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Articles from 2018 In July


Plastic bans boost market value of biodegradable polymers

Bioplastic

Led by Western Europe, increasing regulations and bans against plastic bags and other single-use plastic items such as drinking straws are driving growing demand for biodegradable plastics, according to new analysis from IHS Markit (Englewood, CO). The current market value of biodegradable plastics exceeds $1.1 billion, and it could reach $1.7 billion by 2023, said the report.

Biodegradable or compostable polymers are bio-based or fossil-fuel-based polymers that undergo microbial decomposition to carbon dioxide and water in industrial or municipal compost facilities. A few of these polymers decompose in backyard compost bins, soil, freshwater and saltwater, said IHS Markit. 

The food packaging, disposable tableware (cups, plates and cutlery) and bags sector is the largest end-use segment, as well as the major growth driver for biodegradable polymer consumption. This segment will benefit from local restrictions on plastic shopping bags and will achieve double-digit growth, said IHS Markit.

Compost bags are the second most important end use for biodegradable polymers. This market segment will experience strong growth thanks to the gradual expansion of composting infrastructure and growing interest in diverting organic waste such as leaves, grass clippings and food waste from landfill, according to the analysis. 

Global demand for bioplastics currently is 360,000 metric tons; total consumption of biodegradable polymers is expected to increase to almost 550,000 metric tons by 2023, representing an average annual growth rate of 9% for the five-year period. That is equivalent to a volume increase of more than 50% from 2018 to 2023, said the report.

Western Europe, with the world’s strictest regulations for single-use plastics, commands 55% of the global market value in 2018 for these specialty biodegradable polymers, followed by Asia and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) at 25%, North America at 19% and the rest of the world combined for less than 1%.

“Biodegradable plastics, which are largely starch-based compounds or polylactic acid (PLA)–based materials, have become more cost-competitive with petroleum-based plastics and the demand is growing significantly, particularly in Western Europe, where environmental regulations are the strictest,” said Marifaith Hackett, Director, Specialty Chemicals Research, at IHS Markit and the report’s lead author. “However, the demand for these biodegradable polymers is still a drop in the bucket when you compare it to demand for traditional plastics such as polyethylene (PE).”

According to IHS Markit, global demand for PE, the world’s most used plastic, has nearly doubled during the last 20 years. Global PE demand is expected to exceed 100 million metric tons this year. However, significant new market pressures, including a rise in consumer expectations around sustainability, along with tightening environmental regulations in mature markets such as Europe and key growth markets such as China, could threaten future growth. 

“The properties and processability of biodegradable polymers have improved, allowing the use of these materials in a broader range of applications, but legislation is the single-most important demand driver for these plastics,” Hackett said. “Restrictions on the use of non-biodegradable plastic shopping bags in Italy and France have led to a significant increase in the consumption of biodegradable polymers in those countries, and we expect European countries will continue to lead in legislative restrictions.”

Biodegradable polymer use has grown more slowly or stagnated in places that lack mandates, noted Hackett. “Growing consumer awareness and activism regarding environmental issues could certainly increase the market for biodegradable plastics,” she said. “To truly capture the benefits of these biodegradable polymers, however, you need to have the collection and composting infrastructure to support their use. Very few major cities or municipalities currently have the necessary infrastructure in place.”

Hackett noted the problems associated with actually biodegrading or composting plastics that claim to be biodegradable. First, these biodegradable polymers are compostable only in special industrial composting facilities, which operate at higher temperatures than home compost piles. An even smaller fraction of “biodegradable polymers is compostable in backyard compost bins; an even smaller subset is compostable in the soil or in marine environments,” said Hackett.

Despite the positive potential of biodegradable polymers, they are still mostly taking a backseat to other sustainability approaches, such as reducing plastics consumption and recycling. “For various reasons, which may include consumer confusion regarding bio-based plastics versus biodegradable polymers, there is not as much demand for these more sustainable plastics as you might expect, despite heightened public awareness of the plastics waste issue,” said Hackett. “In addition, suitable disposal options for products made from biodegradable polymers are often lacking. The cost of establishing the infrastructure necessary to support their collection and composting remains a barrier to demand growth.”

