Bioplastics

Part
01
of four
Part
01

Polymer Production (Sugarcane)

Sugarcane can be transformed into polyethylene, a useful polymer, via the following process: The sugarcane is first crushed, then fermented and distilled, yielding ethanol. The ethanol undergoes a "cracking" process during which it is transformed into ethylene. The ethylene is then subjected to polymerization and extrusion to produce polyethylene, a material that shares enough characteristics with petrochemical plastic to be manipulated by the same machinery.

SUGARCANE TO ETHANOL

Ethanol is extracted from sugarcane by grinding or crushing the surgercane into pulp, wetting it, and then allowing it to ferment over time. After it has fermented, it can be dried and pressed to extract the ethanol.

ETHANOL TO ETHYLENE

The ethanol is subjected to chemical cracking. There are a variety of cracking techniques available, but most involve heat and the introduction of one or more catalyzing elements to break the ethanol molecules down into other useful products including ethylene.

ETHYLENE TO POLYETHYLENE

Ethylene is subjected to a polymerization process to produce polyethylene. There are also many polymerization systems in use, most of which involve some amount of heat and pressure along with metallic catalysts, usually made of aluminum and/or titanium.

POLYETHYLENE TO BIOPLASTIC

The various forms of polyethylene produced through these polymerization processes can have a range of chemical and physical properties comparable to the properties of classical petrochemical plastics and can be manipulated by the same machinery to produce comparable end products.

DETAILS OF THE BRASKEM FACILITY

The Brazilian petrochemical company Braskem's processing plant can stand as a useful exemplar of large-scale processing for making ethylene from sugarcane. Its facility produces 200,000 tonnes of ethylene per year. It consumes 462 million liters of ethanol annually to do so. The plant was build with an investment of around $100 million.

CONCLUSION

Sugarcane's high sugar content makes it an efficient source of the precursors of the alcohol ethanol, once fermented. This ethanol can be extracted and cracked to produce a variety of products including ethylene, which can, in turn, be catalyzed into a variety of polyethylene polymers. These polymers can be treated like classical petrochemical plastics, extruded or processed into a range of end products.


Part
02
of four
Part
02

Polymer Production (Recycled BioplasticProducts)

According to our research, polymer is formed from recycled bioplastic products through three distinct steps. In the first step, pre-treatment and hydrolysis take place, while microbial fermentation occurs in the second stage. The final stage consists of separation and polymerization. The process of converting recycled bioplastic products into polymer is conducted on a large scale for commercial purposes by Bioplastic Recycling.

THE THEORY

The hypothesis behind bioplastics is that plastics generated from "kinder" elements can be dissolved quicker and more efficiently. A few bioplastics are practically identical to conventional plastics, which fail to deteriorate. Producing Polylactide Acid (PLA) preserves about two-thirds the energy required to produce traditional plastics. Additionally, bioplastics typically do not generate a net gain in carbon dioxide while eroding due to the plants utilized to produce them consuming "the same amount of carbon dioxide to begin with." For instance, PLA creates nearly 70% fewer greenhouse gases during its degradation process in landfills.

OVERVIEW OF PROCESS

The purpose of the method is to "upcycle bioplastic waste back into an advanced E-PLA formula." There is a two-fold logic for this particular process. First, the E-PLA resin has strengthened operative characteristics and is matches adequately with the majority of conventional plastic manufacturing machinery. It removes the requirement for costly upgrades and enables usage in various industries. Secondly, the volume of non-biodegradable plastic on the planet is swiftly becoming unmanageable, and an alternative method of developing plastics needs to be uncovered.

A high-level graphic of this process is available on the attached google document (page one). Some examples of recycled bioplastic products that are remanufactured to create polymer include:


Currently, this particular process is being employed on a large scale for commercial purposes by Bioplastic Recycling.

A DEEPER DIVE INTO THE PROCESS

Converting recycled bioplastics into polymer consists of three separate stages. An illustration of the method is available on the attached google document (page two). The three steps of transforming salvaged bioplastics into polymer go as follows:

STAGE ONE: PRE-TREATMENT & HYDROLYSIS
In the initial stage, pre-treatment and hydrolysis take place. During this step, biomomers are generated from "pre-treated lignocellulosic biomass." Two individual reactors are currently needed for fermentation and lignocellulosic hydrolysis. Nonetheless, reaction times can be lessened if each is conducted under optimized circumstances.

STAGE TWO: MICROBIAL FERMENTATION
The second stage involves microbial fermentation. Here, a variety of bioprocessing techniques and microbes are administered to develop biomonomers using annual feedstock produce. Potential sources include compounds such as lactic acid, amino acids, and dicarboxylic acids, as well as bio-based polyesters.

