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Bioplastics conference pulls in a healthy crowd

The 5th annual conference hosted by the European Bioplastics trade group gave a warm welcome to about 365 attendees who traveled to chilly Düsseldorf, Germany to learn the latest on these materials. Most of the presentations today (Dec. 1) focused on material developments, with some of these quite upstream from plastics processors as they highlighted new feedstock material developments, while many were in processors’ sweet spot of masterbatches, compounds, and additives.  

The 5th annual conference hosted by the European Bioplastics trade group gave a warm welcome to about 365 attendees who traveled to chilly Düsseldorf, Germany to learn the latest on these materials. Most of the presentations today (Dec. 1) focused on material developments, with some of these quite upstream from plastics processors as they highlighted new feedstock material developments, while many were in processors’ sweet spot of masterbatches, compounds, and additives.  

The event’s organizers did not have an accurate count yet as to the number of attendees but a PlasticsToday reporter attending the event noted few empty chairs and reckons about 400 were in attendance. Compared to last year’s event it appeared the number of visitors from Asia had fallen, but some of that may have been due to flight cancellations in Germany due to recent snowfall and ice. Still, the first questions at the event came from a Dutchman, an American, and a gentleman from India, proof of the continuing international interest in these materials.

What developments were highlighted? Details will come in reports in the following days but here some highlights:

-Packaging was not shortchanged, but most of the truly interesting developments seem to be in durable applications, a response to OEMs’ and retailers’ desire to reduce their carbon footprint. FKuR, Arkema, Evonik and DSM and others highlighted recent advances officials at those companies say could help plastics based on renewable resources make a legitimate stab at such applications based on their mechanical properties as much as their sustainable aspects.

-Henkel, the brand owner running divisions focused on cosmetics, laundry/homecare products, and adhesives, spent two years testing different recipes before it found the right mix of polylactic acid, additives, fillers, and other agents to replace standard thermoplastics with a biodegradable compound for its Pritt ECOmfort correction tape roller, which go on sale next month. Molding and assembly of these is equal in time to the ones being replaced, but cost Henkel about 10-15% more due to material costs, said the company’s product developer. The cost is not being passed to customers, he added.

-Rigid and flexible packaging processor Huhtamaki continues to see strong market pull for its range of products based on bioplastics (PLA), according to Sonja Haug, market manager sustainable products at the company. Demand is especially strong in Europe, she says, with both rigid and flexible products almost equally popular. Increasingly, she said, the company is being asked by consumer products and E/E OEMs to develop PLA-based packaging for them; the processor uses additives to improve the moisture barrier of the material for these.

-Lactic acid supplier Purac, working with Arkema, says it has developed a grade of PLA offering properties comparable to ABS for injection molding applications.

We’ll fill in more details on these, and the scoop on other developments, in the coming days. [email protected]

TAGS: Materials
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