Mandatory composting programs can contribute to demand growth for biodegradable polymers, the IHS Markit report said. However, the shortage of composting facilities that are capable of processing biodegradable polymers limits the positive impact of mandatory composting programs on biodegradable polymer demand.     

“More legislation is likely coming in Europe or at the EU level, and if that occurs we could see major changes in this industry and pushback from producers of traditional plastic products,” Hackett said. “The last time we at IHS Markit assessed the global demand for biodegradable polymers, we noted the U.S. was the largest driver of demand growth for this segment, but due to legislation, Europe is by far the leading demand center. Europe is the place to watch, as Europeans are particularly motivated to reduce marine litter.”

The issue of plastics and sustainability will be a key topic of discussion at the upcoming sixth annual Global Plastics Summit (GPS) 2018, Oct. 30 and Nov. 1, in Chicago. Experts from IHS Markit and the Plastics Industry Association will discuss the latest market outlooks from key industry sectors. 

New high–performance bio-copolyester for food and aerosol packaging

Velox Ecozen HF

Velox GmbH (Hamburg, Germany), one of Europe’s leading providers of raw material specialties for the plastics, composites, additives and paint & coatings industries, and its long-term partner SK Chemicals Co. Ltd. (Seongnam-Si, South Korea) are presenting the next innovation for plastic packaging applications such as aerosol containers as well as cosmetic and hot-fill bottles. ECOZEN HF is a newly developed bio-copolyester range that is suitable for aluminum, glass and PET replacement wherever heat and pressure resistance combined with transparency is required.

First customers have already started sampling the grades.

“ECOZEN HF has similar processing requirements to PET and can be used in the same injection-stretch blow molding (ISBM) process,” explains François Minec, Velox general manager. “However, the new grades by SK Chemicals perform perfectly in areas where PET can sometimes fail, such as in high temperature and high pressure applications. For example, PET is sometimes used to produce aerosol bottles. These bottles can often fail due to high residual stress and the low temperature resistance of PET, especially in the summer months when possible leakage is the result. ECOZEN HF offers an ideal alternative here.”

PLASTEC Minneapolis 2018 held October 31-November 1 is part of the Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event that also includes MinnPack brings you the latest in materials and additives, injection molding, rapid prototyping, coatings, automation, packaging and more. For details, visit PLASTEC Minneapolis.

Besides remarkable resistance to pressure, stress-cracking and high temperatures, ECOZEN HF possesses excellent transparency and easy processing. As a glass replacement such as for food packaging, it not only helps to reduce weight and transportation costs, but can also be used to produce hot-fill containers without the need for an expensive PET heat-setting process or the need for crystallizing the bottle or jar neck.

Similarly, as an aluminum substitute in the cosmetics packaging industry, ECOZEN HF combines high pressure-resistance with design flexibility and transparency. In addition, Ecozen HF is totally miscible with PET in the recycling stream.

Velox provides the new range in nearly all European countries.

Paper straws are becoming ubiquitous from the mainland to the islands

Paper straw

Paper straws have caught on in a big way. My first experience with paper straws came last week while vacationing in Maui with a friend and her 18-year-old granddaughter. Choosing a Lahaina Lemonade drink rather than my usual wine, the libation came to me with a red-and-white paper straw. I took a photo—as any good journalist would do—because, even on vacation, I felt a blog coming on. 

My friend’s granddaughter made the first comment after taking a few sips of her non-alcoholic drink: “You can kind of taste the paper,” she said. 

After a few sips, I knew what she meant. Yes, you can kind of taste the paper, even when drinking pink lemonade laced with vodka. 

Articles I read back home in Phoenix noted how many restaurants in the area have replaced plastic straws with paper ones. Many of the restaurant owners commenting in the various articles said that they gave up plastic because the paper straws are “compostable.” 

