and recycled by composting and anaerobic digestion. With the right waste legislation in place, an additional 60 million tonnes of bio-waste could be recycled, which would result in the creation of 30,000 new jobs.(1)

Economic potential of bioplastic materials

Bioplastics are a large family of innovative plastic materials that are either bio-based or biodegradable, or both. The global market for bioplastics is predicted to grow by more than 350 percent in the mid-term.(2) The latest market data by European Bioplastics shows that the global bioplastics production capacity is set to increase from around 1.7 million tonnes in 2014 to approximately 7.8 million tonnes in 2019. Packaging remains the single largest field of application for bioplastics with almost 70 percent of the total bioplastics market. The data also reveals a significant increase in the uptake of bioplastics materials in many other sectors, including textiles, automotive, and consumer goods.

“Even though production will continue to grow steadily in the coming years, forecasts show that in 2019, more than 95 percent of bioplastics production capacities will be located outside of Europe. If EU Member States want to attract investment and jobs in this sector, they need to tackle the problem of limited economic and political support, which currently hampers the scale-up of production capacities and market penetration of bioplastic products in Europe. The right strategy and conditions are needed to reverse this trend and help to make full use of bioplastics’ environmental, economic and social potential in Europe”, says François de Bie.(KL)

(1) Data given by the European Compost Network (ECN) e.V. in a letter to the EU Commissioners Timmermans, Katainen, Vella and Canete, 19 November 2015.
(2) 2015 market data update of European Bioplastics in cooperation with IfBB – Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Hannover, Germany) and nova-Institute (Hürth, Germany).

http://en.european-bioplastics.org

 Published 03.12.2015

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition Position Against Biodegradability Additives in Petroleum-Based Plastics

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) has released a formal position paper against biodegradability additives for petroleum-based plastics, which are marketed as enhancing the sustainability of plastic by rendering the material biodegradable. The SPC has evaluated the use of biodegradability additives for conventional petroleum-based plastics, and has found that these additives do not offer any sustainability advantage and they may actually result in more environmental harm.

The position paper lists the following reasons for the stance against these additives:

  • They don’t enable compostability, which is the meaningful indicator of a material’s ability to beneficially return nutrients to the environment.

  • They are designed to compromise the durability of plastic and the additive manufacturers have not yet demonstrated an absence of adverse effects on recycling.

  • The creation of a “litter friendly” material is a step in the wrong direction, particularly when the material may undergo extensive fragmentation and generation of micro-pollution before any biodegradation occurs.

  • The biodegradation of petroleum-based plastics releases fossil carbon into the atmosphere, creating harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
The report is available for free download here

The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) welcomes the recent debate and discussions over more States banning single use plastic bags as well as the recent Government Meeting to investigate a national ban on plastic bags. What about the discussion on certified compostable bags?

Certified compostable bags are biodegradable and the best solution for the source separation of food and garden organics. Notwithstanding biodegradable is not always compostable.
It is critical that compostable plastics carry the Australian Standards certification to define the product will biodegrade in a commercial composting operation. AORA’s stated national policy is to ban all single use non compostable plastic bags of all gauges (see full policy below).

With the implementation of a ban, Organic Recyclers and composters acknowledge the need to continue to provide the community with a convenient means of containing kitchen waste etc. Certified compostable bags meet this need and must be exempt from any ban on single use plastic bags (Polyethylene/conventional plastics).

“It’s great to see Tasmania started this trend and then other jurisdictions like South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory have followed. Now it’s time for other States to follow the smaller jurisdictions and ban single use plastic bags whilst ensuring that certified compostable bags are exempt from the ban.” Said Paul Coffey, Chairman of AORA.

“It’s important that everyone understands the differences between products claimed as degradable, oxo-degradable, biodegradable and certified compostable. They simply aren’t the same thing and unless they are Australian Standards certified compostable then they are not considered suitable for use in organics recycling.” Said Peter McLean, Executive Officer at AORA.