STAGE THREE: SEPARATION & POLYMERIZATION
In the final stage of the process, separation and polymerization occurs. The type of polymer depends on the acids utilized during the second stage. Some types of polymers produced based on the source of the biological monomer include:


A detailed chart displaying the results above is available on the attached google document (page three). The microbial transformation of biomass is effective in generating bio-based polymers, and metabolic engineering extends the class of biomonomers created during the fermentation process. Multiple fermentative items can operate as the "building blocks of bio-based polymers." However, the integration of bio-based polymers originating from biomonomers is insufficient.

Part
03
of four
Part
03

Bioplastics and Blockchain

Two blockchain-based technologies that help to ensure the authenticity and traceability of bioplastic products are EarthBi and Mango Materials. While EarthBi uses its own patented blockchain technology, Mango Materials uses the blockchain technology (VeChain) of its partner. More information on the topic has been presented below.

1. EARTHBI


EarthBi is an Italy-based bioplastic material service. EarthBi produces bioplastics using patented and innovative production processes. The company uses its own patented blockchain technology to guarantee that its plastics meet the requirements of biodegradability. The technology can verify and trace the use of bioplastic products throughout all the production cycles. The technology is used with mathematical reliability from the raw material stage to the final product stage. The company expects to increase its revenue by more than three times by using its bioplastics.

2. MANGO MATERIALS


Mango Materials produces biopolymers and bioplastics from methane. The company's products are similar to the conventional oil-based materials; however, the bioplastics are more eco-friendly than the conventional oil-based plastics. Mango Materials' products are biodegradable in both industrial and natural environment, which makes them more eco-friendly.

Mango Materials has partnered with Fashion for Good, a platform for sustainable fashion clothing brands. Mango Materials entered into this partnership so that the company could use its bioplastics to create clothing products. Fashion for Good uses VeChain, a blockchain technology, to track the supply chain of its products such as bioplastics. Their blockchain technology (VeChain) ensures the entire sustainability process.




Part
04
of four
Part
04

Polymer and Bioplastic Production (Vertical Industry Analysis)

As per public sources, the production of polymers and bio-plastic products is done separately and handled by a different set of production companies. Bio-plastics or bio-polymers producers partner with other different manufacturers to produce bio-plastic products made from their polymers, while bio-plastic products manufacturers use polymers from bio-polymers producers or create a joint venture between a polymer manufacturer and the bio-plastic product manufacturer to facilitate the production of a final product. Below are our detailed methodology and deep findings.

METHODOLOGY

To find if manufacturers typically produce the polymers and bio-plastic products, and if they combine both processes or do them separately by a different set of production companies, we began our search by looking into various credible articles, reports, research, and studies. We found one article from a global packaging provider discussing the difference and relationship of bio-plastic and polymer. The article also explains the process of polymerization of materials used in making bio-plastics. We also found a report from the America Chemical Society discussing the two common types of bioplastics. However, these reports did not mention if the bio-plastic manufacturers also produce bio-plastic products.

With the findings got from the above strategy, we proceeded in finding the top producers of bio-plastics in the world and see if these companies also produce bio-plastic products (utensils, bottles, among others) aside from the bio-polymers or bio-plastics. We found a list of the top bio-plastics producers from Bioplastics News website. From this website, we checked the websites of each company to see if they combine the production of polymers and bio-plastic products or is the process separate and handled by a different set of production companies.

Finally, we tried to find companies that manufacture bio-plastics products and see if they produce their own polymers. We found one company on a Good Net Org website. We have discussed the company in the findings below.

From above strategies, we have listed a number of companies commonly involved in the production of polymers and bio-plastic products in the findings below.

OVERVIEW

EXAMPLES OF BIO-PLASTICS

  • Nylon form castor seeds

BIO-PLASTIC OR BIO-POLYMERS PRODUCERS

CASE 1: NOVAMONT

Novamont has three bio-plastics namely Mater-Bi, Matrol-Bi, and Celus-Bi. Mater-Bi bio-plastic is made from cellulose, starch, and vegetable oils through a process involving pioneering proprietary technologies. The company (Novamont) partnered with different packaging manufacturers; Eurocartex and Graziani Packaging companies to produce/manufacture Mater-Bi products like food packaging paper and MagicNet for packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Novamont has also partnered with Sincro company to produce bio-lubricants used to manufacture Matrol-Bi. Celus-Bi is a bio-plastic dedicated to cosmetics sector.

