The Recycling Product News team was in Toronto this week for the Waste & Recycling Expo Canada (aka CWRE) annual trade show and convention. We interviewed representatives from some of the innovative companies exhibiting on the show floor.
Why is the switch to biobased plastics so slow?
Global awareness of climate change and pollution is increasing, but finding ways to halt our dependence on fossil fuels and plastics is proving extremely difficult. One possible solution is to shift away from petrochemicals towards a biobased feedstock to make plastics, but how realistic is this proposal? IDTechEx uncovers the factors influencing adoption of biobased polymers in their report, "Biobased Polymers 2018-2023: A Technology and Market Perspective".
Modern society is in thrall to fossil fuels for transportation, energy and manufacturing. Worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide show no sign of slowing down, in spite of the Paris Agreement of 2015, as well as growing public awareness of the science. As petrochemicals become increasingly scarce, the price of manufacturing plastics from this feedstock will increase, but considering their myriad applications, it's unlikely demand for these materials will dissipate. A need to change behaviours is increasingly evident, both to move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources, and better manage our utilization of plastics.
So what's the answer? Biobased feedstocks, which are a good source of monosaccharides such as glucose, can be transformed into plastics using a combination of synthetic biology and chemistry. Indeed, a number of startups and large organizations are exploring numerous products manufactured by genetically engineered microorganisms which can act as "drop-in" replacements for existing plastics, or in some cases, alternatives which offer superior properties to polymers we are familiar with.
Companies such as NatureWorks and Corbion have developed poly(lactide) (PLA), a compostable polyester, with a combined a global production of over 225 kT annually. PLA has found applications from 3D printing to packaging alternatives, and has the benefit of being fully compostable, potentially eliminating waste which needs to be recycled in order to circularize the material.
Although biobased feedstocks seem like they have potential to reduce emissions and reduce recycling requirements, their total market share is dwarfed by traditional petrochemical plastics. The barriers to widespread adoption of biobased polymer technologies are myriad.
Firstly, despite demonstrating proof of concepts in an academic setting, the transition to industrial scale production is far from straightforward. A conservative approach to production methods and the complexity of high volume fermentation do not marry well. Furthermore, there is a dearth of capital investment to help academic innovators and early stage startups expand production, both from VCs and from governments.
This absence of funding is compounded by the fact that many biobased products are more expensive to manufacture, certainly in the short term, and possibly into the long term as well, until economies of scale start to kick in to bring down the cost of production. Finally, public awareness and willingness to pay more for a "greener" product hampers demand. Thanks to a few public figures such as David Attenborough, recognition of the downsides of plastics has entered public consciousness, but when faced between a choice of a cheaper petrochemical plastic and a biobased competitor with a hefty green premium, too often consumers are opting for the lower cost product.
Transitioning to a biobased manufacturing economy has been demonstrably difficult to date; however, there are signs that governments are introducing policy initiatives to overcome some of these challenges. Last year, the EU updated its Bioeconomy Strategy, and have made available funding for circular economy projects, in the form of Horizon 2020 project, worth €80B in total. Looking ahead, IDTechEx projects that the market size for biobased polymers will be 2.7 Mt by 2023, as these barriers are addressed and demand for greener materials increases.
Understand the latest trends in Green Technology with IDTechEx; find out more about biobased polymers with the report "Biobased Polymers 2018-2023: A Technology and Market Perspective".
IDTechEx guides your strategic business decisions through its Research, Consultancy and Event products, helping you profit from emerging technologies. For more information on IDTechEx Research and Consultancy contact [email protected] or visit www.IDTechEx.com.
To find out more about Advanced Materials research available from IDTechEx visit www.IDTechEx.com/Research/AM or to connect with others on this topic, IDTechEx Events is hosting: IDTechEx Show! Connecting Emerging Technologies With Global Brands, November 20-21 2019, Santa Clara, USA www.IDTechEx.com/usa
More from Plastics Recycling
As we approach the 2019 Canadian federal election, Friends of the Earth Canada has a message for politicians. According to the organization, the electorate wants action to stop plastics pollution: 86% of Canadians want politicians to take more action on plastics as a way of reducing climate harmful greenhouse gases. And 8 out 10 Canadians will support politicians to ban production and use of single-use disposable plastic containers and packaging.
Foam Cycle is the first patent pending foam (aka. Styrofoam) collection and processing system specifically designed to be placed outdoors. It began as a test project in 2016 under a public-private partnership agreement between Foam Cycle and the Sussex County MUA, in New Jersey, which owns and operates a 250 acre on site landfill and recycling drop off collection center.
Sesotec GmbH, the manufacturer of metal detectors and sorting systems for the plastics industry, will be showcasing its contribution to a circular economy at K 2019 from October 16-23 in Dusseldorf, Germany.
