Aimplas, the Plastics Technology Centre, opened the seventh edition of its International Seminar on Biopolymers and Sustainable Composites, a two-day meeting in Valencia that brings together bioplastic experts from around the world. Around 20 speakers addressed the challenges and opportunities of bioplastics and biocomposites in a context characterized by key legislative developments affecting such materials and consumer demand for environmentally friendly products.
During the event’s inauguration, Mireia Mollà i Herrera, the Valencian Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition, focused on the challenges and opportunities facing bioplastics and biocomposites in light of the fight against climate change. Mollà highlighted the role of Aimplas as a point of reference in terms of plastics innovation and knowledge transfer, and highlighted how its experience in the circular economy will help reintroduce materials into the production process.
Oliver Buchholz from European Bioplastics explained that global bioplastic production is set to increase by 15% by 2024 and that, although packaging continues to lead the way, applications in other sectors (including the textile, agriculture, automotive and construction industries) have increased their market share in terms of materials from renewable sources. In relation to the European Green Deal and legislation on single-use plastics, he issued a warning about food safety issues that could arise if polymers were replaced by materials that are not so strictly regulated and stressed that further research is essential.
Angelo Innamorati from the European Commission emphasized the usefulness of biodegradable plastics in agriculture. Currently, just three out of the 75 tonnes of plastic used are biodegradable. This means there is still considerable room for growth in products such as agricultural films, micro-irrigation equipment and plant stakes. Jordi Simón, the Technical Director of Asobiocom, focused on certification, while Elena Domínguez, a researcher at Aimplas and seminar coordinator, sought to highlight the importance of EU directives, since these will help promote new business models involving waste recovery to obtain polymers from renewable sources, thereby bringing biorefineries and the economy together.
The Waste Agency of Catalonia, OWS and TÜV Austria Iberia were involved in the segment on standardization, certification and environmental impact. Fkur, Neste, Kuraray, Ecoplas, Total Corbion, Covestro and Quimóvil then went on to present their innovations. These included bio-based toys, household goods reinforced with natural fibres, 100% recyclable bio PET bottles, food packaging nets made from fruit and vegetable waste, biodegradable products as a clear example of the circular economy, bio-based waterproof fabrics and waterproof inks approved for use in compostable products.
The second day was dedicated to biotechnology. The various speakers revealed how enzymes may be the key to biodegradation processes and also addressed the sustainable production of biopolymers through microorganisms in biorefineries.