From this case, it can be concluded that Novamont only produce the bio-polymers, and through partnerships, separate companies manufacture the bio-plastics products from the bio-polymer produced by it (Novamont). Examples of bio-plastics produced include carrier bags, organic waste bags, nets for fresh fruit and vegetables, and a range of flexible packaging applications; hydraulic fluids, greases, transmission fluid and dielectric fluids; and moisturizers, shampoos, foundation, lipsticks and other cosmetic.

CASE 2: ARKEMA

Arkema's list of products consist of different types of chemicals. One of its products includes the Oleris® products which are 100% bio-based. These products have a range of chemicals of renewable origin such as castor oil, and they are used to produce polymers which are applicable to industries manufacturing bio-plastics, hot melt adhesives, plasticizers, and cosmetics. Bio-based products from the company are used in producing bio-sourced poly-amides.

From this case, it can be concluded that Arkema only produce bio-polymers, while other companies use those polymers to produce bio-plastic products.

CASE 3: NATUREWORKS

NatureWorks claimed to be a world-leading bio-polymers supplier and innovator with its Ingeo portfolio of naturally advanced materials made from renewable, abundant feedstocks. The company's product portfolio consists of different bio-polymers grouped according to their applications.

From this case, it can be concluded that NatureWorks only produce the bio-polymers.

CASE 4: BASF CORPORATION

BASF Corporation produces two bio-plastics namely Ecoflex and ecovio. According to Andreas Künkel, the two plastics (Ecoflex and Ecovio) have been developed primarily to help in manufacturing products such as shopping bags and organic waste bags. The bags are made from valuable compost together with the bio-waste in an industrial composting facility.

German discount supermarket chain Aldi Sud partnered with Victor Güthoff & Partner Group to manufacture their own shopping bags made of BASF’s biodegradable plastic Ecovio®. The combination of Ecovio and Ecoflex allows film manufacturers such as Victor to produce plastic bags and other film products with tailor-made properties.

BASF sealed a strategic manufacturing partnership with Heritage Plastics, Inc. which enables BASF to expand manufacturing of its Ecovio bio-polymers.

Here, it can be concluded that BASF only produces the bio-polymers, and other companies like Victor manufacture final products from them (bio-polymers).

BIO-PLASTICS PRODUCTS PRODUCERS

CASE 1: ECOWARE

EcoWare manufactures bio-plastic packaging. The company uses the world’s most reputable brand, Ingeo PLA Bio-plastic made by NatureWorks as a raw material for its products.
From this case, it can be concluded that EcoWare does not produce its own bio-polymers.

CASE 2: BIO-ECO

Bio-Eco, established as a joint venture between Thai KK Industry Co., Ltd and TPBI Public Company Limited, manufactures bio-plastic packaging. Thai KK Industry Co., Ltd manufactures the polymers as the company is known as a market leader in compounds production and manufactures bio-plastic paper coating, while TPBI manufactures the plastic bag products.

From this case, it can be concluded that to produce the Bio-Eco bio-plastic packaging, two companies partnered, one produces the bio-plastic, while the other manufactures the plastic bag products.

CONCLUSION

Based on the cases above, the production of polymers and bio-plastic products is done separately and handled by a different set of production companies; this is:
  • Bio-plastics or bio-polymers producers partner with other and different manufacturers to produce bio-plastic products made from their polymers like Novamont and BASF.
  • Some bio-plastic products manufacturers use polymers from bio-polymers producers like EcoWare using Natureworks' Ingeo, while others create a joint venture between a polymer manufacturer and the bio-plastic product maker like the Bio-Eco.
Sources
Sources

