GAÏALENE® FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

PLANT-BASED PLASTIC

  • What is plant-based plastic?

    PLANT-BASED PLASTIC (in French PLASTIQUE VÉGÉTAL) is a new type of plastic material. It refers to the natural and renewable aspects of the thermoplastic resins constituting these plastics, as opposed to fossil-fuel (oil or natural gas) plastics commonly used. These natural thermoplastic resins are usually called PLANT-BASED RESINS.

    The phrase PLANT-BASED PLASTIC is more precise than BIOPLASTICS, which has been in use for the past 30 years and conveys different meanings:

    • a bio-sourced plastic material (manufactured from vegetable or animal biomass),
    • a petroleum- and/or bio-sourced plastic material which has the particularity of being biodegradable or of quickly breaking down, unlike conventional fossil-fuel plastics.
    • PLANT-BASED RESINS used to produce PLANT-BASED PLASTICS come from plants, and more specifically maize, wheat, starch potatoes, sugar cane, cassava, castor oil plant, rapeseed or wood. They contain a large ratio of carbon from the carbon dioxide they have drawn from the air and fixed thanks to the photosynthetic process. These PLANT-BASED RESINS can be natural polymers extracted from these plants such as cellulose and starch, usually modified or functionalized to become thermoplastic, or synthetic polymers manufactured from plant monomers such as lactic acid in the case of PLA.

    PLANT-BASED PLASTICS, depending on the type of PLANT-BASED RESIN they are made of, are suitable for:

    • long lasting applications - replacing conventional plastics in full or in part – when biodegradability is not necessary or when the end product has to be time-resistant (car industry, construction, consumer products, furniture and outdoor furniture…). For such applications, and because they are plant-based, they have an advantage over conventional oil-based polymers: they allow an instant decrease of the carbon footprint thanks to lower carbon dioxide emissions. They are efficient carbon (carbon dioxide) traps and are all the more interesting when the lifespan of objects made of PLANT-BASED PLASTIC is a long one, or when the PLANT-BASED PLASTIC material is recycled.
    • short life applications, in which case biodegradability can become an advantage when the product reaches its end-of-life (green waste bags for example). These PLANT-BASED PLASTICS usually comply with industrial composting standard EN 13432.

    Finally, PLANT-BASED PLASTICS can be compounded just like petroleum-based plastics, that is to say additives (mineral powders, glass or vegetable fibres, fire retardants…) can be added to their formula to meet specific and imperative needs in some applications such as electronics and electric appliances.

THE COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL OF GAIALENE®

  • More about Roquette's custome-made solutions

    Roquette offers a custom-made solution in close collaboration with industrial processors.

    The technical and in-house development departments of the GAÏALENE® programme offer the best technical, economic and environmentally sound solution for any application. The proportion of GAÏALENE® resins is specified in the product terms of reference, and after testing on the client or processor’s own equipment, GAÏALENE® content may reach 100 per cent.

  • In what ways is GAÏALENE® truly an alternative to petroleum-based plastics?

    GAÏALENE® is a plant-based plastic made from natural renewable resources.

    It reduces your/our exposure to the impact of / the rising cost of hydrocarbons (barrel of oil) and our economic dependence on oil resources. World demand for plastic materials is increasing. GAÏALENE®, a plant-based plastic, brings a true alternative that meets the needs and requirements of the trade.

  • Is GAÏALENE® compatible with other plastics?

    GAÏALENE® is fully compatible in all proportions with the family of polypropylene and polyethylene plastics (PP and PE), with certain elastomers and also with polyolefin-based masterbatches.

  • Is GAÏALENE® like PLA?

    GAÏALENE® is a grafted starch. PLA come from starch through hydrolysis in glucose, fermentation in lactic acid, conversion in lactide and ring opening polymerisation of lactide. PLA is more brittle and scratches easily. Its behaviour is similar to polystyrene and it is relatively fragile. GAÏALENE® is more shock-resistant, and its properties situate it between polyolefins and technical plastics.

  • Is GAÏALENE® better than current plastics?

    GAÏALENE® resins offer a new alternative for sustainable and eco-friendly plastic-based consumer products. These resins perform mechanically as well as conventional polyolefins (PP and PE), and GAÏALENE®-based products may show improved properties, depending on the application.

  • The application advantages of GAÏALENE®

    GAÏALENE® resins can be used in processing equipment without modifying tools, moulds, profiles or stamps. They have a lower temperature profile and a high production rate.

  • What type of markets/sectors does GAÏALENE® target?

