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Green PBS potential investigated in EU project

By Joe Whitworth+Joseph James Whitworth

29-Jan-20141390950000

Photo copyright: grongar/flickr. Ricotta cheese has been packaged in the material
Photo copyright: grongar/flickr. Ricotta cheese has been packaged in the material

Bio-based polybutylene succinate (PBS) as a food packaging material is being investigated as part of an EU project.

SUCCIPACK will produce PBS materials with 100% bio-based succinic acid (wheat sector) for the processing of food packaging.

It will help European industry, especially SMEs, to strengthen their competitive advantage over the green PBS developments in the US and Asia.

The aim is to ensure limited investments are needed to use the new material in existing processes.

Product packaging

Fresh ricotta cheese and beef have been packaged in the material and tests in extrusion and injection are planned for production of films and trays for packaging fish, chicken and vegetarian dishes.  

Dedicated PBS grades and formulation for injection, moulding, extrusion film blowing and thermo-forming will be developed.

Flexibility will be assessed by the SMEs, who will test materials in their production lines.

Mambelli, Ortoreale, Gimar and Conbio will test the materials on their production lines.

The bio-based polymer is synthesized by polycondensation of succinic acid and 1,4- butanediol and has properties comparable to other bio-based polymers such as polylactic acid (PLA).

The project, which runs until the end of this year, will develop adapted PBS grades, structures, formulations, treatments and recycling routes.

PBS oxygen transmission rate is three times less than PLA. PBS has a middle oxygen barrier and a middle/poor water barrier compared to polyolefins, which show bad oxygen barrier and good water barrier.

Annual production capacity of bio-based succinic acid is expected to reach 200,000 tons by 2015.

PBS properties

PBS is a rubbery (soft) semi crystalline polymer with a glass transition temperature (Tg) around -30°C.

This means PBS is located between polyethylene (Tg -120°C) and polypropylene (Tg -10°C).

With a melting point at 110°C, PBS can be considered as a thermoplastic used in applications between -20 and 100°C.

The Polytechnic University of Athens (NTUA) and the BIODYMIA laboratory from the University of Lyon are working on developing a suitable method of Solid State Polymerization (SSP).

TopChim and VITO in Belgium are looking at the treatment and surface functionalization of films.

French SMEs including Natureplast for the formulation, Leygatech for the production of films and Velfor for the production of trays are involved.

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