Well, that’s an admirable goal except for one thing: The composting facility in Phoenix does not accept paper, only food and “green” yard waste (grass and bush trimmings). Touting the fact that your restaurant has tossed plastic straws in favor of paper straws makes you sound green, but if there’s no place that accepts paper straws or plates and cups, you’re not being green. You’re merely adding to the landfill. Using plastic plates and cups means they can be recycled.

At another restaurant, I noticed the straw in my Bloody Mary had a very thick wall section, probably so that the straw would hold up for the amount of time required to sip the drink. Not having any measuring instrument on me, I’d have to guess that the wall section of the straw was approximately 1 mm thick. 

Only one restaurant we visited had plastic straws. I won’t mention the name for fear of alerting the straw police. 

Santa Barbara, a beautiful city on the ocean in the People’s Republic of California, just banned plastic straws. Anyone caught giving them out could face a “fine not exceeding one thousand dollars” or “imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.”  

Marie McGory, a producer for National Geographic, tried taking a “plastic-free” vacation trip to Belize recently, and wrote of her efforts in “How to Take Your Next Trip without Single-Use Plastic.” She took a “reusable” grocery bag (I’m assuming it was a nonwoven or cloth bag and not a plastic bag, which is also reusable if she’d stop to think about that). She also confessed that she ended up using two plastic straws even though she took a glass straw with her. A glass straw? What about breakage? What about the possibility of dropping it and the glass shards cutting someone’s foot? Tsk, tsk!

I have a better idea: Always pack some reusable plastic grocery bags in your luggage, along with plastic straws so you are always prepared. Paper bags and straws do not hold up well, and are not compostable except in rare cases where a commercial composter might take paper. However, if someone is stupid enough to throw these paper items into the ocean they will degrade . . . in about 90 days.         

There is a “reusable” plastic straw on the market—the Tfees straw injection molded from Eastman’s Tritan co-polyester material, which gives the Tfees straw superior clarity for thorough cleaning. It is BPA-free and made in the USA. The Tfees straws are dishwasher safe, ensuring they will keep their sleek look and clarity after repeated washes. The reusable straws are not prone to breakage or splintering and will not absorb any taste or smell. 

Tammi Fee, a degreed nutritionist and exercise specialist, developed and patented the Tfees straws. She believes that health is important and that her straws are a sustainable answer to single-use plastic straws. However, what she has encountered in her marketing efforts is the idea that all plastic straws are bad. “I have this hurdle of educating people in sustainable plastics,” Fee told PlasticsToday in a recent telephone interview. In trying to market her product to various restaurants and bars, she is being told that they are going “plastic free,” which means they can’t use her reusable plastic straw, even though it’s an ideal alternative to a paper straw. 

Fee said she is also now competing against stainless-steel straws, which “are starting to get traction.” In addition to conducting heat, Fee is adamant against using a stainless-steel straw in a child’s drink that could impale the roof of his or her mouth. “Additionally, you can’t tell if the stainless-steel straw is clean, and like a stainless-steel water bottle, it must be washed out after every use to prevent mold from developing,” she said. “Tfees straws can be washed in restaurants’ dishwashers or put through steam autoclaves. And because they are clear, you can easily see that they are clean and sanitary for reuse. Unlike paper straws, they will not change the taste of your beverage,” said Fee.

Recently, Fee was invited to join an organization for C-level and above business managers/owners, including Richard Branson. The approval committee liked her product and what she was trying to do. However, when Fee offered to provide free reusable straws at a major event for the organization that anticipated 350 people, she was told, “We’d love to have you join us, but we don’t want your plastic straws because this is a ‘plastic-free’ event.”

So, I asked a few restaurant owners how and where they compost their “compostable” paper straws. Only one got back to me. "We do not separate the straws,” he wrote. “I use compostable straws as an alternative to plastic straws, not because I can compost them in the municipal system. I compost all of our kitchen food waste for my personal garden. We recycle glass, some plastic and cardboard. Everything else, including the compostable straws, go to the landfill where they will compost with the other trash. I feel anything is better than plastic straws."