From Part 01
Quotes
  • "The company developed the production technology in 2007 and continues to improve the technology of green ethylene and I'm greenTM Polyethylene from ethanol. "
  • "The ethanol from sugarcane in Braskem's ethylenne plant goes through a dehydration process and is transformed into green ethylene. The green ethylene then goes to the polymerization plants where it is transformed into I'm greenTM Polyethylene, the plastic made from sugarcane. "
Quotes
  • "Braskem has also developed a process based on ethanol, creating bio-based ethylene and green PE®."
Quotes
  • "The plant uses ethanol produced from sugarcane as the feedstock. It is the first large-scale ethylene project to use 100% renewable raw materials."
  • "With the capacity to produce 200,000t/y, it is also the first commercial-scale green ethylene plant in the world. The produced ethylene will be converted into equivalent polyethylene (PE) resin or green plastic."
  • "The proprietary technology for converting ethanol into ethylene was developed at the Braskem Technology and Innovation Center, São Paulo in 2007. The ethylene is converted into butylene and then polymerised to produce propylene resins through metathesis process."
  • "The final polyethylene product can be processed using the existing machinery and equipment."
  • "The plant will consume about 462 million litres of ethanol annually to produce the resin. The ethanol is initially being sourced from major Brazilian producers in the Minas Gerais, Paraná and São Paulo states."
Quotes
  • "First, sugarcane is crushed, fermented and distilled, yielding the product called ethanol. Then, at the Braskem plant, the ethanol undergoes a dehydration process during which it is transformed into green ethylene."
  • "The green ethylene goes through a polymerization and then an extrusion process. The resulting green polyethylene has the same physical and chemical characteristics as conventional plastic, so it can be processed using the same machinery. "
  • "Producing green plastic is also resource efficient. All waste materials generated during the processes are reused, for example, filter cake and wastewater are later used as natural fertilizer, reducing the need for chemical fertilizer, and bagasse – the fibrous matter that remains after sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract their juice – is used to generate bio-electricity, reducing the use of fossil resources,” added Soto."
Quotes
  • "The green propylene production plant requires investments of around US$100 million. Production capacity is expected to be 30.000 tons a year, at least."
Quotes
  • "The company plans to build a plant in Brazil that it says will be the world’s largest facility for making polymers from plants. "
  • "The project will begin with the construction of a 240-million-liter ethanol plant, a joint venture with Mitsui, that is set to begin later this year. By the beginning of next year, Dow will finish engineering plans for facilities that will convert that ethanol into hundreds of thousands of metric tons of polyethylene, the world’s most widely used plastic."
  • "The new plant will have a polyethylene production capacity comparable to production at a petrochemical plant. Though the exact production levels aren’t yet settled, they will be on the order of “what you have heard before,” he says, referring to a proposed Dow project that would have made 350,000 metric tons of polyethylene from sugarcane. "
  • "It will be bigger than a 200,000-ton sugarcane-to-polyethylene plant operated by Brazil-based Braskem."
Quotes
  • "However, in the late '50's and early '60's, Karl Ziegler in Germany and Giulio Natta in Italy discovered that the use of metal-based catalysts, particularly titanium/aluminum systems, led to a new type of polyethylene."
From Part 04
Quotes
  • "In the same sense, bioplastics are thermoplastics that are derived from bio-based sources such as sugarcane, seaweed or starch for example. Biopolymers however are the distinctive classification of the group of materials under which bioplastics are also included. Biopolymers include, next to bioplastics, also materials such as silk, chitosan and wool."
Quotes
  • "Two types of bioplastics are now produced in large quantities. They are called polylactide acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA)."
  • "The biggest producer of PLA is NatureWorks, a company located in Blair, Neb. There, corn kernels are milled, a chemical substance called dextrose is extracted, and dextrose is fermented by bacteria or yeast in big vats. The result is lactic acid (Fig. 2), which acts as a repeating unit to make PLA."
Quotes
  • "Our products made of MATER-BI, developed through the integration of chemistry, environment and agriculture, guarantee quality, performance and safety."
Quotes
  • "Made by Eurocartex, the cellulose paper is coated on one side with a thin layer of Mater-Bimaking it water repellent and grease resistant. "
  • "Additionally, the Italian manufacturer of fully biodegradable plastics has worked with Graziani Packaging to produce MagicNet – an extruded net made from Mater-Bi for packaging fresh fruit and vegetables. "
Quotes
  • "NatureWorks is now a world-leading biopolymers supplier and innovator with its Ingeo portfolio of naturally advanced materials made from renewable, abundant feedstocks with performance and economics that compete with oil-based intermediates, plastics, and fibers. These materials also provide brand owners new cradle-to-cradle options after the use of their products."
Quotes
  • "The large German discount supermarket chain ALDI SÜD is now offering its German customers shopping bags made of BASF’s biodegradable plastic Ecovio®. These bags are manufactured for ALDI by the VICTOR Güthoff & Partner Group, head¬quartered in Kerpen, Germany."
  • "The combination of Ecovio and Ecoflex allows film manufacturers such as VICTOR to produce plastic bags and other film products with tailor-made properties – a higher percentage of Ecoflex renders the film more flexible whereas a higher percentage of Ecovio renders it stiffer. "
  • "The two plastics Ecoflex and Ecovio have been developed primarily for prod¬ucts such as shopping bags and bags for organic waste, which are transformed into valuable compost – together with the bio-waste – in an industrial composting facility"