The Japanese technology-driven specialty chemicals firm Kaneka Belgium in Westerlo has been selected as one of the six finalists in the essenscia Innovation Award competition 2019. The biannual essenscia Innovation Award is the most prestigious prize for industrial innovation for chemistry and life sciences in Belgium.
Inspired by the circular economy model of plastic packaging, Kaneka Belgium developed a revolutionary sustainable packaging material, which is not only recyclable through composting, but as well biodegradable in natural environments, including marine waters.
The innovation project includes the development of a bio-based and biodegradable foam particle starting from a natural polymer PHBH™ and is the result of a successful merging between Kaneka’s fermentation and macromolecular core technologies.
“The sustainable innovation spirit of this material is indisputable. No matter where this material ends-up, it will degrade into water, CO2, and biomass by the micro-organisms available in nature. The development allows producing innovative packaging, fully in-line with the circular economy, integrating the added value of compostability as end-of-life and opens up new perspectives in waste management systems”, says Dr. Erwin Lepoudre, Business Manager Biodegradable Polymers.
Whereas today, Kaneka’s polyolefin foam particles are widely used in packaging thanks to their lightweight, durability and excellent isolation properties, the newly developed bio-based and biodegradable foam particles can be molded with existing equipment into food and non-food packaging without sacrificing the key features of polyolefin foams.
Luc Point, General Manager Foam & Residential Techs: “the growth in the foam market has led Kaneka Belgium to expand the capacity of its foam production unit. Our unique access to both the foam particle technology and the natural polymer PHBH™ has prompted us to develop and produce a bio-based and biodegradable foam particle”.
A 15 million Euro investment involves the construction of brand new state-of-the-art foam production and R&D center, enabling high-end product innovations. Startup of the facilities is scheduled for later this year.
Unique and special innovation award edition
This year the Innovation Award gains extra allure because essenscia, the Belgian federation for chemistry, plastics and life sciences industries, celebrates its one-hundredth anniversary. The fact that the Japanese technology-driven company has been nominated with two independent innovation projects is unique and remarkable. Together with Kaneka Belgium (Westerlo), as well the Liège-based life sciences company Kaneka Eurogentec has been nominated.
With both nominations, the Kaneka group takes pride in contributing to a century brimful of innovations.
(The official essenscia award ceremony was held on April 2, 2019 at the Palace of the Academies in Brussels, where out of six finalists, the innovation award was presented by H.R.H. Princess Astrid to the winning company Mithra.)