While restaurateurs like the appearance of being “green” and “sustainable,” they aren’t really going to sort out all the paper straws used in their restaurant and try to find a composting facility that will take paper somewhere in the state of Arizona. 

It’s just more promotional hype to tout that “we now provide compostable paper straws” without actually composting them. But then the truth is in the semantics: Yes, paper straws are compostable, technically. But they are not composted.  That’s a major difference!

Is plastics recycling a waste of time or a wasted opportunity?

Applied Marketing Information Ltd.

According to a recently published study, “Plastics Recycling in Europe – A waste of your time or a wasted opportunity?” by industry consultants Applied Marketing Information Ltd. (AMI Consulting; Bristol, UK), the plastics recycling industry will have to develop and grow considerably to meet 2030 EU plastics packaging recycling targets. 

The study expects that the current output capacity of the recycling industry in Europe will need to more than double by 2030 to meet targets. The challenge in growing capacity is that the plastics recycling industry is a complex, dynamic segment with a varied supply stream and value chain. With the price of recyclate intrinsically linked to the price of virgin resin, demand and the financial viability of the process is often subject to fluctuations in raw material prices.

Consequently, demand for recyclate is increasingly driven by brand owners’ desire to be seen as “environmentally friendly” and “green” rather than financial incentives. This is primarily due to sustainability becoming increasingly more important to consumers, and plastic receiving considerable negative press, bringing it to the forefront of many debates and discussions. 

But just how much are brand owners willing to sacrifice in profits for their green image? And how much of this image depends on false information and promotional hype? Wouldn’t a better strategy involve educating consumers about the energy and resource consumption involved in recycling plastic? For example, explain how much hot water and chemicals (yes, chemicals) are used to clean plastic recyclate of labels and adhesives to make the material suitable for recycling into new bottles and containers. That’s in addition to the energy it takes to haul recycled products and materials to MRFs, run conveyors so that people can sort the trash from the good materials, bale it and then ship it via truck to a reprocessing facility. 

One method of eliminating the hot chemical wash to rid bottles and containers of labels is the in-mold labeling process, in which the labels are the same type of plastic as the bottle or container, resulting in greater recycling rates without the use of resources. 

Allan Griff, a consulting engineer for the extrusion industry and PlasticsToday columnist, recently wrote on The Chain, a Society of Plastics Engineers online community/industry exchange, that he sees “too much attention being paid to the concept of recycling (and degradation) rather than the numbers. And the numbers should include energy, not just money, as our opponents like to say that they’re doing this—poisoning us—because of the money! I suspect the work has been done, but isn’t popular because it shows that single use is sometimes better for the environment in quantifiable terms like energy.”

The AMI report notes that “capturing the value of plastics through reuse and recycling not only helps retain a product, which currently primarily derives from the Earth’s finite natural resources, but also helps prevent the leaking of plastic waste into the ecosystem and create a circular economy. Because of this, the plastics recycling industry is gaining growing attention.”

I doubt that plastic just “leaks” into the ecosystem. I would argue that most plastic waste is intentionally thrown into the ecosystem (both land and water) by uncaring human beings who pay little to no mind when it comes to recycling, reusing, landfilling or any other form of keeping trash out of the ecosystem.

AMI says that although polyethylene is currently the most recycled polymer in Europe, PET has the highest capture rate of plastic waste. This is due to the main source of PET waste coming from the post-consumer collection of drink bottles, which in many countries are widely collected and where longstanding and robust collection systems are in place. Where container-deposit legislation is implemented, PET drink bottle collection rates reportedly reach as high as 96%, as they encourage participation in the recycling system by giving financial incentives to the consumer.

It might also be the fact that it is easy and convenient to toss bottles into recycle bins because everyone knows that they are recyclable—no looking for arrows and numbers that mean little to the average, uneducated consumer. 

