Closing the Loop on Plastic Waste
Day 1, Wednesday 8 June, 2022
About 50% of total plastics produced per year are used in disposable, short life, non-durable packaging and single-use products. Ninety percent of this plastics packaging and are carbon-carbon backbone, hydrocarbon plastics like polyethylene, and polypropylene. Used in thin or flexible film forms or with food, paper, and disposable product packaging, they are difficult to recover and clean from the MSW stream for recycling. In fact, the latest EPA’s MSW data analysis shows that recycling of non-durable plastics as percent of generation is only 2.4% and that of thermoplastic elastomers (rubber) is negligible. These carbon-carbon backbone plastics are non-biodegradable, persistent, and accumulate in the natural environment like the oceans. They fragment and break down into smaller and smaller particles, like microplastics and cause negative impacts as is being extensively reported in literature, press and e-media [The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26132].
Re-designing carbon-carbon backbone polymer plastics at the molecular level to provide for certified and verifiable biodegradable and industrial compostable plastics is environmentally responsible. However, it must be ensured that after use, the compostable plastics along with food, paper, and biodegradable organic waste is treated at a managed industrial composting facility. Managed industrial composting is necessary to divert food and biodegradable organic waste from landfills or open dumps to composting for reducing GWP impacts. The EPA WARM model estimates that recovery of 1.84 million tons of MSW biodegradable organic wastes through composting results in 1.7 million tons of CO2 equivalent of GHG emissions reduction. Complete biodegradability under composting conditions must be validated using ASTM/ISO International Standards and certified by certification organizations like the BPI (North America).
Unfortunately, there is much misunderstanding and misleading product claims about biodegradability and compostability in the marketplace. We will review the science around biodegradability and compostability and learn to identify unqualified, as well as misleading biodegradability claims. This @EnvSciTech article reports necessary requirements for assessing and reporting plastic biodegradation.
Climate change, population growth, unsustainable lifestyles – surmounting global challenges like these require embracing the circular economy as a guiding light. At Covestro, our goal is to embed circular economic principles into the fabric of our operations and be a trailblazer for the entire plastics industry. A globally leading high-tech polymer manufacturer, Covestro has set a vision to be fully circular. A core component of achieving that vision is focused on joint solutions and collaborations with entities that share a similar goal for a more sustainable future. From innovative mattress collection initiatives to advanced and chemical recycling solutions, Covestro and its collaborators work to set the foundation for a new way of working. Closing the loop on a sustainable future is best done by preparing the next generation workforce with the skills needed to approach manufacturing with an eye on circularity, leading to collaborations with top-tier universities like the University of Pittsburgh, where the Covestro Circular Economy Program is launching.
Eliminating single-use plastics is a hot issue of the day. But more discussion is needed around the solutions for managing overlooked plastics like those used in healthcare, textiles, and electronics. These products make up two-thirds of the plastics produced, and will continue their linear path to landfills and incinerators unless we build recovery pathways for all types and uses of plastics. Join Brightmark CEO Bob Powell as he shines a lot on these lesser-known plastics and the emerging technology solutions that recapture their value and absorbs these materials into the new circular economy.
Recent advances have included the inclusion of biocarbon in products that are compostable in less than 90 days, or can be fully converted back to pure carbon for re-use in a matter of minutes. The production of carbon from waste biomass sequesters three tons of carbon dioxide for every ton of biocarbon produced. This carbon can be added at up to 50% in plastics providing stiffness, color, and ultraviolet protection.
This presentation provides an overview of the opportunity to generate substantial and valuable carbon credits during the production of renewable plastics additives. Biomaterials inputs are cleaner products at competitive prices and can perform equal to, or better than, fossil fuel-based inputs. Product manufacturers that use renewable biocarbon can save money by reducing resin loading and the use of alternative fossil-based additives such as carbon black.
This session will provide insight on what is important to consumers and when it comes to packaging, how it’s created and where it originates from is just as important as how it looks and functions. Fiber-based packaging is a sustainable solution that is both functional and has less of an environmental impact. Moving toward a circular economy includes building a sustainable supply chain through collaboration alongside like-minded partners with continuous innovation. Sustana is uniquely suited to share expertise and key learnings on how recycled content in paper packaging and products supports the circular economy and meets consumer demands.
