Biodegradable plastics are established in the marketplace as alternative materials. Compounding and processing technology is developing so that these relatively new polymers can be used in a wider range of applications. There are plenty of issues to consider, for example, the compatibility and environmental aspects of the additives going into compounds, how to process materials that are made to degrade, and their availability. For example, Clariant International is focusing on additive and colorant combinations that keep the “natural” quality of the materials, and Leistritz has developed techniques for processing bioplastic polymer compounds via twin screw extrusion. AMI LLC is bringing together an international panel to discuss the profitable use of bioplastics at the conference Bioplastics Compounding and Processing 2011, which will take place March 29-30, 2011. The keynote address will be given by a world expert on bioplastics, Professor Ramani Narayan.
Innovative, high performance grades of bioplastics are appearing in the marketplace. NEC Corporation of Japan has new materials for use in electronic applications, for example in its computer production. RTP Company has engineered improved properties in bioplastics through compounding. Product performance has to meet appropriate requirements, from FDA approvals for food contact and medical applications, to physical strength in packaging, electronic and automotive. Companies like Nissei are developing specialist injection molding systems for processing bioplastics like polylactic acid (PLA). This technology has just been introduced into the US from Japan. In Germany FKuR Plastics has been working to develop grades of bioplastics for injection molding and thermoforming, and in the USA Natureworks has formulated PLA grades for high temperature and high performance applications. Techmer PM is another player in this market and has developed PLA compounds for fiber, film and molding. Meanwhile, Gala Industries has focused on reducing energy consumption in pelletizing of bioplastics. Leading brand-owners are looking at the use of bioplastics in a variety of applications: Kimberley-Clark has studied biodegradation in some depth and the latest work is on starch-polyethylene combinations. There are a variety of certification and testing protocols in place for bioplastic materials and products, which the buyer and the processor need to understand to select appropriate compounds and machinery. Beta Analytic tests the biobased content of materials to ASTM D6866. Organic Waste Systems (OWS), one of the lead companies in compostability testing, will review the latest developments in standards, testing and certification of compostable plastics. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are in use due to favorable properties such as marine biodegradability. Telles has been involved in studies with the US Navy in this field and the polymer is in use in several areas. Professor Joe Greene of California State University at Chico has manufactured bottles with PHA and checked compostability. Biodegradable films are established in areas such as mulch films where recovery of conventional polyethylene is time-consuming and expensive. Novamont has been a lead player in supplying bioplastics to this market and has been involved in many of the research studies. It is also supplying compostable polymers for flexible packaging, coextrusion and coating. Biaxially-oriented PLA (BOPLA) is now made worldwide and Toray Plastics (America) is supplying this film in the US: Franco Chicarella will describe the properties, uses and converting at the AMI conference in Miami. Machinery manufacturers have looked at set up and modifications for bioplastics processing: Reifenhauser has examined both film and sheet production on its extruders.
Plastics processors and their customers want to be part of a sustainable economy and have a profitable business. Bioplastics Compounding and Processing 2011 aims to examine the best ways to manufacture bioplastic components, with the right additive combinations, and cost-effective production methods.