Developments in mechanical recycling technology are changing the shape of the plastics recycling industry and increasing the ability to recover more plastics in a closed loop, helping to retain maximum value, said AMI’s report. However, due to quality or inconsistent supply, large volumes of recyclate are still going to lower value applications.

I’m assuming that this means going to landfills, which I’ve been told happens to a lot of plastics because of contamination. 

The big question on The Chain was, “Is recycling worth the money?” The answer from respondents was “no.” One respondent suggested “changing plastic hydrocarbons into other useful components such as clean-burning gas, purified minerals and high quality #2 fuel oil.” That’s something being done by several companies that I’ve written about recently. 

Another respondent worries about the concept of the “perpetual motion machine. Just how much energy do we put into the recycling and get out again?” The respondent noted that the city in which he lives “requires me to wash (with expensive drinking water) the waste before putting it into the blue bin. . . . There is a large expense of money and energy to get some energy, or ‘material’ back. . . . I hardly ever see a calculation of this cost, which worries me.”

Waste-to-energy (WTE) was also a suggestion on The Chain, and I don’t consider that a “lower value” application. Another respondent suggested putting the WTE plants next to landfills, “which are already EPA regulated sites.” Any energy we can derive from plastic is extremely valuable. 

AMI notes that new opportunities are available for those who wish to take advantage of this changing and developing industry. But perhaps there are other opportunities outside of the “closed-loop” system that would make more sense. That will take educating consumers about these methods to gain greater acceptance of the value of plastics in other forms of “reuse” than purely recycling bottles into bottles.

Continental Structural Plastics adds compounding capabilities in France

Continental Structural Plastics adds compounding capabilities in France

Continental Structural Plastics (CSP), a Teijin Group Company, plans to install a sheet molding compound (SMC) line at its facility in Pouance, France, to support the need for its composite formulations in Europe. CSP will invest approximately €5.1 million ($6 million) to set up the SMC line.

Continental Structural Plastics’ French plant will be the focal point for development of low-VOC SMCs in Europe.

CSP is currently the largest compounder of SMC in North America, with current SMC volumes exceeding 84,000 tons annually. The installation of this SMC line in France will be used to further develop the company’s wide range of proprietary, advanced composite products, including low-volatile organic compounds (VOC) formulas currently under development to meet European market regulations. The line will be capable of producing SMCs made with both glass and carbon fibers.

“The addition of this SMC line to the Pouance facility is an important step in our European growth plans,” said Philippe Bonte, president, CSP Europe. “It will enable us to provide full-service capabilities to our customers here, as well as provide us with an opportunity to further enhance our already significant materials R&D efforts in Europe.”

The Teijin Group is leveraging its lightweight, strong, high-performance materials and integrated composite technologies as one of the key focuses of the transformation strategies for the group’s medium-term management plan, under which the company aims to expand business with a view to becoming a supplier of multi-material components.

The CSP Pouance facility is an innovative, rapid development center for lightweighting technologies including carbon fiber resin transfer molding (RTM), Class A RTM and thermoplastic composites. The 12,000 square-meter (130,000 square-feet) facility was purchased by CSP in 2013.

Teijin group company to acquire German auto interior materials concern

Teijin group company to acquire German auto interior materials concern

Teijin Frontier Co., Ltd., the Teijin Group's fiber and fiber converting company, has agreed to acquire J.H. Ziegler GmbH (Ziegler), a leading supplier of automotive interior materials in Germany, at a cost of approximately €125 million. Ziegler will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Teijin Frontier.

Acoustic insulation becomes all the more important in quitter-running HEVs and EVs.

The acquisition of Ziegler will be made by means of cash and newly-raised funding, and is scheduled to be completed in August 2018 after confirmation that all customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval, have been met.

Since its establishment in 1864, Ziegler has innovated advanced technologies in the fields of nonwoven seat wadding materials and sound-absorbing composite solutions. With sales of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and fully electric vehicles (EVs) on the rise globally, acoustic insulation is an increasingly important priority at auto OEMs, and lightweight nonwoven-based solutions employing polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are coming to the fore.