Empower is building a global plastic waste ecosystem based on the same philosophy as the Norwegian bottle deposit system. By giving plastic waste a value we can crowdsource collection and segregation at source and keep materials in the economy. Empower aims to stop leakage of plastic into the environment and cost-efficiently incentivise collection of leaked waste. The solution functions digitally via a mobile app. By tracking plastic waste and making digital inventories, they ensure that most of it is reused and recycled. This is done by setting up collection points around the world, together with local partners who then issue financial rewards in the form of digital tokens, in return for the deposit of plastic. Empower does not take ownership of collected materials or data, but helps the local collectors to get both funding for cleanups and to match with potential buyers of materials. This way they create local waste collection infrastructure as well as local entrepreneurs and sustainable jobs within the waste management industry.
As consumer awareness and demand for sustainable, recyclable packaging have increased, so too has the pace at which brands are evolving to meet these packaging expectations, especially related to their single-use plastics packaging. This has a trickle effect on packaging manufacturers and converters. Faced with developing solutions at the speed and scale required by brands, they must ensure the alternative packages meet recyclability criteria AND contribute to a positive consumer experience. Innovation is at the center of our successful evolution and as a part of this approach, and a focus on performance, sustainability, and price, we are developing the technology to replace traditional plastic packaging with renewable, fiber-based materials.
Consumers, regulatory agencies and industry providers all understand the evolving environmental and health issues associated with the use of environmentally persistent plastics. Bans on the use of environmentally persistent plastics for single use consumer products, industry sustainability goals, pending taxes on producers of environmentally persistent plastics and consumer demands are all driving companies to replace environmentally persistent plastics with biologically degradable or otherwise waste stream manageable alternatives. The challenges in the production of alternative polymers, industry conversion to these polymers and the commercialization of products manufactured from these polymers at scale will be discussed. With a panel of scientific leaders involved in the scaled production and industry use of alternative polymers for consumer products, conference attendees will hear up-to-date successes and issues in achieving full commercialization of biologically degradable polymers. Conference attendees can send questions that they would like to hear addressed by the panel to the roundtable discussion moderator Branson W. Ritchie, Director of Technology Development and Implementation at the New Materials Institute (firstname.lastname@example.org.)
How can we convert single use water containers from petroleum-based to plant-based bottles, caps, and labels? Bill Horner and his team at Single Use Solutions have been working diligently to provide an answer to this question by establishing Model Sites around the world, to prove the conversion can be achieved in everyday practice. Horner will be sharing insights as to how this long-awaited breakthrough will soon become a reality.
The global growth in e-commerce and the changing behavior of online shopping is increasing packaging material consumption drastically. The recent pandemic has fast forwarded the e-commerce industry by 5 years but the used- packaging materials are often still from the late 90s. Forward thinking companies understand that modern shoppers care about the earth-friendliness of packaging and that consumers prefer buying from retailers who support environmental responsibility. Furthermore, negative press and unpleasant unboxing experience combined with the fact that everyone has a voice on social media can drive a product or even a company to succeed or fail. But the landscape of offers for sustainable packaging is broad, the certifications are often not harmonized and the regulations are different in each country or state. Missing recycling and composting infrastructure combined with reduced availability of materials make it hard for e-commerce sellers to make the right decisions. In this presentation you will learn about the challenge of designing and producing a commercially available alternative to virgin plastics and why increasing use of paper for packaging can only be a part of the solution.
At SABIC, we focus on various aspects of sustainability that are linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals designed to be a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all". In this presentation, I will talk about our SABIC’s Specialties offerings toward the carbon neutrality goals, including mechanical recycling, chemical upcycling and certified renewable solutions.
Trinseo will discuss how a plastics manufacturer transforms toward circularity. With the evolvement in the marketplace on sustainable products and consumer perceptions, the business model of the plastics manufacturers is evolving, including upward and downward integration or collaborations - developing and securing sustainable feedstocks, expanding sustainable product portfolios, utilizing scientific tools, decarbonization and innovative product design. Most importantly, concerted efforts among value chain partners are critical as circularity can only be achieved through collaborations.
