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January 2018

SIRIM Bioplastics Pilot Plant, Malaysia

SIRIM Bioplastics Pilot Plant, Malaysia 600 400 developer

The government-owned research technology company SIRIM has built a first-of-its-kind pilot plant in Malaysia to convert palm oil into versatile biodegradable plastic materials. The facility is situated in Shah Alam, Selangor state. It is a fully automated plant and produces various types of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs).

The pilot plant, which is installed at the Jalan Beremban facility of SIRIM in Shah Alam, became operational in July 2011. It uses palm oil mill effluent (POME) and crude palm kernel oil as feedstock to produce 2,000L of different PHA materials. The palm oil-based plastics are expected to become an alternative to the non-biodegradable petroleum-based plastics in the country.

The facility was designed and built jointly by SIRIM Berhad, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

SIRIM background

Palm is the most prominent agricultural industry in Malaysia and is grown in about 4.7 million hectares of land across the country. About 600,000 people depend on the crop, producing about 70Mtpa. There are about 430 palm mills and the crop accounts for about $15bn in exports (2010). It is available throughout the year as a result of both high rainfall and sunlight.

The country is also home to one of the largest palm oil industry-based agricultural waste producers. The lignocellulosic palm wastes are converted to biomethane and biomass. However, about 24Mt of POME wastes sent to ponds pollute the underground water resources.

“The SIRIM pilot plant uses palm oil mill effluent and crude palm kernel oil to produce 2,000L of different PHA materials.”

Technological development and finance

In 2006, SIRIM researchers demonstrated that the POME could be fermented, extracted and converted into organic acids to produce polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) polyesters. The research was carried out in two phases led by the SIRIM researchers. MIT provided the cloning for PHA biosynthesis genes.

The Malaysia Palm Oil Board, the University Malaya, UPM, USM and SIRIM received MYR2.85m ($0.9m) funding for the first phase of research under the Intensification of Research in Priority Areas (IRPA) programme. The first phase involved R&D of the PHA biosynthesis process and recovery processes, materials and product testing, and product applications.

“Palm is the most prominent agricultural industry in Malaysia; there are 430 palm mills and the crop accounts for about $15bn a year in exports.”

The study was conducted with MYR21m ($6.7m) financial support from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation under the Technofound Programme. This phase involved the optimisation and integration of the manufacturing process and establishment of the pilot plant. The pilot plant represents one tenth of the industrial scale facility. It will enable the researchers to further improve and optimise the processes through data collection, and mitigate risks.

SIRIM bioreactors

The SIRIM bioplastics project has integrated production processes and bioreactor facilities designed and fabricated indigenously. The pilot scale plant is based on SIRIM bioreactor technology. The sealed bioreactor vessels have foam sensors, a sparging system and mirror-polished 0.5µm finish interiors for precise environmental control. The sparging system enhances oxygenation and the foam sensor detects unwanted bubbles to accelerate the entire fermentation process.

The bioreactors are designed to allow scaling up to the capacities of between 10L and 2,000L, depending on specific requirements. The process also has the flexibility of total or semi-automated operations. Technical specifications of the bioreactors include the use of SS316 food grade stainless steel materials, coil or jacketed type cooling and heating systems, Rusthon turbine mixers, 415V 3-phase AC power, centralised and individual process control systems, Department of Occupational Safety and Health-approved mechanical seal systems, and a pressure vessel.

SIRIM process technology

The bioreactor system uses microorganisms for the production of bioplastics and other renewable sources. It also facilitates multipurpose anaerobic and aerobic bioreactions to produce organic acids such as caramelor and vinegar.

“The value of the global bioplastics market is expected to reach about $10bn by 2020 and account for 30% of total plastic demand.”

The technology provides precise and stringent environmental control of acidity, oxygen, temperature and pressure inside the bioreactor to facilitate the bacterial fermentation process. The process optimises both raw materials and productivity for efficient production of linear polyesters. It also avoids contamination and produces better outputs, thereby reducing the overall production costs.

Bioplastics market growth

The use of non-toxic bioplastics is increasing in the medical, packaging, food, toys, textile and horticulture industries. There are also plans to use them in the electronic and automotive industries. The value of the global bioplastics market is expected to reach about MYR30.3bn ($10bn) by 2020 as a result of consumer preferences and environmental concerns. It currently accounts for about 15% of the total plastic demand and this is expected to rise to 30% by 2020.

Biodegradable plastic produced from sugar cane is expected to cost about MYR28 ($9.47) per kg, while that produced from palm kernel oil is about MYR7 ($2.36) per kg. The cheaper costs are credited to palm oil wastes.