Ziegler’s technologies reportedly fulfil stringent OEM requirements in terms of the appearance, haptic feedback and usability of seat surface materials. Headquartered in Achern-Oberachern, Germany, Ziegler provides advanced nonwoven lining structures, including materials with ventilation capabilities that help prevent wrinkling and maintain the luxurious appearance of genuine leather materials. The company also produces sound-absorbing materials and nonwovens for home interior and heat insulation use. The company operates five facilities globally, including three in Germany and one each in Hungary and China, and employs approximately 400 staff. It posted consolidated sales of over €69 million in the fiscal year ending December 31, 2017.

Through the acquisition of Ziegler, Teijin Frontier will enhance its automotive interior materials’ production and sales capabilities in Europe, thereby augmenting its presence in the global automotive market and allowing it to increase its enterprise value. To drive the sales of Ziegler products that can meet the growing demand for low-noise electric vehicles (EV) driving environments, Teijin Frontier plans to optimize Ziegler’s design and production structures. By utilizing its R&D and production functions of filaments and staple fibers, Teijin Frontier plans to develop materials that realize better sound-absorbing property using its ultra-fine fibers. Teijin Frontier will also seek business synergies by leveraging the production and sales facility of Continental Structural Plastics, a North American hub of the Teijin Group’s composite business and Ziegler’s sales channels in order to develop new businesses related to automotive interiors and exteriors.

Warning: Brexit may be harmful to UK’s health

Brexit

As if the painful process of extricating the United Kingdom from the European Union was not sufficiently perilous, it appears that it could have a profound impact on the nation’s medical device supply chain. If there is no deal by the deadline of March 2019, the UK may find itself deprived of life-saving medications and devices. The livelihood of its medical device industry could also be in jeopardy.

The Chair of the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, Sir Michael Rawlins, told the Independent that millions of diabetes patients, including Prime Minister Theresa May, could be “seriously disadvantaged” if supplies of insulin are affected by a no-deal Brexit. The UK imports “every drop” of insulin, a vital medication used by some 3.7 million people to manage the chronic condition, he said.

Amid the uncertainty, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that the government is drafting plans to stockpile medicine and blood supplies in the event that a deal is not reached with the European Union by the March deadline.

Even if the UK and EU come to some sort of agreement by March, Cook Medical has warned that it may struggle to export medical products from its facility in Limerick, Ireland, to the UK. The medical device OEM, which is headquartered in Bloomington, IN, is calling for an extension to the transition agreement for medical devices until at least 2025 to meet new UK regulatory requirements, reports the Irish Times.

Emmet Devereux, Cook’s Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said medical device makers have effectively traded without restriction in the UK, but will now have to contend with different rules for importing and exporting components and products, according to the Irish Times. This would have a considerable impact on small to medium-sized device manufacturers, he added, who would need to allocate additional resources to seeking regulatory approval in the UK as well as the markets they currently deal in.

Speaking with Verdict Medical Devices, Jonathan Evans,  Communications Manager of the Association of British HealthTech Industries, noted that the “EU is the UK’s biggest export market for health technologies, with around £2 billion worth of goods sent to our European neighbours each year. On the flip side, of the £5 billion total imported health tech used by our health system, £3.2 billion comes directly from the EU and our reliance on this source, as a country, has also increased by 20% in recent years.” He added that 62% of all imported health tech used in the National Health Service comes directly from the EU and many of these products are delivered just in time. “Any delay to supplies could have a very real impact on patients. Of course, nobody wants this to happen and we are confident that sensible, pragmatic solutions will be in place on day one,” he told the media organization.

As things currently stand, however, pragmatism seems out of reach. “[Prime minister] May's newly published Brexit blueprint—known as the Chequers proposals—was received badly by the pro- and anti-Brexit wings of her party and is also likely to be rejected by Brussels,” writes BusinessInsider. “The prime minister would also struggle to push a much softer or harder form of Brexit through parliament, however, leading some to believe that a no-deal scenario has become a highly realistic one,” it adds.