Governments around Australia should be commended on their commitment to address the impact of plastic bags on our environment. AORA will continue to work with all governments across Australia to help formulate policies that deliver the best outcomes for the environment, community and government.

The Australian Organics Recycling Association’s full policy on plastic bags is as follows:
“AORA supports the ban on all single use non compostable plastics, including plastic bags of all gauges, agricultural films and packaging which cannot be reused, recovered or recycled in any way. The use of compostable bags and plastics which meet the requirements of AS4736 and AS5810 as verified by the Australasian Bioplastics Association allows for more effective source separation and organic resource processing.”
The applicable Australian Standards for compostable bags are AS4736-2006 and AS5810-2010.
The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) was established in 2012 and works on behalf of its members including processors, associate industries, educators and all levels of Government to raise awareness of the benefits of recycling organic resources. It aims to act as an advocate for the wider organics resource recovery and beneficial reuse industries and to represent their views in a constructive dialogue with policy makers. AORA envisages an industry in which best practice is shared, standards are maintained and surpassed, and which makes a positive contribution to safeguarding the environment. To become a member or to learn more, please visit www.aora.org.au To learn more about the benefits of organics recycling, please visit www.compostforsoils.com.au

According to a new report by Allied Market Research, titled, “World Bioplastics Market Opportunities and Forecast, 2014-2020″, the global market for bioplastics would reach $30.8 billion by 2020, registering a CAGR of 14.8% during 2015-2020. The rising environmental awareness among the consumers and substantial curiosity of packaging industries towards biodegradability are the key factors responsible for the increasing adoption of bioplastics in rigid packaging applications. The rigid plastic application would account for more than 40% of the market revenue by 2020.

Bioplastics are plastics derived from the renewable feedstocks such as corn, sugarcane and cellulose among others. Large availability of renewable feedstocks and eco-friendly nature of bioplastics boost its market across the globe. Furthermore, increasing adoption in new end user industries and favorable government policies for the use of eco-friendly and biodegradable products are some of the key factors that would drive the market growth. On the other hand, high production cost is likely to dampen the market growth during the forecast period.

The consumption of “drop-ins” bioplastics (Bio-PE, Bio-PET 30, Bio-PA and others) would continue to dominate the overall bioplastics market through to 2020, owing to its overall properties and wide applications similar to traditional plastics (PE, PET and PA among others). Bio-PET 30 would be the fastest growing segment in the non-biodegradable bioplastics market, as it delivers same performance as synthetic PET with regards to re-sealability, versatility, durability, appearance, weight and recyclability.

Key findings of the study

  • Rigid plastics would be the fastest growing application segment, at a CAGR of 31.8%, during the forecast period
  • Europe was the highest consumer, whereas, Asia Pacific was the largest producer of bioplastics in 2014. Asia Pacific would be the fastest growing consumer during the forecast period.
  • Bio-PET 30 segment is expected to have healthy volume growth, at 25.7% CAGR, during the forecast period.
  • Polyesters and starch blends segment collectively accounted for about one-third of the overall biodegradable bioplastic market in 2014.
  • PLA is projected to be the fastest growing segment in the overall biodegradable plastics market, in terms of revenue and volume.

North America and Europe collectively accounted for more than 60% of the market, in 2014 and are expected to maintain their lead throughout the forecast period. European policy support for bioplastic manufacturers and increasing health awareness among consumers are the key factors responsible for the market growth within this region. However, Asia Pacific is projected to be the most lucrative market owing to availability of huge renewable feedstocks coupled with increasing investment made by the global bioplastics players.

The leading players in the market are adopting collaboration, partnership and expansion as the key developmental strategies. The prominent players profiled in this report include Novamont SPA, Metabolix Inc., BASF SE, Natureworks LLC, Corbion Purac, Braskem, Cardia Bioplastics, Biome Technolgies Plc, FKuR Kunststoff GmbH and Innovia Films.