Source: Chemicals Technology

Oil’s Dream to Grow in Plastics Dims as Coke Turns to Plants

Oil’s Dream to Grow in Plastics Dims as Coke Turns to Plants 960 583 developer

By Anna Hirtenstein

Companies that make packaging from plants instead of fossil fuels are starting to challenge the oil industry’s ambition to increase the supply of raw materials for plastics.

Use of bioplastics made from sugar cane, wood and corn will grow at least 50 percent in the next five years, according to the European Bioplastics Association in Berlin, whose members include Cargill Inc. and Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp. German chemical giant BASF SE and the Finnish paper maker Stora Enso Oyj have stepped into the business to meet demand from the likes of Coca-Cola Co. to Lego A/S.

“Biochemicals and bioplastics could erode a portion of oil demand, much like recycling can erode overall virgin plastics demand,” said Pieterjan Van Uytvanck, a senior consultant at Wood Mackenzie, a research group focused on the oil industry. “Provided the challenges facing biomass today are overcome, it will become a larger portion of the supply.”

Moviegoers famously learned in the 1967 film “The Graduate” that “there’s a great future in plastics.” Oil companies make ethylene and other basic building blocks for plastic. They’ve been eyeing that market for growth as electric cars threaten to trim demand for gasoline.

Plastic material’s ubiquity in packaging has left the world literally swimming in disused bottles, bags and wraps. That’s starting to worry both environmentalists and the companies that use it the most. There’ll be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and those materials are finding their way into the food chain.

Bioplastics currently make up about 1 percent of the plastics market, according the industry’s organization in Europe. They are made by processing sugars from plants and tend to have a smaller carbon footprint than their conventional counterparts. Some are also designed to naturally degrade after use. Top producers include Sao Paulo-based Braskem SA, NatureWorks LLC in the U.S. and Novamont SpA of Italy.

“Attitudes are evolving,” said David Eyton, the head of technology at BP Plc. “The question that faces the petrochemicals industry that has yet to really be answered is, ‘How are people going to deal with some of the environmental impacts of petrochemicals? Particularly plastics, which are a growing concern.’”

The International Energy Agency forecasts that growth in the plastics market should boost petroleum demand. It takes about 8.5 barrels of oil-derived naphtha to produce the a ton of ethylene needed to manufacture 160,000 plastic bags, according to Bloomberg Intelligence calculations.

“Petrochemicals will take center stage in driving oil demand,” said IEA analyst Tae-Yoon Kim. “This is why oil majors are very much focusing on petrochemicals.”

Saudi Arabian Oil Co., Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Total SA are expanding their plastic footprints, according to the IEA.

“We’re expecting petrochemicals to grow 4 percent per year,” said Ahmad Al Khowaiter, chief technology officer at Saudi Aramco. “That’s an opportunity we’re really trying to leverage.”

The new technology will have to compete against massive refineries that convert hundreds of thousands of barrels of every day into plastics.

“Alternative raw materials must be competitive,” Stora Enso’s Chief Financial Officer Seppo Parvi said in an interview in London, anticipating eventual price parity with crude plastics. “I’m confident we’ll be able to do it.”

Demand for bioplastics also needs to grow among retailers and consumers, according to Coke.

“It won’t ever work if there’s just one big consumer company like a Coca-Cola trying to drive suppliers,” said Ben Jordan, head of environmental policy at Coca-Cola. “You need more demand out there in industry.”

Source: Bloomberg

Theresa May proposes plastic-free supermarket aisles in green strategy

Theresa May proposes plastic-free supermarket aisles in green strategy 620 372 developer

PM to declare war on scourge of plastic waste as she unveils much-heralded 25-year environmental plan

Theresa May is to announce a war on plastic waste, with proposed policies including plastics-free aisles in supermarkets and a tax on takeaway containers.

The prime minister will set out her ambition to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years in a major speech on Thursday in which she will promise the UK will lead internationally on environmental issues. But campaign groups said the aspirations would need to be backed up by legislation.

They also warned that leaving the EU risked weakening environmental protections, and called for the government to promise it would not water down green standards in exchange for rapid post-Brexit trade deals.

May’s speech, unveiling a much-heralded 25-year plan for the environment in England, drawn up by Michael Gove’s environment department with input from pressure groups, is expected to focus heavily on plastic waste, which she calls “one of the great environmental scourges of our time”.

As reported before the speech, May will promise to extend the hugely successful 5p levy on plastic bags to smaller shops, and seek evidence on a possible charge on single-use plastic containers such as takeaway boxes.

Other promised initiatives include a plan to urge supermarkets to introduce aisles without any plastic packaging, where all food is sold loose, along with new research funding for “plastics innovation” and aid to help developing nations deal with their plastic waste.

In extracts of her speech released in advance by Downing Street, May said: “In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly.”

Much of this waste ends up in waterways and oceans, May will say, with one in three fish caught in the Channel containing pieces of plastic.

“This truly is one of the great environmental scourges of our time,” she will say. “Today I can confirm that the UK will demonstrate global leadership. We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates.”