Market forecast for automotive window films

Tinted car window

Automotive window films hold the largest market share among all segments, led by the Asia Pacific region, followed by North America and Europe, according to the latest report from Coherent Market Insights (Seattle, WA). Automotive Films Market – Global Industry Insights, Trends, Outlook and Opportunity Analysis, 2018-2026 is scheduled for publication in September of this year.

Automotive window films have many purposes and benefits including heat and glare reduction, thermal insulation and UV filtration. Applied on vehicle windows, these films help reduce energy costs arising from air conditioning. Moreover, UV protection and thermal insulation protects vehicle interiors and passengers from exposure to harmful radiation. Films also provide mechanical protection to prevent shattering of windows during accidents, said the Coherent report.

Increased safety features of automotive films are the major market drivers, according to the market research and consulting firm. The major challenges, however, are regulations involving tinted glass in some countries that have been implemented over concerns related to passenger safety in public vehicles and national security. 

Light passenger cars are the largest market for these window films, followed by commercial vehicles and heavy commercial vehicles.

“The application of window films increases sun protection and also makes the vehicle aesthetically appealing,” said the report. “It does not block radio waves and is cost effective.” Wrap films—one of the other major uses of film in automotive applications—can be used on cars and commercial vehicles such as city buses for advertising purposes.

Asia Pacific is the largest market for automotive films. Combined car sales in India, China and Indonesia topped 32 million in 2015, which is attributed to a rising population and disposable income among the emerging middle class. In India, Coherent notes that strict laws on automotive window films are designed to protect the safety of women in public vehicles such as taxis and buses. The regulations are expected to “hinder market growth in India.”

North America and Europe are the next largest markets. In the United States and Canada, demand for SUVs and pickup trucks has risen as those countries’ consumers have a high preference for personal transportation. Europe, despite having a rich population, is comparatively less inclined toward personal transportation due to a well-developed public transport infrastructure, said the report.

Latin American markets have experienced a slowdown in the automobile industry due in part to political turmoil in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela. The automotive market in Mexico has felt threatened by the NAFTA renegotiation.

Africa, led by South Africa and Nigeria, is witnessing growth across all manufacturing sectors including automotive, said Coherent’s report. South Africa is a major automotive manufacturing country, and increased investment is a result of cheap labor, technical expertise and proximity to growing East African countries.

Coherent notes in its report that 3M acquired Scott Safety from Johnson Controls International Inc. for $2 billion. The deal, which closed Oct. 4, 2017, allows 3M to move into safety devices and “may lead to product innovation in automobile window films.”

Major players in the automotive films market are 3M, Eastman Chemical Co., Avery Dennison Corp., Lintec Corp. and Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics. 

FibreTuff unveils PAPC compounding operations for 3D-printed and molded medical devices

Fibretuff orthopedic spacer

FibreTuff (West Unity, OH) will host an open house tomorrow, July 31, to launch compounding operations to manufacture cellulose-based biomaterials suited for 3D printing and molding Class I and Class II medical devices for spinal, trauma and sports medicine applications and, eventually, Class III orthopedic implants. Products include bone screws, plates, spinal cages, spacers, bone anchors and staples.

The open house will be attended by media along with state, BioOhio and Williams County economic development officials and Fibertuff employees.

The company said that it expects to hire about 20 people over the next three years as medical device OEMs begin to use its proprietary polyamide, polyolefin and cellulose (PAPC) filaments and powders for 3D printing.

FibreTuff Medical Biopolymers has an exclusive license to utilize FibreTuff technology in 3D printing, molding and extrusion processes. Its PAPC compounds have absorbable qualities for improved adhesion to coatings that can promote tissue and bone growth while reducing infections. Other adhesive qualities include the ability to print an electronic circuit directly onto FibreTuff PAPC. Immediate feedback from a sensor can provide data to a physician for analysis.

