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dispatches from EU Bioplastics conference 2013

Renewable doesn’t guarantee success - Braskem

By Joe Whitworth+

18-Dec-2013

Braskem spoke to FPD at the EU Bioplastics conference
Braskem spoke to FPD at the EU Bioplastics conference

Having a product that is renewable doesn’t mean success if other factors, such as performance, do not at least match existing alternatives.

Braskem said people are not just talking about renewability, biodegradability or compostability anymore but more about performance.

Marco Jansen, renewable chemicals commercial director Europe and North America, told FoodProductionDaily.com that people are realising that just to have a product that is renewable doesn’t necessarily mean it is successful.

It needs to offer at least equal performance to the alternative, he told us at the European Bioplastics Conference in Berlin.

Cost competitive challenge

The main challenge is to make renewable products cost-competitive, which is not yet possible in all cases, but there is development to look at how to do this and concern on the dependency on fossil fuels may close the gap, Jansen said.

“The economic climate is also stopping some people to make investment into new products and new innovations,” he said.

“At the same time legislation is not really helping because the legislators put a lot of administrative pressure on the start-up companies to show their sustainability, they actually ask a lot more from the new companies and new products than they would really ask from the existing alternatives and this is not really helping.

“People are looking for governmental incentives for these kind of products to grow because everybody knows it’s better for the environment but there is a cost associated to that and if there can be some support from government etc it would really help to further grow this business and make these different products more sustainable than they are already.”          

Green PP and PE

Green polypropylene (PP), which is not yet commercially available, was touted for release this year by the firm but plans have been pushed back.

“Looking at the environment economically it is not really the right time to do that but it is still on the plan to do at a later stage.”

Braskem’s green polyethylene (PE) shows their focus on sustainable and offers drop-in options with lower greenhouse emissions and from renewable sources.

We spoke to Braskem at K Show 2013 in Dusseldorf , where the firm said green PE is growing in food packaging but is not yet at full capacity.

Jansen said the product described as the “first step” was started with a 200KT plant in 2010. It is not biodegradable, instead focussing on recycling and renewability.

“If you look at the importance of this product and of the whole sustainability concept within Braskem it’s of essential importance. We feel we need to help people and the environment to bring more sustainable solutions.

“You see a trend that these products that are more degradable they are looking at solutions to recycle them because you can see there is a push mainly from legislation to look at more options to recycle the products and use them more frequently.”

End of life options

Jansen said sustainability as such doesn’t exist, it is either more or less sustainable.

“Products are more or less sustainable than an alternative because I think sustainability in general doesn’t exist at least it is very difficult to say this is sustainable as you need to have a reference to what is more or less sustainable.”

He said the consumer is more educated about recycling than compostability or biodegradability.

“People understand that recycling is a good solution as you use the product again and again without wasting resources.

“I think that people are aware that fossil resources don’t last for ever and cost of these products will go up over time because of the availability decreasing.

“What they maybe understand less is around biodegradability and compostability because people have to be very careful how you claim biodegradability and compostability because you don’t want people to throw the products out of the window and expect them to disappear. We have to realise that this is under industrial conditions.”

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