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Bioplastics big week: Telles folds, compostability scrutinized, Sprint’s sustainability push

Two items from our sustainability reporter, Karen Laird, bookend nicely the predicament facing bioplastics. Earlier in the week, Karen cited two packaging studies that show green or not, consumers buy goods served to them in attractive, functional packages. As Karen puts it:

Tony Deligio

January 13, 2012

3 Min Read
Bioplastics big week: Telles folds, compostability scrutinized, Sprint’s sustainability push

Virtuously plain, responsible packaging is obviously not the way to win the hearts of the public. Bioplastics are past the stage where going green is an excuse for drab colors and poor design, and must now play by the same rules as everybody else.

That need for form, function, and strong finance informs an article Karen finished the week with, covering the dissolution of Telles, the joint venture formed by Metabolix and ADM to commercialize the bioplastic, polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). Born out of research at MIT, the microbe-created resin showed some of the most promising mechanical properties of the first batch of bioplastics, but it's path to widespread commercialization, if it ever comes, will now take a serious detour.

Hype surrounding compostable plastics also gave way to reality this week, as compostable claims came under greater scientific scrutiny, when the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) announced its appointment of NSF International to administer Certified Compostable program. Clare spoke with Cheryl Navarro, project manager for NSF, and David S. Brooks, BPI Certification Program Administrator, about the new arrangement. Brooks cut to the heart of the green-washing matter:

There's so much pseudo-science out there, such as additives that are supposed to magically transform any plastic into a biodegradable material and ASTM standards used incorrectly that unless you have an independent organization verifying those tests, you can have unscrupulous people putting out products that aren't what they claim.

If anything continues to drive the push to make sustainable claims, truthful or otherwise, it will be the retailers, brandowners and OEMs that force the issue down the supply chain. In one such example, Heather Caliendo spoke with Sprint about its just-announced plans to create new packaging standards for its products.

Heather also bent the ear of two plastics packaging CEOs about recent deals they consummated, speaking with Rohrer and AGI-Shorewood; and she got insider insight into the fast start the M&A market has exhibited at the beginning of 2012, with multiple deals on the books in a year that's not yet two weeks old.

Doug Smock spoke with SHL, the world's largest privately owned designer and manufacturer of advanced drug delivery devices, about its new U.S. base in Deerfield Beach, FL. Multiple lines are up and running, including one making "Molly", the company's first "pre-configured" auto injector with a permanently hidden needle.

Doug also checked in on the ongoing battle between PVC and elastomers over the flexible medical tubing market. Vinyl is bloodied but largely unbowed within the segment, according to Teknor Apex.

Herb Hutchison, a long-time plastics extrusion veteran with stints at Crane Plastics and Cincinnati Milacron, is progressing nicely in his latest venture, Polymera, which aims to make wood plastic compounds readily available to the market place. If everything goes to plan, Hutchison told PlasticsToday might see more WPCs in processes outside of extrusion, including injection molding.

Everything you ever wanted to know about implantable medical plastics but were afraid to ask: that's the promise of an upcoming free webcast at PlasticsToday, presented by PhDs from independent testing lab, Polymer Solutions.

Finally, press coverage is swarming around the Republican presidential nominating process, and unlucky readers in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have been inundated with an onslaught of political ads, but survey respondents this week aren't really sure if any of it matters, at least to their business.

Asked what effect the 2012 elections will have on your business, 50% answered "hard to say", while 30% saw a "substantial" effect, and 20% anticipated no effect.

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