The annual two-day European Bioplastics Conference, which was taking place this year on 29-30 November in Berlin for the eleventh time, got off to an excellent start on its opening day with a rousing discussion about policy and the role it can play – or not – in promoting bioplastics.
The frustration of the industry could be clearly heard at times. What is needed, said a speaker from Tetrapak, is an enabling framework that will provide security for investment, provide a level playing field and open markets. Disruptive thinking should be encouraged, she argued. “No more: Yes, but….”, she said. “If I could just say one thing to the government and policymakers, it would be this: don’t sit around and wait for things to be perfect. Perfect is the enemy of the good. If we wait for perfection, we won’t move ahead at the time and speed we need. Let the innovators play a role!
The day ended on two high notes: the launch of the EN 16785-1 certification scheme developed by NEN, the Netherlands Standardization Institute and the traditional presentation of the annual Global Bioplastics Award, this year for the 11th time. The new EN 16785 standard on biobased content offers a standardized methodology to determine biobased content using V14 carbon analysis and elemental analysis. At the launch of the new certification scheme today, the first two certificates were issued to two companies, to the pine-based chemical producer Arizona Chemical, which was recently acquired by Kraton, and to Corbion.
Then it was time for Michael Thielen, of bioplastics MAGAZINE, to announce the winner of the 2016 bioplastics ‘Oskar’, selected from the five shortlisted finalists announced last month. This year, the jury selected a project on which three companies had collaborated: the new bioplastics wrapper of the Snickers bars. The candy bars, produced by Mars, were packaged in a new wrapper made from bioplastic material provided by the Dutch bioplastics producer Rodenburg which was processed into film by Dubai-headquartered Taghleef, one of the largest manufacturers of bi-axially oriented polypropylene (BoPP)- and cast polypropylene (CPP) films in the world.
The project started when a product manager at the Mars factory in Veghel, the Netherlands, approached Rodenburg with a challenge: Could Rodenburg develop a biobased packaging material for Mars’ candy bars that was just as good as the one the company was currently using? The new material would have to be biobased, not necessarily biodegradable, non-polluting when disposed of, not harm the environment in any way, be based on second generation feedstock as not to compete with the food supply, be scalable and have a smaller carbon footprint than the currently used material.
“We told him we could do all that,” said Thijs Rodenburg. “But then we had to do it.”
The company developed a compound mainly based on starch derived from potato cutting waste – an industrial waste stream and second-generation biomass that in no way competes with food crops – and some PLA. Taghleef manufactured the film on an existing BOPP, while Mondi printed the packaging, but it took four production trials before an acceptable packaging film was manufactured.
Calling it a very “cool product“ deserving of the recognition, and an awesome example of team spirit, Thielen presented the 3D- printed trophy produced from wood-filled, brass-filled and copper-filled biobased specialty filaments provided by Venlo-based colorFABB, to the winners.
In an acceptance speech that he kept brief and to the point, Thijs Rodenburg said that “We were surprised that we won.” In a single breath, he went on to say: “But I think what’s important is that a big brand stood up and used bioplastics. It’s perfect – and it’s a big step!”