Bioplastic planting pots for hop growers 29:04:2020

LIFE BioTHOP project addresses the challenge of developing a new cross-sector value chain to produce biodegradable, compostable and recyclable products with enhanced environmental sustainability and mechanical functionality. These new bioplastic products will compete with the fossil-based counterparts in terms of price by utilising low cost waste-derived hop fillers; in mechanical functionality, through the use of a composite approach; and in sustainability terms, through the vertical energy integration of mass site production pathways.

BioTHOP PLA sadilni lončkiTECOS, a partner of the LIFE BioTHOP project, is pleased to announce that the first validation trial on the production of bioplastic planters has succeeded! The construction design of a new prototype mould was coupled with the numerical simulations of injection process, which has proven to be a successful method in the production of tools specially adapted for the processing of biopolymer materials. The first validation series was carried out on the production of bio planters made of pure PLA material, certified for its biodegradability under the industrial compositing environment. With this preliminary testing we were able to define a technological window of the processing conditions for injection moulding technology and to prepare the test bed environment for the introduction of new biocomposite materials, that are currently under the development stage in the frame of LIFE BioTHOP project. Once the optimized material formulation, based on PLA and wasted hop fibres, will be confirmed, we will start with the pilot line production of bioplastic planters on this prototype tool. The planting pots will be primarily applied for the cultivation of hop seedlings, though after the certified standards on biocompostability validation, these products will be suitable also for all related application fields in horticultural and agricultural industry. 

In addition, we managed to include in this preliminary trial study another interesting project that is also a part of LIFE environmental program. It is a #LIFE Citruspack, under which the development of a variety of biocomposite materials is taking place, and are based on PLA bioplastic and citrus fibers, coming as by-products of citrus juice production. TECOS, which also acts as a partner in this project, has implemented the first replicative project on introducing the CitrusPLA materials in new sectoral products. To this end, we have produced a limited series of Citruspack planters and confirmed the potential for using these materials also in the horticultural and agricultural production sectors.

Replikativni primer CitrusPLA lončkov

Plastics used in packaging accounts for 39.9% of the whole European plastic converter demand, that was equal to 51.2 Mt in 2018. Another sector in rise for the plastics demand is agriculture. Packaging is by far the largest contributor to plastic waste with a 63% (17.8 Mt) and agriculture is closely following with a 24% (6.5 Mt) contribution to the total collected plastic waste. So high percentages are the result of disposable plastic items with very short lifespan period.

European Parliament has recently posed an answer to this problem, by sweeping the ban on single-use plastics by 2021 in an effort to tackle the pollution in seas, fields and waterways. Due to negative pollution effects caused by fossil-based plastics and the length of time for which these materials remain in the natural environment, there is a very real and urgent need to find more sustainable alternatives. Bioplastics are a family of materials that offer advantages over traditional polymers, with a major role to play in the circular bio-economy. The market for bioplastics is growing at a fast pace (20% per annum); their production results in 60% less GHGs. The global plastics market currently produces over 359 Mt and bioplastics account for less than 1.5% of this market.

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