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Finnish breakthrough strengthens bioplastics potential

By Rod Addy , 05-Dec-2012
Last updated on 05-Dec-2012 at 13:55 GMT

Bioplastic packaging applications have been strengthened, according to a Finnish research centre, after its development of a technique to dramatically improve the quality of bio-based packaging materials.

The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland claimed its breakthrough makes the production of the polyglycolic acid (PGA) monomer glycolic acid from bio-based sources more efficient.

"Bio-based plastics are a tangible step closer to a bio-based economy,” said research professor Ali Harlin from VTT. That said, in a plastics market worth €500 billion globally, bio-based plastics still account for just 1% of plastics production, claims VTT.

“This new generation of plastic packaging not only reduces our dependence on oil but also offers superior quality compared to traditional plastic packaging,” said Harlin.

Excellent barrier properties

Bio-based PGA plastic had excellent barrier properties, VTT said. Adding it into the structure of traditional plastic packaging significantly improved its quality and made it 20% to 30% stronger than polymerised lactic acid, the most popular biodegradable plastic on the market.

This improved qualities such as airtight, vapour-proof and grease resistant properties and enables it to withstand temperatures that are 20 degrees Celsius higher than traditional plastics, the Finland institute claims.

PGA bioplastic broke down more quickly than PLA, but its biodegradability could be regulated if necessary, VTT said.

Completely bio-based products

The plastic packaging industry was moving towards completely bio-based products, researchers at the centre said.

The volume of oil used every year in the production of plastics equates to approximately five per cent of the world's total oil consumption.

Approximately 40% of all plastics are used in packaging, which puts special pressure on the packaging industry to reduce dependence on oil.

According to lifecycle analyses, carbon dioxide emissions from bio-based plastics can be as much as 70 per cent lower than from oil-based plastics.

  • William Reed Business Media is holding Sustainable Packaging, an online event dedicated to informing food and drink manufacturers about the latest developments in this dynamic area on February 28 2013. For more information, contact Rod Addy on rod.addy@wrbm.com

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