While growing ecological awareness and changing consumer demands are leading to a boom in the research and development of more sustainable products with a reduced environmental footprint such as bioplastics, there are a few persistent myths and misconceptions that need to be set straight once and for all. Like most myths, they are inspired by reality, but are mixing up fact and fiction and, in this case, are ultimately unhelpful to a budding industry that is solidly progressing toward a resource-efficient and sustainable future.

Misconception 1: All bioplastics are biodegradable/compostable

It is an easy mistake to make, but not all bioplastics are biodegradable. Quite the contrary, the main feature of many bioplastics is the fact that they are made from renewable resources, biomass. Most of these biobased materials are durable commodity plastics such as bio-PE or bio-PET with the same properties as their conventional counterparts. Neither PE nor PET is biodegradable, which demonstrates that the feedstock basis of a material has nothing to do with its characteristic to biodegrade. Biodegradability is an inherent feature of a material and its chemical structure. Bioplastics are a diverse family of materials with different properties. There are three main groups: Biobased, non-biodegradable materials such as PE, PET or polyamides; biobased and biodegradable materials such as PLA, PHA, and starch blends; and fossil-based, biodegradable materials such as PBAT which are mainly used as a blend for biobased and biodegradable plastics. Biodegradability is an additional feature that adds value for specific applications, such as biowaste bags or food packaging. It is not, however, the single defining attribute of bioplastics.

Misconception 2: Biodegradability is the same as compostability

Strictly speaking, biodegradation is but a collective term for a natural chemical process in which materials are transformed into natural substances such as water, carbon and biomass with the help of microorganisms. Biodegradation can occur in many different environments (soil, marine environment, composting and fermentation facilities, etc.) and under varying conditions (absence or presence of oxygen, bacteria or fungi) and at different levels of influencing factors, such as temperature, humidity and timeframe. In order to be able to make any substantial claim on the biodegradability of a material or product, all these different factors need to be taken into consideration. Resorting to acknowledged standards, which are more than a mere testing method and provide clearly defined pass/fail criteria, is the most commonly accepted way of doing so.

The European Standard for industrial compostability, EN 13432, for instance, defines the minimum requirements that materials have to meet in order to be processed in industrial composting plants (timeframe, temperature, humidity, etc.). If these requirements are not met or can’t be proven, any reference to the standard or claims about compostability of the product would be considered greenwashing.

Wherever there’s a successful innovation, you will find “free riders” attempting to piggyback on the good reputation of products that adhere to accepted standards, without fulfilling the latter. This hampers the market development for environmentally responsible, standard-adhering products and potentially poses a threat to the environment. European Bioplastics, the European association of the bioplastics industry, has long been warning against the malpractice of producers of additive-mediated plastics, including oxo-degradable plastics, falsely claiming that their materials (bio)degrade. These claims have not been scientifically proven and do not comply with any of the acknowledged standards for biodegradability and industrial composting (ASTM D6400 or EN 13432). Furthermore, in a recently published peer reviewed publication, scientists at Michigan State University’s School of Packaging and the MSU’s Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering department concluded that “no evidence was found that these [degradable] additives promote and/or enhance biodegradation of PE or PET polymers.”

Yet, the harm has been done. In a recent post published on the PlasticsToday blog, the editor has fallen into the same trap, offering a company called ENSO, a degradable additive supplier, as an example of what she calls “reasonable alternatives” to compostable products. What she doesn’t mention is that California’s Attorney General filed a first-of-its-kind “greenwashing” lawsuit against ENSO, over alleged false and misleading marketing claims on their degradable additives. Products based on the ENSO additives have apparently since disappeared from the shelves. This case demonstrates that the key to the success of emerging biotechnologies are acknowledged standards and stricter guidelines on how to communicate these claims in order to allow for informed consumer choices.

