‘Bioplastics become more attractive for industry’

24 april 2023 – In the RUBIO project, (short for Regionales unternehmerisches Bündnis zum Aufbau von Wertschöpfungsketten für technische Biokunststoffe in Mitteldeutschland) 18 partners are working of the development of versatile, sustainable products that are recyclable and biodegradable.

Bioplastics are increasingly providing an alternative to petroleum-based plastics. These sustainable materials offer several advantages: They are made from renewable resources and help to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and CO2 emissions into the environment. They can be biodegradable and have processing properties comparable to those of classic petroleum-based plastics. Like classic plastics, bioplastics can be sorted, fractionated, and recycled.
Despite the high potential, there are a number of factors that prevent companies from manufacturing their products from bioplastics. Worldwide, there are only a few manufacturers offering bioplastics on the market. For plastics processors, this causes problems with ensuring supply, higher costs, and a too limited choice of different types of bioplastics to realize the wide range of possible applications. In addition, there is a need for technical improvement, and it is often not clear for which specific applications bioplastics are suitable. Finally, bioplastics are currently often produced from sugarcane and corn – potential food or feed sources, which could raise a kind of ‘food or plastic’ discussion.
As part of the RUBIO project, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP is developing new types of the bioplastic polybutylene succinate (PBS) based on regionally available plant waste. Within the framework of the RUBIO project Fraunhofer IAP and Polifilm Extrusion GmbH have achieved a first success. The German company produces plastic films for various applications in the packaging, construction, agricultural, automotive, and other sectors on more than 80 extrusion lines at its Weißandt-Gölzau site in Saxony-Anhalt. The partners have developed a PBS film that can be used for shipping bags.
According to Fraunhofer, the use of regional residual materials has another advantage in the long term: shorter transport routes can lead to lower prices and greater sustainability of the plastic products produced. This should further increase the attractiveness of bioplastics in the long term.

The bioplastic films made from PBS developed as part of the RUBIO project are recyclable, biodegradable and can be processed on standard extrusion lines (Photo: Polifilm Extrusion GmbH)

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