TOMRA Sorting Recycling will be at the K-Show 2019, presenting its frontrunning position in the circular economy, including innovative sorting equipment like INNOSORT FLAKE and giving a preview of a groundbreaking innovation in the fields of Artificial Intelligence.
FCC's new single-stream facility in Houston revitalizing neighbourhood while cleaning up contaminated stream
Running since March of this year, FCC Environmental Services has opened up a new single stream plant in Houston, TX. The plant will accept residential single stream material from throughout Houston for a minimum of 15 years. FCC has also made the city the new home of their U.S. corporate headquarters, settling into the East Houston community. The district has embraced the recycling facility as a welcome investment in an underdeveloped part of town. FCC has employed many local citizens at the site, including some from a second-chance labor provider, to really make themselves part of the local landscape.
The Association of Plastic Recyclers will be conducting a two-day training course (October 22-23) on designing plastics for recyclability at the Van Dyk Recycling Solutions Headquarters in Norwalk, CT.
In keeping with the show motto "Making more out of your plastics", Coperion will present their enhanced ZSK Mc18 twin screw extruders at K 2019, being held from16-23, October, in Düsseldorf, Germany. The company says their latest, redesigned models are loaded with numerous new features that optimize convenience and handling while minimizing downtimes and energy use.
ChemCycling is the name of a new pilot project, being undertaken in partnership with Mondi, the global packaging and paper group, and COROOS, a food-industry supplier, by which Germany-based chemical producer BASF is further developing their process for the chemical recycling of plastic waste. Plastic waste that is difficult to recycle, such as mixed or contaminated plastics, is converted into a pyrolysis oil through thermochemical processes. This secondary raw material can be used as input in BASF's production process, thereby partly replacing fossil resources, to manufacture numerous chemical products.
The first robotic sorting systems in Canada were installed in the Fall of 2018 by Machinex, at the Sani-Éco MRF in Granby, Quebec, and soon after, at the Chatham-Kent Recycling MRF in Merlin, Ontario. At both facilities Machinex installed a double robotic sorting system, using two SamurAI robotic sorting units placed in succession on a single line. This summer, Machinex installed three more robotic sorting units at a MRF in Toronto and one machine at a MRF in Winnipeg.
According to Germany-based Steinert, everyone involved in the plastics industry is concerned with strict legislation and a social sense of responsibility for recovering plastics. Black plastics represent a particular challenge because they cannot be detected with the optical sorting technology found in standard recycling plants. STEINERT technology allows black plastics to be sorted from the general waste stream into pure grades. This enables plastic-processing companies to respond to the new challenges of the circular economy in a cost-effective manner and to be equipped for all the processes involved in plastic recovery and processing in equal measure.
Three years have passed since the last K, the world's premier fair for the plastics and rubber industry, and everything has changed. Apart from the media attacks on plastic products, the industry also has other challenges to overcome, such as China's import ban on plastic waste and constantly increasing recycling quotas entering into force.
Czech recycling company OZO Ostrava s.r.o., recently commissioned a new line for processing pre-pressed plastic bales. At the heart of the line is a SENNEBOGEN 818 M powered by an eGreen electric drive.
The Government of Canada says it is dedicated to protecting Canada's land and waterways from plastic waste and marine litter. According to a recent press release, there are currently few options for recycling and disposing of boats made of fibreglass. As a result, most of these boats end up in a landfill, or worse, abandoned on land or in the water.
Gillette, in partnership with international recycling leader TerraCycle Canada, has announced for the first-time, that all brands of disposable razors, replaceable-blade cartridge units and razor plastic packaging are recyclable on a national scale.
"Digitalization will significantly change today's circular economy," according to Naemi Denz, the Managing Director of the Waste Treatment and Recycling Association in the German Engineering Federation (VDMA). Denz says that digitally transmitted information, for example, will ensure that secondary raw materials can be designed with even greater precision. This topic will be among many at IFAT 2020, set for Germany in May, 2020.
Trent becomes first university in Ontario to install parking infrastructure made from recycled plastic
In keeping with the University's long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability, Trent University is slated to become the first university in Ontario to install permeable grid paving - an environmental innovation made popular in Europe.
Ettlinger, a member of the Maag Group, will take advantage of the upcoming K 2019 in Germany this October to unveil the company's brand new ERF 1000 high performance melt filter for very high throughputs in recycling applications for plastic materials. The company will present it's new technology at Stand A04 in Hall 9, during this year's K 2019, the world's largest trade fair focused on plastics and rubber.
The Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) has released a report that illustrates the resilience of the Canadian recycling infrastructure in weathering the significant market challenges that have affected the industry over the past two years.
Walmart and TerraCycle are joining forces to launch the nation's largest car seat recycling event in nearly 4,000 Walmart stores across the country.