On the other hand, the value proposition for compostable plastics is well recognized in the market and at the municipal level. Compostable products are a key tool in the zero waste programs successfully implemented by major municipalities such as Seattle and San Francisco. In fact “the ASTM Standard Specification for Compostable Plastics D6400” is explicitly called out in California law (SB-567). The same law also prohibits “the sale of plastic packaging and plastic products that are labelled with the terms biodegradable, degradable or decomposable,” which has found bioplastics producers and the recycling industry unanimously in strong support, because it precisely eliminates the sort of false and misleading marketing claims that can otherwise occur.

Misconception 3: Compostable plastics are the solution to landfills and littering

Biodegradable materials are often wrongly presented as a way to help minimize the amount of waste in countries that have no existing waste management infrastructure. Yet, biodegradable plastics should not and cannot be considered a solution to the problem of littering and landfilling. In fact, littering must never be promoted or accepted for any kind of waste. Instead, the issue needs to be addressed by educative and informative measures to raise awareness for proper and controlled ways of management, disposal and (organic) recycling.

Municipalities are now deeply engaged with the complexities of handling their solid waste streams. Bioplastics are suitable for a broad range of end-of-life options, including reuse, mechanical or organic recycling, and energy recovery. The use of compostable plastics makes separate biowaste collection a more valuable option and helps divert more organic waste from recycling streams or from landfills and increases the volume of valuable biomass (compost). Cities like Seattle and San Francisco in the United States and entire countries like the Netherlands recognize and capitalize on the role of certified compostable products in that endeavor. Misleading claims about “false benefits” of biodegradability only distract from what we as a society really need to be focusing on: Getting better at diverting valuable material streams away from landfills.

Hasso von Pogrell is Managing Director of European Bioplastics.

 

Busy Lifestyles and Food Industry

The value of packaging produced in Australia is estimated to be $10-10.5 billion while it is around USD300 billion globally. The food and beverage sector uses almost 65 – 70% of all Australian produced packaging.

It is not difficult to understand the reason for this. As lifestyles across Australian cities become faster and busier, the packaging industry is growing. Busy lifestyles in Australian cities have led to people wanting more ready-to-eat meals on the go, quick, pre-cut, pre-portioned quick cook meals at home or even single serve beverages and quick snacks while they are on the run.

Keeping up with the pace of life and the demand for convenience have been the advancements in food packing technology. Today, there are innovative products that are easy to open, dispense from, reseal and store foods fresh for long.

Innovations in Ballarat graphic design packaging have made food easier to handle, prepare, consume while maintaining the freshness and quality of the original produce. The new materials are lighter in weight and higher performing. Moreover, the food looks great and appeals to the prospective buyer too.

Packaging Materials Used in Australia

Roughly about 35% of the packaging materials used in Australia are paper, board (cartons etc.). Another 30% of the packaging market is plastic which includes PET, PVC, polypropylene and polystyrene. Plastics have rapidly gained share from being only 10% of the market in the early 1960s. Metals such as Aluminium, Steel and other material like glass make up the balance share.

Their Impact on the Environment?

Roughly 60% of these packaging materials are recycled. The balance packaging ends up in landfills where they can take thousands of years to disintegrate completely, releasing toxic harmful gasses in the process.

Did you know that many common packages such as potato chip bags or pizza boxes are not recyclable?

A typical snack chip bag is made up of multiple layers of foil and plastic. They are light-weight, easy to label and occupy less space on the shelves making them the choice of manufacturers and retailers. However, there is no technology available to separate the layers which is required in order to recycle these bags. As a result, they end up occupying expensive landfill real estate for years on end.

A pizza box or other take-out containers made of cardboard ought to be recyclable. However, in reality, whenever cheese or food pieces stick to these boxes, they become un-recyclable and head to the landfills.

