Perstorp, a specialty chemical company headquartered in Malmö, Sweden and the world leader in the manufacture of ε-polycaprolactones (PCL) - marketed under the Capa brand, is increasing its activities in bioplastics. Polycaprolactone (PCL) is a biodegradable plastic produced on the basis of petroleum. Highly miscible, it blends easily with other plastics, melts easily and is non-toxic. Biopolymers with Capa added are "a winning formula," says the company, due to its good mechanical properties, biodegradability and compatibility across a wide range of polymers. Importantly, Capa improves the functional properties, especially toughness and flexibility, of bioplastics such as PLA, PHA and starch, enabling these to be competitive in film and packaging applications. Its compostability offers end-of-life advantages in packaging, bags and film applications.
Perstorp has a track record of investing in sustainability and spends more than 85% of its R&D resources on finding environmentally sound solutions. The company considers bioplastics are one of its focus areas, and "an important part of our vision of a more sustainable future."
Yet also, bioplastics are increasingly presenting a promising business opportunity. As political and consumer awareness increases the demand for greater sustainability and better waste management solutions, bioplastics are being viewed as the plastics of choice. This has led to various market research reports predicting a growth in global demand for these products of up to 20% per year, for the foreseeable future. With the global market projected to expand, Perstop has now decided that the timing is right to make substantial new investments in the development of bioplastics and bio-products.
Earlier this year, the company signaled its commitment to bioplastics when it joined the Japan Bioplastic Association (JPBA). And now comes the announcement of investments in a pilot plant, which is already up and running at Warrington, UK, increased technical resources and a new laboratory at Perstorp, Sweden, which will be in place from January 2015.
"We intend to take a leading position in the development of new bioplastic products, since Capa Thermoplastics add significant value to biopolymer performance and end-of-life solutions," explained Linda Zellner, Perstorp project bioplastics manager.
Perstorp's latest investments will open up and broaden the sustainable options available to producers, and ultimately to consumers, as well. The primary focus is on three key bioplastic growth segments - paper coatings, bags & films and packaging. The current investments are designed to support rapid development of all three, but also to ensure the infrastructure is in place to meet the challenges of new emerging applications.
The pilot plant will help to produce new Capa grades for existing customers and support the continued expansion of the Capa Thermoplastics product line, while the new lab will become a caprolactone innovation center for application development.
"Biopolymer formulators and producers will get a fast response to their specific Capa needs and then have access to a broader range of innovative sustainable options as the bioplastics application portfolio develops," said Zellner who will deliver a keynote lecture on the subject of compostable plastics at the 9th European Bioplastics Conference in Brussels (December 2-3, 2014).