About 20 participants from industry and politics attended the first kick-off meeting of the Special Interest Group (SIG) for Biopolymers/Bioplastics which was recently held in Stuttgart. Also present were representatives from research institutes that are focused on biopolymers and could thus make an important contribution to the discussions.
The Special Interest Group for Biopolymers/Biomaterials, which is one of four SIGs of the “Akteursplattform Bioökonomie Baden-Württemberg”, held its inaugural meeting on May 11th 2016. The Akteursplattform is an initiative that enables companies, associations and networks to work together to develop a regional bioeconomy in Baden-Württemberg. The theme of the first SIG meeting was identified in cooperation with participants of the Bioeconomy Showcase meeting recently held in Stuttgart. The inaugural SIG meeting brought together a diverse group of participants, including representatives from ministries as well as from well-known companies and research institutions.
Prof. Dr. Ralf Kindervater, CEO of BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH, opened the event and used examples to highlight the importance of individual value chains and product systems for developing the bioeconomy.
Marco Neudecker from the IfBB (Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites at the Hannover University of Applied Sciences and Arts) gave the first keynote speech on “Bioplastics – potentials, products and processing”. He started his speech by giving a short overview of the IfBB before going on to present different types of biopolymers. He reported that it was chemically innovative bioplastics such as PLA and PHA as well as biobased counterparts of petroleum-based plastics such as PET, PA, PE and PP that attracted the greatest interest from industry and research in the new economy. He also provided figures on the biopolymer market and production area needed. It is expected that the biopolymer market will continue to grow, increasing from 1.7 million tons in 2014 to an estimated 7.8 million tons in 2019. Also, the area required for the production of biopolymers is expected to double by 2019. However, the area needed to supply the biopolymers industry is rather small. A broad range of biobased bioplastics have already been placed on the market, but the majority of them are used in the production of packaging material. Neudecker also presented a cooperative project that was initiated in order to deal with the challenges and unresolved questions manufacturers of bioplastics often face. The new online database stores information on a broad range of methods that can be used to produce around 100 or so biobased plastics. The bioplastics processing database was developed by the IfBB in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP), the SKZ Kunststoff-Zentrum (Polymer Centre) in Würzburg and the Chemnitz University of Technology. It was created to facilitate the transfer of information between companies involved in processing plastics and manufacturing companies.
In the second keynote speech, Jochen Mößlein, CEO of Polysecure GmbH, talked about the company’s marker technology and application in the bioplastics industry. The company’s marker technology can be used to mark a wide variety of products with a durable mark, enabling the rapid authentication and validation of products, anti-counterfeiting, quality assurance, efficient material sorting for recycling and a variety of other applications. Mößlein highlighted that the idea to establish the company came from product piracy. At present, the company has a comprehensive patent portfolio with 13 patent families for marking products. Polysecure produces colour-change markers, fluorescence markers and ceramic markers. All markers are characterised by high mechanical strength and thermal stability, so that several extrusions are possible. In general, the markers have no noticeable impact on the properties of the plastics. The reliable sorting of materials also opens up new recycling possibilities; plastics can be sorted according to material classes and be reused. Jochen Mößlein hopes that the use of markers will also increase in the field of biopolymers.
Towards the end of the meeting, the participants were asked to write down what they expected from the Special Interest Group for Biopolymers/Bioplastics. The following five topics were identified: networking, cooperative projects, products and technologies, raw materials and recycling as well as external communication. Most participants were interested in networking activities and the development of new products and technologies.
One of the key objectives of the bioeconomy is the creation of value, i.e. the development of industrial products or intermediate products, from biogenic raw and residual materials. With the recent kick-off event, BIOPRO brought together different representatives in the bioplastics sector with the goal of increasing the application of biopolymers and replace fossil-fuel based plastics with biobased ones. The next SIG for Biopolymers/Bioplastics meeting will be held in autumn 2016 and will deal with the development of new products and technologies in greater detail. Another SIG – the SIG for Marketing, Communication, Ecobalance and Sustainability – will meet in Stuttgart on 15th June and discuss communication issues.