The Alliance to End Plastic Waste has announced that Jacob Duer will serve as the inaugural President and CEO of the newly formed not-for-profit, effective October 1. Duer joins the AEPW from the United Nations, where he most recently served as a Program Director for the UN Environment Programme.
In September the City of Bangor, Maine will formally move over to a new arrangement in which residents will throw all of their recycling in with their trash, leaving the mixed waste to be picked up from the curbside every week, as currently happens with trash.
Santa Barbara County, California has buried about 200,000 tons of annual trash in its Tajiguas Landfill since 1967. The landfill was on track to hit its capacity in about six years from now, until the announcement of a renewable energy project that is expected to extend its life by an additional decade.
This past spring, BACE, LLC announced the launch of the first-ever, fully-integrated Ecosystem for balers and compactors, powered by the IntelliBACE Platform. This August, BACE announced issuance by the United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) of US Patent No.: US 10,377,518, which protects the IntelliBACE Platform.
For staffers at the Dallas Zoo, nitrile gloves from Kimberly-Clark Professional help ensure quality and safety when they care and feed for more than 2,000 animals at the zoo. Through 's RightCycle Program, the zoo also has expanded the overall impact of its sustainability efforts by providing a safe, renewable way to dispose of these gloves.
Halfway through 2019, and with one of the busiest periods of grain bag recycling still ahead, Saskatchewan farmers have already recycled 25% more grain bags in 2019 than they did in all of 2018, recycling program operator Cleanfarms announced today.
Plastics industry applauds Ontario government move to producer responsibility for packaging, paper and plastics
The Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) and its members applaud today's announcement by the Honourable Jeff Yurek, Ontario's Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, directing the transition of Ontario's Blue Box residential recycling program to a producer responsibility model by 2025. Today, the Blue Box program is funded equally by municipalities and industry. Once the transition is complete, industry will manage 100% of the costs of the Blue Box system alleviating this burden from municipal taxpayers.
Ontario is taking action to improve recycling across the province and address the serious problem of plastic pollution and litter, as committed to in the province's Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.
In June, RPN had the opportunity to visit Canada's only turnkey MRF technology provider, Machinex, at the company's headquarters in Plessisville, Quebec. The company is very busy, with multiple MRF design/installation and retrofit projects across Canada currently and through 2020 - which will mark Machinex' 50th anniversary in manufacturing.
The new EWS 60/210 from Herbold Meckesheim USA is a single shaft shredder for the pre-shredding of baled, bulky or other hard to process plastics including film, agricultural film, mixed plastics, and die drool.
How do we resolve the plastic pollution problem?
The US is the sole member of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) -- the group of 36 developed nations, that has chosen to object to the adoption of recently agreed Basel Convention trade controls to ensure that plastic wastes that are dirty and mixed and thus difficult to recycle can only be exported with the prior permission of the importing country.
The Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), along with Canada's plastics industry, agrees that plastic and other waste in the environment is unacceptable. Plastic however also delivers significant societal benefits, including energy, greenhouse gas and resource savings, and innovations that improve health care, reduce food spoilage, and improve quality of life.
Waste management has made recent headlines in New York this summer with the state's largest illegal dumping bust in history as well as a new lawsuit on behalf of 80 Bethpage residents alleging that contaminants from the Northrop Grumman Company's former dumpsite have led to specific medical injuries and death.
The European recycling industry is going to miss a 2025 target for recycling PET bottles unless there is a reversal of the slowing growth rate in recycling, according to a new study by ICIS. The study also found evidence that bottle-deposit schemes are working better as an incentive than market prices for recycled material.
Republic Services is tackling head-on the crisis of overly contaminated waste streams in today's MRFs. With current residential contamination levels reaching as high as 30% or more, it is critical that processors send a clear message to the community about what is accepted in the recycling program, while also employing the most advanced, flexible technology on the market to separate this evolving stream.
TOMRA Sorting Recycling's newly published eBook shares transformational ideas for reducing plastic waste throughout the plastics value chain. The free-to-download publication spotlights how wider adoption of a circular economy is not only vital for our environment but can also bring new business opportunities.
The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) have stated that they welcome the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment's (CCME) announcement, made June 27, for the next steps for the Strategy for Zero Plastic Waste.
June 12-13, Machinex and the Carton Council of Canada invited Recycling Product News to Quebec. The first stop was a tour of the Machinex manufacturing facility and HQ in Plessisville, about 2 hours East of Montreal. Secondly, the Carton Council of Canada and Machinex hosted customers and press for a tour of Sani-Éco's MRF in Granby, Quebec where Machinex recently installed the company's latest Mach Hyspec optical sorting technology, along with a pair of SamurAI robotic sorting units for handling both cartons and PET/HDPE plastic.