Greenpeace said the announcements on plastics were “a missed opportunity”, with a particular omission being no plans for a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, which the group said was shown to work well.

Sue Hayman, the shadow environment secretary, said the 5p bag charge was already in place for smaller shops in Scotland and Wales, meaning the government was “simply playing catch-up”.

The overall plan was “a cynical attempt at rebranding the Tories’ image and appears to contain only weak proposals”, she said.

The wider 25-year plan, with the stated aim of ensuring the current generation is the first to leave the natural world in a better state than it was before, will also be published on Thursday.

Environmental groups were shown the plan before the speech, and it is understood some felt it remained vague in sections. For example there is a chapter on holding the government to account on its green record, but it is not clear how this will happen.

It is also understood that one section of the plan, on how to make planning and development more environmentally friendly and protect the green belt, remained blank in the copies, possibly because it had not been finalised.

The chief executive of Friends of the Earth, Craig Bennett, said the government’s record on green issues such as air quality and fracking meant he was sceptical about its future ambitions.

“It’s easy to make lots of commitments about things that will be done when you’re no longer in office,” he said. “And the point is, if you look at the government’s performance on some key issues over the last year, there’s some real reasons to be concerned.”

Ben Stafford, the campaigns director of the conservation group WWF, said: “It will be a question of what are the delivery mechanisms set out in the plan.

“We would say that you need more comprehensive and ambitious legislation with far-reaching targets if you’re going to get into a position where you’re actually improving the environment in the longer term. It’s a very good question as to whether they’ve got the commitment to do that.”

It was vital that Brexit did not lead to any deterioration in standards, he added. “We would expect that future trade policies need to have the environment at their heart. These should be embedding high environmental standards and not trading them off for any sort of competitive advantage.”

In her speech, May is to announce a plan to use the Commonwealth heads of government summit in April to push for a charter across member states to reduce the amount of plastic waste in oceans.

Stafford said that with the UK a “relatively small contributor” to plastic waste by global standards compared with the likes of India and Sri Lanka, this sort of action in the wake of Brexit was likely to be crucial.

“We and others have welcomed the statements Michael Gove has made as environment secretary, but the real test will come in what we hear tomorrow, and the sense of what kind of leadership the UK is going to give on the world stage and through trade policy,” he said.

Source: The Guardian

UK faces build-up of plastic waste

UK faces build-up of plastic waste 624 351 developer

By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analyst

The UK’s recycling industry says it doesn’t know how to cope with a Chinese ban on imports of plastic waste.

Britain has been shipping up to 500,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling in China every year, but now the trade has been stopped.
At the moment the UK cannot deal with much of that waste, says the UK Recycling Association.
Its chief executive, Simon Ellin, told the BBC he had no idea how the problem would be solved in the short term.
“It’s a huge blow for us… a game-changer for our industry,” he said. “We’ve relied on China so long for our waste… 55% of paper, 25% plus of plastics.
“We simply don’t have the markets in the UK. It’s going to mean big changes in our industry.”
China has introduced the ban from this month on “foreign garbage” as part of a move to upgrade its industries.
Other Asian nations will take some of the plastic, but there will still be a lot left.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has admitted that he was slow to spot the problem coming.
The UK organisation Recoup, which recycles plastics, said the imports ban would lead to stock-piling of plastic waste and a move towards incineration and landfill.
Peter Fleming, from the Local Government Association, told the BBC: “Clearly there’s a part to play for incineration but not all parts of the country have incinerators.

“It’s a challenge – but mostly in the short term… and we will cope. In the longer term we need a much more intelligent waste strategy.”
Any move towards burning more plastic waste, though, would be met with fierce resistance from environmental groups.

‘Wrong answer’

Louise Edge, from Greenpeace, told the BBC: “The government has got us into this mess by continually putting off decisions and passing the buck.
“Incineration is the wrong answer – it’s a high-carbon non-renewable form of generating electricity. It also creates toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
“If you build incinerators it creates a market for the next 20 years for single-use plastics, which is the very thing we need to be reducing right now.”
The government is consulting with industry over a tax on single-use plastics and a deposit scheme for bottles.

Reduce and simplify

Mr Gove told the BBC his long-term goals were to reduce the amount of plastic in the economy overall, reduce the number of different plastics, simplify local authority rules so people can easily judge what’s recyclable and what isn’t as well as increase the rate of recycling.
The UK must, he said, “stop off-shoring its dirt”.
The Commons Environmental Audit Committee said Britain should introduce a sliding scale tax on plastic packaging with the hardest to recycle being charge most and the easiest to recycle being charged least.
There is broad agreement over much of that agenda, but it is not yet clear how the UK will achieve that long-term goal – or how it will solve its short-term China crisis.

Source: BBC