    GAÏALENE® is a range of resins used in thermoplastic processes such as injection, extrusion, blow moulding, blow film extrusion and compounding.

    The main industrial sectors concerned are packaging (films, flasks, jars), consumer goods, the car industry, domestic appliances, household, office and leisure items, furniture parts etc. GAÏALENE® is suitable for most products currently made from thermoplastics.

THE CARBON IMPACT OF GAÏALENE®

  • What is meant by the “carbon cycle”?

    During the last decades, increased emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere by the intense use of fossil energy have highlighted the importance of the natural carbon cycle regulating the exchange of carbon between the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface, land masses and oceans. The growth of plants triggers the capture of carbon dioxide emitted in air by human activities and its fixation as organic carbon through the photosynthetic process. This effect is beneficial to the natural cycle of carbon exchange.

  • How is the carbon footprint determined?

    The carbon footprint is based on assessment of GHGs emitted over the life cycle of a product. The carbon footprint of GAÏALENE® covers all the steps from cradle to factory gate, taking into account GHGs emissions by sowing, raw materials uses, transportation and synthesis processes used to manufacture GAÏALENE® resins.

  • GAÏALENE®'s carbon dioxide-equivalent index

    What does it mean to say that GAÏALENE® has a carbon dioxide-equivalent index of 0.74 per kg of resin?

    Two products derived in different ways can be compared by applying the same evaluation criteria. Conventional fossil plastics production is strongly impacted by oil extraction, by the energy required to reduce the viscosity of hydrocarbons, by refining phases, by transportation and by various chemical reactions requiring many reactants.

    The production of GAÏALENE® resins requires less energy than that of conventional plastics. Fewer reactants are used. Furthermore, locally available resources have less impact in terms of transportation. 1 kg of GAÏALENE® generates about 65 per cent less GHG emissions than 1 kg of PP.

    This figure does not include the fact that GAÏALENE® is also processed at lower temperatures than PP, with a production rate that is at least equivalent, if not better.

     

    • Including photosynthesis, CO2 footprint of Gaïalene® resins is only 0.74 kg of CO2 eq. per kg of resin.
    • Massive reduction in CO2 emissions compared to conventional plastics:

    - 65% compared to polyolefins

    - 85% compared to styrene resins

  • GAÏALENE®’s carbon dioxide storage potential

    As they grow, plants absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Each kilogram of GAÏALENE® contains 0.84 kg of carbon dioxide fixed from air. This amount of carbon dioxide is stored throughout the life of products containing GAÏALENE®. This carbon storage is taken into account when a product reaches its end-of-life, or if the product’s life span can be reasonably foreseen (in general over a year if it is not recycled).

AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES AND BIOPLASTICS PRODUCTION
By European Bioplastics

  • What are bioplastics made of?

    Bioplastics 1 constitute a wide range of materials with different properties and can be made from different resources. The renewable resources used in bioplastics mainly come from agriculture or forestry. The crops are converted into feedstocks such as cereal starches, plant oil, sugar or cellulose through physical and chemical processes, which allow extraction and separation from the original vegetal source.

    These renewable feedstocks can be either used directly to make bioplastics, as for most starch based products and cellulose-based products, or they can be used as raw material for biological processes and/or chemical conversions to obtain:

    • biobased chemical intermediates (such as lactic acid, succinic acid, etc.) which are used as building blocks (monomers) for plastic materials, or

    • modified natural polymers (such as cellulose acetate) which will show different properties than the original natural polymer, or

    • polymers directly through fermentation (such as PHA).

    Finally, the materials for producing bioplastics do not necessarily have to come directly from the field, but can also be by-products of food production such as potato processing residues from French fries production or post-use plant oil, both of which can be used for creating biobased plastic products.

    1 Bioplastics are commonly defined as plastics that are biobased, biodegradable or both.

    www.european-bioplastics.org

  • Why does the bioplastics industry use agricultural resources?

    The emerging shift from crude oil to renewable resources is driven primarily by the sustainable development efforts of the plastics industry. Finite oil resources and climate change constitute two broadly acknowledged challenges for society in the coming decades. Therefore, reducing oil dependence and mitigation of climate change are two important drivers for the use of agricultural resources. Plants absorb carbon-dioxide during their growth and convert it into carbon-rich organic matter. When these materials are used for the production of plastics, the carbon is stored in the bioplastic products during their useful life. This carbon is then released back in, to the atmosphere e.g. through incineration or composting.