FibreTuff PAPC compounds will not emit offensive odors at recommended processing temperatures, said the company, and reduce raw material as well as processing costs for users compared with other polymers. The biocompatible and absorbable material withstands autoclave and gamma sterilization.

FibreTuff claims that the PAPC compounds have been micro molded successfully where other natural-fiber thermoplastics have failed because of high shear sensitivity and process temperatures greater than 210°C. Secondary processes such as machining, metal plating and compression molding have been qualified with PAPC.

Researchers demonstrate that PBAT does, indeed, biodegrade in agricultural soil 

plastic film for agriculture

A new study published in Science Advances suggests that polyesters like polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT) could be a practical solution to alleviating detrimental plastic accumulation in the environment. The PBAT biodegrades within about six weeks thanks to soil micro-organisms, according to the researchers, led by Michael Thomas Zumstein of Switzerland's ETH Zürich university.

Plastic agricultural film is used by many large-scale farmers as a method of mitigating weed growth in vegetable crops, retaining soil moisture, increasing soil temperature and speeding up germination and cultivation cycles. The report from the researchers said that while the biodegradation process “has been suspected” to occur, “it has not been conclusively proven until now.” 

One example is the use of mulch films, which are placed on agricultural fields to improve soil conditions. Most mulch films are composed of non-biodegradable plastics and are removed improperly after use, said the report, posing a threat to the environment. Mulch films made of polymers that biodegrade in soil are an alternative solution, and researchers have suggested that PBAT could be biodegradable based on changes in mass loss and the physical-chemical characteristics it exhibits. 

Direct evidence of true PBAT biodegradation—including carbon from PBAT turning into CO2 or soil micro-organisms incorporating PBAT carbon into their biomass—has not been achieved in agricultural soil, said the authors of the study.

Zumstein and colleagues created three variants of PBAT using the carbon-13 isotope as a “label” to demonstrate biodegradation of PBAT in agricultural soil. After soil incubation for six weeks, they used isotope-selective nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) to determine whether the carbon from the PBAT had been processed by the soil micro-organisms. They found that soil incubation of all PBAT variants resulted in 13CO2 formation.

Many of the agricultural mulch films produced in the United States are compostable, such as the film from BioBag AgFilm, a Palm Harbor, FL–based company that produces film made of its patented Mater-Bi, a bioplastic raw material created by “complexing starch with polyesters,” according to the company. Compostability is key to the company’s BioBag products, as it allows farmers to plow under the film at the end of the growing season, eliminating the need to remove the film and dispose of it.

Organix Solutions (Bloomington, MN) makes a biodegradable agriculture film, Organix A.G., which is soil biodegradable and can be plowed into the ground at the end of the growing cycle. The Organix A.G. film turns into biomass, water and CO2.

Quebec-based Dubois Agrinovation also makes a biodegradable and compostable agriculture mulch film, Bio360.

BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany) expanded its biodegradable mulch film line in 2012 with the addition of ecovio F Mulch. In contrast to agricultural film made from conventional polyethylene (PE), ecovio F Mulch biodegrades, again allowing farmers to plow it under with the plant residue, saving time and reducing costs, said BASF. 

Production of the film is also economical since it can be extruded at a lighter gauge than conventional PE film without any loss in performance. Additionally, ecovio F Mulch represents a drop-in solution for the film producer, since this resin can be processed on conventional PE extrusion machines without extensive modification. Under the brand names ecoflex and ecovio, BASF offers biodegradable and compostable plastics that comply with European standard EN 143432 with regard to biodegradability, compostability, compost quality and plant compatibility.

While the latest study on PBAT confirms the material’s ability to biodegrade in the soil through micro-organism activity, a number of materials and mulch film products that biodegrade or compost into the soil are commercially available. However, the researchers working with PBAT say that “future work should aim to assess variations in the rate of PBAT mineralization in different agricultural soils over a longer period of time.”