Australian Packaging Covenant

The environment has been a major concern for the national food packaging industry for several decades. This, coupled with pressures from the consumers, supply chain and the Government led to the launch of the Australian Packaging Covenant (originally the National Packaging Covenant).

This Covenant has been the key instrument for managing the environmental aspects of packaging in Australia since 1999. Currently in its third iteration, it is a voluntary arrangement between stakeholders of the Australian packaging industry and the key players at all forms of Government. In its current iteration, the Covenant aimed to have reached a target of 70% recycling of all packaging materials by June 2015.

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian packaging industry this target may not be met given the amount of plastic being imported as Australia’s industry moved offshore. The current covenant has been given an extension of a year till July 2016.

Consumers Leading The Corporates

Consumers have started to care more about sustainability. A web-based survey by The Consumer Network, Inc showed that in the United States, approximately 35% men and 45% women were willing to pay more for recyclable packaging.

It is no wonder then, that many large corporates have been investing millions of dollars to come up with sustainable food packaging innovation. In the early 1970s, Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds spent millions of dollars on research. Based on the studies done by the Stanford Research Institute, polystyrene was chosen as the packaging material of choice for McDonalds as it was found to be less polluting as compared to paperboard. In 1993, they started using corrugated micro-flute that not only weighed less, used post-consumer fibre, corn starch adhesive and soy-based inks for its manufacture.

Another large company which has done a lot to further the cause of the use of post-consumer fibres in the food packaging industry is Starbucks. They spent four years with their partners to develop a cup which contained 10% post-consumer fibres. The FDA approved the cup to be in direct contact with food which began to be used in 2006 and has now been adopted by Starbucks in
its locations worldwide.

In 2012, Starbucks introduced new hot-sleeves which required fewer raw materials to be made, while increasing the amount of post-consumer content. This new sleeve is currently being used in the United States and Canada. According to the company, the increased use of post-consumer fibre has led to a saving of nearly 100,000 trees.

Renewable Food Packaging Materials in the 21st Century

Today, there are many bio-based food packaging materials. These are materials which have been derived from annually renewable sources.

The twentieth century had seen the rise of the use of petroleum-derived chemicals as packaging material because of their physical and chemical properties such as lightness, strength, and resistance to water and water-based micro-organisms.

The turn of the century saw attention being given to environmental factors such as sustainability and the ability to recycle. Materials from non-renewable sources such as those from petroleum began to be replaced with those from renewable sources, essentially those derived from plants and their by-products.

One such innovation is to make products out of sugar cane fibre or bagasse, which is the pulp material remaining after the extraction of the sugar-bearing juice from sugar cane. Bagasse can be used for making products normally made from plastic or paper. It also helps avoid the pollution caused to the environment by the burning of the sugarcane pulp after juice extraction. What is more, sugar cane is a readily renewable resource. Products made from sugarcane pulp are fully compostable and will usually compost between 30 – 90 days depending upon the composting facility.

Polylactide (PLA) is another plastic like compound made from the fermentation and distillation of dextrose into lactic acid. The dextrose is derived from starch-rich plant sources such as corn sugar. PLA behave like a plastic, however, it is made from renewable sources and can be fully composted at a commercial composting facility.

Similarly, corn starch and cellulose based polymers are also being used in the food packaging industry. These too are derived from annually renewable sources and take between 45 – 180 days to compost in optimal composting conditions.

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For sustainable packaging solutions, visit Environmental Enterprises. Environmental Enterprises is a supplier of certified, biodegradable/compostable sustainable packaging alternatives to the market place. For product, pricing & ordering contact Wayne on 02 9634 5697/0417 206 755 or visit their website to learn more.

Did you know that using cloth towels instead of using paper towels saves 50% of landfill space from paper wastes? There are continuous towel dispensers that you can install to ensure a hygienic workplace without creating wastes. It can save trees too. Choose the greener option!

Photo Courtesy: “Fried Fish and French Fries”. Licensed under Public Domain
via Commons.

 

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