    Important forces that motivate the trend toward the use of renewable resources are the development of rural economies, chemical and plastics industry innovation, regulatory and policy framework conditions and consumer demand for “green” products. Retailers and brand-owners are also important drivers behind this trend, as they would like to demonstrate the improved environmental performance of their product portfolios.

    www.european-bioplastics.org

  • How much farmland is used for bioplastics today and tomorrow?

    The annual global production capacity of compostable and/or biobased plastics is estimated to be around 1,000,000 tons 1. The European market consumption of bioplastics in all application areas was estimated at 100,000
    – 150,000 tons in 2010 2.

    Depending on the polymer type and the used crop, respectively agricultural feedstock, the average yield lies in the range of two to four tons of bioplastics per hectare. Therefore, in a conservative scenario the agricultural cultivation area needed to supply the current European market consumption can be calculated to be at most in the region of 75,000 hectares today, which is less than 0.05% of the total agricultural area available in EU 27 3.

    Assuming continued high and maybe even politically supported growth of the bioplastics market at the current stage of technology, a market of up to 2.5 million tons could be achieved by the year 2020, accounting for a maximum of 1.25 millon hectares, or roughly 0.7 percent of the available farmland in Europe. As some types of bioplastics are produced predominantly outside of Europe, it should be considered that commensurate amounts of renewable resources are imported.

    It is not yet clear to what extent an increased share of food residues, nonfood crops or cellulosic biomass will lead to a smaller land use demand for bioplastics than the predicted amount mentioned above.

    1 Research by University of Applied Science and Arts of Hannover on behalf of European Bioplastics, 2011. Based on polls and public information.
    2 Estimation European Bioplastics
    3 Calculation based on assumption of two tons of bioplastics per hectare; 178 million hectares of utilised agricultural area. Source Eurostat.

    www.european-bioplastics.org

  • Is the use of non-food crops feasible?

    The majority of today’s available bioplastics production technologies is based on carbohydrate rich plants such as grains or sugar beets/cane, which are generally considered to be food-crops. The extraction processes of agriculturally generated raw materials and their conversion to feedstocks such as starch or sugar has come to a stage of maturity and large scale production.

    Through fermentation processes, building blocks such as ethanol, lactic acid, succinic acid and many more can be produced which can then be further utilised to produce bio- (based) plastics. These processes can be handled
    efficiently in large scale and for this reason carbohydrates constitute the predominant class of input materials for bioplastics production today.

    The industry aims to further develop fermentation technologies that allow for the utilisation of other biogenic input, which is based on non-food crop sources. In particular, the production of cellulosic sugars and ethanols can be regarded as a very promising technological approach. Recent technological developments suggest that this technology will be at commercial stage within the next 5 to 10 years.

    The bioplastics industry is making significant efforts into research and development to diversify the availability of biogenic feedstocks towards non-food crops.

    www.european-bioplastics.org

  • How can the industry support the sustainablility of feedstock supply?

    The bioplastics industry is fully aware that the sustainable sourcing of its feedstock supply is a prerequisite for more sustainable products. Impacts like the deforestation of protected habitats or social and environmental damages arising from bad agricultural practices must be avoided. Implementing good agricultural practice is part of the sourcing strategy of many companies, e.g. by suppliers' code of conduct. According certification schemes are an appropriate tool to ensure the sustainable sourcing of biomass for all applications around the globe.

    With regard to sustainability, also the sparing use of resources and increase of resource efficiency is a key concept: Doing more with less can be achieved for bioplastics when material and product innovation is driven forward and use cascades schemes are installed. Reducing material consumption is a consequence of natural optimisation processes forced by growing markets and competition. Establishing use cascades through recycling schemes to recover the material and energy is possible for most bioplastics. Specific material recycling of clean production scraps is already established and saves valuable resources. The recycling of bioplastic after its use (so called post consumer plastics) will be feasible as soon as the commercial volumes and sales increase enough to cover the investments required.

    Finally, the use of non-food feedstocks can contribute to more sustainable sourcing. The bioplastics industry has already demonstrated in research and partially also in the industrial practice that specific production processes can be adapted to use food residues or other by-products instead of food crops 1. Furthermore, the biorefinery concept is promising to transform cellulosic, non-food biomass feedstocks to a variety of chemicals, e.g. ethanol, lactid acid or many others, which can be used for the bioplastics manufacture too.


    1 References: Rodenburg Biopolymers. http://www.biopolymers.nl/en/bioplastic/;Tecnaro GmbH. http://www.tecnaro.de/english/willkommen.htm

    www.european-bioplastics.org

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