The presentation will highlight green routes that generate value from waste streams via upcycling. Discussed in more depth will be three examples from different sectors, including the 1) upcycling of agro waste streams or CO2 into biochemicals, 2) presentation of the first known industrial bio-based metal recovery from lithium ion batteries and 3) enzymatic plastic degradation to useful monomers.
Day 2, Thursday 9 June, 2022
Chemical recycling of plastics is an emerging route to supplement mechanical recycling since polymers can be converted into monomer form. As opposed to mechanical recycling, wherein the polymer properties degrade with each cycle, the monomers can be re-polymerized without any polymer property degradation. Petrochemical and refining operations of the future will include more plastics oil, obtained from chemical recycling, in the feedstock mix to establish circularity in the plastics lifecycle or to qualify for fuels category. An important step in this value chain is to purify and upgrade the raw plastics oil obtained from depolymerization. This presentation will address this topic with special focus in the areas of mixed plastics and polystyrene chemical recycling.
Consumer and brand interest in more sustainable packaging continues to grow. Plant-based materials can serve as more eco-friendly alternatives that help meet sustainable packaging goals and interests. There are, however, opportunities to accelerate this transition to help realize the benefits plant-based packaging can provide. From education and collaboration, to data and policy, this session will focus on some of the opportunities to support broader adoption of more sustainable, plant-based packaging.
We know companies and consumers want to do the right thing but not as the expense of quality, performance, price or service. From plant-based ingredients to our broad choice of ready-made and custom designs, we've built a customer-oriented approach that makes it easy and affordable to switch to plant-based.
We'll take a moment to dive deeper into our latest, exclusive, bio-based material innovations, how these new materials are tackling real-world problems for consumers and crucially, the importance of intelligent product design in delivering sustainability.
It is good to clarify what biodegradability really means and how it needs to be verified. The only correct parameter to measure is the conversion of carbon to CO2 which must not reach 100% since part of the carbon is assimilated in unquantifiable biomass. Standardized tests under well-controlled and optimum laboratory conditions are needed in order to increase sensitivity and accuracy and to reduce variation.
In order to avoid littering it is strongly preferable to use the term compostable packaging instead of biodegradable. Moreover since compostability entails much more than just biodegradation including as well a timely disintegration and the absence of harmful or toxic components and degradation metabolites.
As biodegradation can be different from one environment to the other, generic claims should be avoided and environment where biodegradation will take place specified.
Finally, nuancing is also needed for distinguishing applications for which ready and rapid biodegradation is required from applications where persistence should be avoided and slow biodegradation can offer a solution.
Biodegradable products occur and biodegrade in all known environments. During the covid-19 pandemic, new large environmental pollution emerged due to the discarding of used protective masks. They can be found everywhere on land, waters, and seas. Certain ecologically oriented companies have started the production of biodegradable masks that are supposed to decompose in the natural environment. Extended areas of applications for ECHO Instruments respirometer system for measuring face masks and women sanitary pads/tampons will be presented. We will present the results and show some ways how to conduct such experiments.
Waste products made from bioplastic can also be found as waste in rivers or seas; therefore, it is important to understand what impact this plastic has to our environment. Algae are the most important group of organisms participating in the circulation of matter and energy in ecosystems. The synergy between bacteria, typically heterotrophic species, that use organic matter and O2 for growth while releasing CO2, and photosynthetic autotrophic microalgae, which use CO2 and sunlight for growth, incorporating nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous), allows for better efficiencies in water pollutants removal. The question on how this system works in biodegradation of bioplastic is very important for ecologists, researchers, and producers of bioplastics. Therefore, a new type of respirometry system – photo respirometer, for laboratory measurement of biodegradation in the marine environment will be presented. Intensive research work is still needed on the development of biodegradation measurements in order to optimize the measurement processes and shorten the analysis time.
