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How can compostable plastics achieve the best environmental benefits?

How can compostable plastics achieve the best environmental benefits?

2021-11-24

TK Bio-based Materials reported that since the release of the new version of the plastic restriction order in early 2020, the topic of restricting disposable non-degradable plastic products has continued to heat up. Subsequently, various provinces and cities have successively released their own plastic restriction and restriction programs. Biodegradable plastics are in Hainan and many other provinces and cities. It has been promoted on a large scale.


However, the biodegradable plastics currently on the market are basically compostable plastics, which can be degraded in a strict compostable environment. In Europe and the United States and other countries, the concept of "biodegradable plastics" has also received a lot of controversy. The statement of biodegradable plastics can easily mislead consumers into thinking that plastics are degradable in all environments. The use of "compostable degradation"/"anaerobic digestion degradation" to clearly state the end treatment conditions of the product is undoubtedly more conducive to consumer identification.


At the same time, the lack of end treatment facilities for compostable plastics in my country is in contrast to the large-scale production of upstream PBAT and PLA raw materials. There is no upstream production capacity and compostable plastics. There are very few researches on the end treatment schemes and application scenarios of compostable plastics.


For this reason, relevant issues are emphasized in the "14th Five-Year Plan of Action for Plastic Pollution Control" (Fagaihuanzi [2021] No. 1298), and it is required to carry out research on the degradation mechanism and effects of different types of degradable plastics. Scientific Assess its environmental safety and controllability.


At the industry forum held by the Institute of Biodegradable Materials on September 26 this year, Christian Garaffa, marketing manager from Novamont, Italy, shared the theme of "Terminal Treatment of Compostable Plastics in Europe".

Christian Garaffa meets with the audience through remote connection


1. Focus on bio-based and actively develop bio-based degradable materials


Founded in 1989, Novamont originated from the Montedison School of Materials Science. Its headquarters and research center are located in Novara-Piedmont, Italy. It is Italy's leading biodegradable material technology leader.


Its annual turnover is more than 270 million euros, and the total number of employees is 600+. It currently has 9 Mate-Bi (PBAT modified materials) production lines, 6 Origo-Bi (PBAT polyester) production lines, and 1 Matrol-Bi (PBAT) production line. Bio-based lubricants) and 1 plant (30,000 tons scale) for fermentation and production of bio-based BDO.


Bio-based BDO


In 2016, Genomatica helped the Italian company Novamont, a biodegradable plastic producer, to build a plant with an annual output of 30,000 tons of bio-based BDO for the production of bioplastics. This is currently the world's largest bio-based BDO production capacity.


Mater-Bi (PBAT modified material)


In 2004, the Italian company NOVAMONT acquired the "Eastar-Bio" copolyester biodegradable plastic business of Eastman of the United States. The PBAT trade name is "Origo-Bi" and the production capacity is 100,000 tons per year. Prior to this, Eastman of the United States also authorized BASF's PBAT patent.


Later, Novamont introduced the modified degradable plastic "Mater-Bi" by blending PBAT/starch with a capacity of 200,000 tons/year, which is Novamont's main product. Mater-Bi material contains starch, cellulose, vegetable oil and other substances, with a bio-based content of more than 60%.


MATROL-BI (Bio-based lubricant)


MATROL-BI is a series of bio-lubricants and fast-biodegradable greases extracted from renewable resources. Because it comes from renewable energy sources, it can be rapidly biodegraded, and can effectively replace petroleum-based products and reduce environmental risks in the ecosystem.


CELUS-BI (Cosmetics)


CELUS-BI is a new and innovative series of bio-based ingredients used in the cosmetics industry, developed thanks to the research of NOVAMONT.


Downstream applications of the product include: moisturizing creams, shampoos, foundations, lipsticks are just some of the many applications of these innovative bio-based ingredients, combining high performance and low environmental impact.


2. Current status of classification and collection of food waste in Europe


Circular economy and bio-economy represent a new economic paradigm for the sustainable use of renewable resources. The circularity of the food system is an indispensable part of it. In order to effectively and efficiently convert waste into resources, the ecological design of the waste stream and product end-of-life phase is a key aspect. In this link, the compostable packaging is a one-time-use packaging that can be processed together with organic waste, which is of great significance.


The EU has set its own circular economy goal to achieve a total recycling rate of urban waste of 55% by 2025, 60% by 2030, and 65% by 2035; at the same time, by 2023, the collection of biological waste will be mandatory; by 2030, it will be All waste sent to landfills is reduced to 10%.


In order to achieve this goal, it is first necessary to establish an efficient collection system for high capture and low pollution of non-compostable materials (mainly plastics). That is, the garbage collection system.


The second is the establishment of modern organic waste treatment facilities (integration of anaerobic digestion and composting) to reduce the residues of organic waste, produce methane (anaerobic fermentation) and high-quality compost without microplastics, and realize compostable packaging. recycle and re-use. Finally, the compost formed by organic waste will be used to restore soil fertility and achieve a closed loop.


The Italian city of Milan started the collection and classification of food waste in 2013. Its composting and biogas association conducts an analysis of the waste composition every 6 months. The results found that as the classification continues, the amount of non-compostable materials in the food waste The proportion is getting lower and lower, and the effect of classification is remarkable.


3. The application value of compostable plastics


The value of "compostable plastics" lies in the realization of closed-loop applications (nutrient recycling) through back-end processing, and the real recycling of plastics. Degradable plastic back-end composting facilities also need policy inclination and support. For example, encourage the construction of anaerobic digestion plants to treat kitchen waste, and finally compost to make full use of the valuable organic matter that can be returned to the soil after digestion. .


The use of biomass energy generated by composting degradable plastics also requires the establishment of a scientific treatment system (including facilities/control/certification methods) and the support of waste classification regulations. For the development of degradable plastics in my country, the current waste classification The failure to subdivide degradable plastics and non-degradable plastics has resulted in the final incineration of degradable plastics and non-degradable plastics as dry waste, so that the advantages of biomass energy after composting of degradable plastics cannot be realized.


Although Shanghai, Hainan, Beijing and many other places continue to impose fines on the use of non-degradable plastics, they have not given the entire solution for compostable plastics. While promoting compostable plastics, they are actively exploring its end treatment solutions and applications. The scene is crucial.


European experience shows that compostable plastic is not a panacea, but it has its own unique value in disposable products that are difficult to recycle. It further improves the entire process from upstream raw material manufacturing (using bio-based materials) to downstream processing equipment and garbage classification system. The construction of the industrial chain is the real development future of compostable plastics.

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