Plastics can also be produced from fibre-based raw materials, for example from sugar cane. (Credit: Victoria Priessnitz/unsplash)
A bioplastic for every application
Companies worldwide are currently in the process of reducing their CO2 emissions and making production more eco-friendly – and the packaging industry is no exception. There are various ways to achieve this, from using reusable resources to saving material to novel, more eco-friendly packaging materials. FKuR, a German company based in Willich in the Lower Rhine region, specialises in the latter field.
Founded in 2003, the company focuses on bioplastics – in other words, materials whose properties are akin to those of “conventional” plastics made from fossil raw materials, but which are produced using renewable resources. In their application, these bioplastics are just as versatile as conventional plastics and are thus a multifaceted and flexible packaging material.
However, when it comes down to the details, these plastics may differ. One key factor here is their classification as bio-based and/or biodegradable. Bio-based, for example, means a plastic was made from renewable resources. As a rule, these are fibre-based and obtained from sugar cane or cellulose, for example. Biodegradable, on the other hand, means that microorganisms such as bacteria, as well as fungi and algae, can decompose the plastic without leaving any harmful residue. Ideally, then, a bioplastic is both bio-based and biodegradable.
Production plants can remain in use
However, that also depends on the respective application. Depending on the product, bioplastics need to exhibit a range of properties, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution in bioplastics. FKuR meets this challenge with a broad portfolio of different plastics that are each suited to their own, specific field of application.
The bioplastics can also be used for cosmetic packaging, as shown here in a user example from the manufacturer EOS srl. (Credit: EOS srl/FKuR)
The Bio-Flex family, for example, is suitable for thermoforming and injection-moulding processes, and thus for the manufacture of coffee cups (to-go) or tins and jars for the cosmetics and food sectors. According to company statements, these ready-to-use plastic compounds have the same properties as standard fossil plastics and can be processed just as easily in existing production plants, with no need for further mixing.
With Terralene, on the other hand, FKuR has added a bio-compound to its portfolio which is used in combination with conventional recycled materials. Here, up to 35 percent of bio-based plastic is added to the recycled fossil plastics. According to company statements, the plastic is fully recyclable, despite its being a compound, and can be introduced into existing polyethylene material flows.
FKuR's bioplastics are used in the production of coffee cups, for example. (Credit: FKuR)
Terralene is primarily used in packaging for the food and non-food sectors. Compared to biodegradable plastics such as PLA (polylactic acid), Terralene has a remarkable oxygen and steam barrier. This means moisture- and oxygen-sensitive products can be packaged in bioplastic to extend their shelf lives, without the loss of any other, valuable packaging functions.
In short, the FKuR product range proves there is still a lot of room for manoeuvre in the field of bioplastics. Especially in light of scarce resources and circular economies, it might be worth thinking about switching to these novel packaging materials – or adding them to existing portfolios, at least.