A systematic approach using rounds of respirometry and disintegration testing was used to design for industrially compostable and home compostable multilayer packaging (MLP). The study incorporated two rounds of thermophilic composting (58°C) examining various film chemistries, thicknesses, adhesives, inks, and metallization variables. Respirometry and disintegration photography data from thermophilic composting revealed 12 monolayer films and MLP structures with greater than 90% carbon mineralization within 90 days, half the time allotted for certification under ASTM D6400 and D5338. These data also provided insights for MLP structure design for materials tested under mesophilic (35°C) and psychrotrophic (20°C) home composting conditions, demonstrating one structure achieving >97% carbon mineralization in 6 months of composting at 20°C. Thermal properties of the MLP structures have been studied using TGA and DSC, and water vapor transmission rates have been determined for both industrially and home compostable monomaterial films and MLP with many examples yielding <1 g/m2·24h. At 20°C home composting conditions, the laminations of regenerated cellulose with either poly(hydroxy alkanoates) or poly(butylene succinate-co-adipate) yielded faster carbon mineralization and disintegration than either regenerated cellulose or the polyester monomaterial films alone, illustrating an acceleration in degradation outcomes with complex MLP structures when compared to monomaterials.
Cashew Nutshell Liquid (CNSL) is a naturally occurring material that is relatively unknown. Essentially a waste stream from the process of removing cashew nuts from their shells, CNSL is a renewable feedstock worthy of consideration for companies and industries interested in getting greener. However, the use of CNSL should not be based solely on interest in increasing renewable content. CNSL has more to offer. The presentation will introduce Cashew Nutshell Liquid and its unique chemistry. CNSL and its component constituents will be reviewed in detail. The CNSL supply will be discussed, including where it comes from and how it fits within the cashew nut industry.As a natural material, we will present the results of a Life Cycle Assessment, including the environmental impact of cashew materials compared to phenolics. The presentation will also include results of toxicity tests.
Due to environmental and sustainability concerns, biobased materials play a key role in the formulation of packaging, cosmetics, and household cleaning products. As these sectors transition away from the use of petrochemical-derived material in favor of biobased (biomass-based) ingredients, manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors rely on carbon-14 analysis to receive precise results on biobased carbon during the R&D phases of product development and to validate biobased claims. Carbon-14 testing differentiates between biobased and petroleum-based sources, validating the percentage of biobased content in a product’s ingredients. The analysis is performed using an Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (AMS) instrument according to standardized methods such as ASTM D6866, ISO 16620 and EN 16640. Biobased testing also allows manufacturers and distributors to visibly display the use of biobased ingredients through certifications and eco-labels, several of which require carbon-14 testing for biobased content such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred Program's voluntary labeling initiative for biobased products.
Trinseo will summarize key trends and developments in our global shift toward circularity. Walter van het Hof will share regulatory developments and industry expectations, and will highlight his experience driving sustainability efforts for Trinseo globally and how the company anticipates on these.
The presentation will focus on aluminium packaging innovation and optimization, as a circular and sustainable solution for the plastic crisis. It will highlight Ball’s vision of the future of aluminium packaging and define key levers for enhancing its sustainability credentials and minimizing environmental impacts.
The presentation aims to show that in today’s world, holistic approach is critical to address each stage of the material and product life-cycle, in order to maximize sustainability performance and be suitable fit for the real circularity.
Sustainable manufacturing solutions are necessary to implement at this point in time. Oil spills, green initiatives and sustainability are not usually topics that go hand-in-hand. However, through research and innovation, there is a solution to revolutionize the industry. In fact, today’s oil response industry solves one problem by creating another. The entire industry has always cleaned up oil spills simply by moving the incident from one location to another, causing another problem entirely. Other products on the market are non-biodegradable and polypropylene-based — single use plastic, which is made using traditional manufacturing processes that can cause land and water pollution. In fact, each competitor's 10-pound boom is equivalent to 3,000 plastic straws, and even minor oil spills can require many truckloads of booms. As you know, these polypropylene products end up in landfills and never break down. To combat this problem and implement green, sustainable oil spill response throughout all manufacturing and all industries, Green Boom is the only biodegradable line of oil-only absorbents. By choosing green, we are able to help decrease the world’s reliance on single-use polypropylene, increase the use of renewable agricultural resources and, of course, reduce adverse environmental and health impacts.