|Polymers made from renewable feedstocks result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions when used as a substitute for petroleum. With significant content derived from starches, the pricing is not as influenced by volatile oil prices as traditional plastics. In addition, they can be processed at the same cycle time as traditional plastics on conventional equipment, but require less energy in the production process by using significantly lower machine temperatures.
After developing the market of oil from sugarcane, Brazil is now looking for a possible green PP derived from propylene produced from sugarcane. Braskem and Novozymes succeeded in developing a new technology to convert sugar into polypropylene. Brazil's leading PP producer Braskem, has collaborated with Denmark-based Novozymes for a research project to develop a process to manufacture PP from sugarcane. Novozymes will bring its knowledge on fermentation while Braskem will bring its knowledge of manufacturing PP. The new polypropylene conversion process under development will require a new fermentation process with new microorganisms, with Novozymes� know-how. Braskem was the first company in the world to produce a certified 100% renewable polypropylene on an experimental basis. Under the terms of the joint development agreement with Braskem, initial development work will run for at least five years. Upscaling and further commercial development will take place in a pilot facility before a large-scale plant is constructed in Brazil and commercial products enter the market. It is still a long way off before a product is manufactured and ready to be sold.
Hiroshima University and the Japanese automaker Mazda have joined forces to produce a new range of polypropylene (PP) materials stemming from non-food renewable resources with high cellulose content. The aim is to develop polypropylene by using non food vegetable products such as plant stalks or wood shavings. These new materials will have to exhibit the required properties for uses such as automotive bumper and instrument panel. In particular, they will have to offer good durability and high strength. The partners that study different blends of ethylene and propylene have planned to commercialize new PP grades by 2013.
Cereplast Inc., manufacturer of proprietary bio-based sustainable plastics, announced the launch of a new family of resins, Cereplast Hybrid ResinsTM. The new resins will complement the existing line of compostable resins, expanding market applications. Both resin families are perfectly suited to meet the needs of converters, manufactures and brand owners interested in producing and selling environmentally sustainable plastic. Known as BiopolyolefinsTM, they replace 50% or more of the petroleum content used in traditional plastic resins with bio-based materials such as starches from corn, tapioca, wheat and potatoes. With nearly the same physical characteristics and price point as traditional polyolefin, they are an ideal way for plastic manufactures to reduce their reliance on petroleum. They are ideal to enhance sustainability replacing traditional petroleum-based plastic in multiple markets, including automotive, consumer electronics, toys, medical, entertainment packaging, furniture, cosmetic packaging, consumer goods and construction.
However, a shift to crop-based renewable feedstock raises fundamental issues regarding its economic, social and environmental sustainability. There is a fierce competition for renewable resources between biofuel producers and other industry sectors, as renewable resources are being diverted to biofuels and energy production. The past couple of years have witnessed a shift to biofuels by producers at a rapid pace. This has escalated global tensions on the food commodities markets, leading to heated debates on the sustainability of renewable feedstock and biofuels. To forsee large volume of bio-based polymers at competitive prices in the longer term, it will be imperative to organize a stable and large-scale renewable feedstock supply upstream.