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Developments in high-performance bioplastics

Source:International Plastics News for Asia

Date Published:7/1/2020 04:07:23 PM

Several new developments in bioplastics production are taking place and are worth noting given the pressure to move towards environment-friendly plastic materials.

The global bioplastic packaging market has been posting annual growth of more than 20% since 2017. From $ 4.4 billion in 2017, the market for bioplastics is expected to reach $25.4 billion in 2025.

In a report by the Insight Partners, the global bioplastic packaging market is experiencing high growth due to increasing awareness among customers about the adverse impact of conventional plastics, surge in need for sustainable packaging solution, and rising government support for the incorporation of bioplastic in packaging. The report also cites the development of new technology and processes and the emergence of novel bioplastic materials – which are seen to impact the bioplastic packaging market growth during the forecast period.

Bioplastics are influencing the plastic industry with innovation for more sustainability, functionality, and efficiency. Currently, bioplastic alternatives are available for almost all the conventional plastic material and respective applications which is driving the bioplastic packaging market.

Several new developments in bioplastics production are taking place and are worth noting given the pressure to move towards more environment-friendly plastic materials.

Moving towards sustainable path
Canada-based bioplastics specialist TerraVerdae Bioworks has secured C$4.5 million n in new funding from Alberta Innovates, Natural Resources Canada’s Clean Growth Program (CGP) and other investors to boost its material development capabilities.

With this investment, TerraVerdae, headquartered in Edmonton, AB, now has enhanced in-house product development expertise and equipment for the production of industrial bioplastics used in the agricultural, forestry, food packaging, adhesives and personal-care markets. Bioplastics offer a sustainable path forward for product manufacturers and help address the global build-up of plastic trash on land and in water.

Aside from expanding its product development facilities in Edmonton, the company also fine-tuned its unique capacity to custom-design bioplastic formulations for strength, elasticity, impact resistance and more.

TerraVerdae Bioworks

“We are supporting clean-tech innovations that strengthen our province’s traditional industries and help to launch new companies and products. Besides forestry and agricultural plastics, the Covid-19 pandemic is driving retail demand for single-use plastics like grocery bags to reduce the risk of community transmission. Bioplastics convert renewable carbon sources into must-have products that help reduce waste plastic contamination; that’s a concrete example of innovation,”  according to Laura Kilcrease, CEO, Alberta Innovates

TerraVerdae’s proprietary polymer technology (polyhydroxyalkanoate or PHA) is carbon-neutral and uses renewable carbon feedstock such as municipal and forestry waste or agricultural residues. The company’s product focus is films and coatings, thermoplastic moldings, adhesives and specialty PHAs. One product is a bioplastic pouch for tree seedlings that will be consumed by soil microbes and disappear within several months of planting in the forest. TerraVerdae plans to test launch the bioplastic pouches later this year for commercial use by foresters, to be followed by other bioplastic products for use in other sectors.

“Each year the forest industry plants millions of tree seedlings. With Arbor Day taking place in many jurisdictions from late April to early May, we think this is a great time to announce this major funding from Alberta Innovates, Natural Resources Canada and the National Research Council of Canada, along with private investors in our global network. We have achieved major milestones in the last year, including a significant expansion of our technical resources and capabilities, and increased partnerships for technology access, development and commercialisation,” William Bardosh, CEO and founder of TerraVerdae Bioworks Inc. remarked.

Alleviating the single-use plastics dilemma
Harnessing nature to battle the world’s single-use plastics problem, Singapore-based RWDC Industries Limited, is accelerating plans to meet increasing demand for better materials to replace plastics for food service, food packaging, consumer goods packaging and other consumer items.

Founded in 2015 by Mr. Roland Wee and Dr. Daniel Carraway, RWDC Industries Limited is a biotechnology company that develops innovative and cost-effective biopolymer material solutions, including PHA. PHA is fully biodegradable and can be used as a substitute for plastic in a wide range of everyday, single-use consumer goods, from straws to utensils to cups and plates to lids. RWDC supports sustainable practices and encourages responsible choice in plastic waste management, including recycling, to protect the environment. 

PHAs are naturally produced by microbial fermentation of plant-based oils or sugars and are recognised as the only commercially viable biodegradable bioplastic. Primarily produced today from used cooking oil, RWDC’s PHA is certified by TÜV AUSTRIA to be fully biodegradable in soil, water, and marine conditions – leaving no toxic residue. PHA will help to improve the climate, with less GHG emissions. It will also improve human health and the health of the ecosystems, with no endocrine disrupting chemicals and no harmful micro-plastic waste. In 2018, RWDC’s proposal to use PHA to start replacing single-use plastics won the inaugural Liveability Challenge, presented by Temasek Foundation.

The company has announced the closing of a $133 million two-stage Series B funding round. This announcement came as the need to replace single-use plastic continues to rise to meet growing consumer demand for better materials choices. The increasing need for materials that enable greater food safety, better stewardship of the environment, and that enable a sustainable circular economy are also being driven by regulatory demands from state, local, and federal governments across the globe.

“We are grateful and excited to have the support of world-class investors who share our urgent mission of solving the global challenge of single-use plastic,” said Dr. Carraway, who is based in Athens, GA. “This investment will help us significantly increase our production capacity so that we can meet needs of brand owners who want to improve the lives of their customers by offering materials that have a positive effect on human health, while improving environmental stewardship.”

“We have had a global view of the plastic crisis since our founding,” said Mr. Wee, who is based in Singapore. “Consistent with that, we’ve planted a flag in both Asia and the United States, and we look forward to expanding our manufacturing of this innovative solution in Georgia. Right now, the Covid-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented crisis, but we also recognise that, for many years, we’ve been headed towards an existential threat to our individual health and our planet due to pervasive and mounting plastic pollution. It must be addressed immediately and with a solution at industrial scale. That’s what RWDC can do.”

The new investment was co-led by Vickers Venture Partners (a global venture capital firm); Flint Hills Resources (a leading energy and resources company); CPV/CAP Pensionskasse Coop (the pension fund of Switzerland’s largest retail company); and International SA (a fund linked to Interogo Holding AG).Other participating investors include existing investors Eversource Retirement Plan Master Trust (the pension fund of Eversource Energy, a Fortune 500 company); and WI Harper Group (a pioneer of US-Asia cross-border VC investing).

RWDC will use the funding to meet growing demand for PHA, including by expanding the company’s production capacity with a new facility in Athens, Georgia. Reflecting RWDC’s own mission of creating a sustainable, earth-friendly solution to plastics pollution, RWDC is repurposing an idled factory originally constructed in the late 1960s to use as its new production facility in Athens, which will bring 200 new jobs to the community in northeastern Georgia. RWDC will also use the new funds to conduct research and development efforts.


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