Sustainable Plastics - May/June 2020 - 34

bioplastics
continued from page 33
said Bortolon. "The first three
letters are P-L-A, as the first
material we started looking at
as a raw material was polylactic acid. The last two letters are
R-A, from Roechling Automotive, who was our partner when
we started to develop this new
business idea, in 2007. We then
played with a few names and
Plantura was the outcome."
The company expanded and
in 2015, Plantura Italia was
launched. This was the company that was absorbed into
Benvic Europe in 2019, and
through that merger Benvic
gained access to the market
for renewably sourced biobased plastics.
Benvic, a multinational compounder currently operating 7
plants across Europe, is owned
by Investindustrial, one of the
major private equity funds in
Europe. The fund is controlled
by an Italian family active in a
wide range of sectors. The acquisition was designed to enable the group to become the
strategic partner of current and
future customers with an offer
of high performance, environmentally-friendly biopolymers
for different sectors, including
the automotive, food packaging, cosmetic and medical industries.

'Reducing CO2 emissions
is the driving force for
bioplastics'
Bioplastics are still only a
tiny niche in the plastics indus-

> Toy bricks from
Plantura PLA

34

May/June 2020

try. And there are various inhibiting factors to growth, among
which ignorance, quality, cost
and supply. So what drove
the founders of Plantura to
dive into this highly uncertain,
emerging market?
"The strategy behind Plantura was to approach the market with a product that was not
based on oil. That meant no oilbased biodegradable materials,
but a renewably sourced biobased product", said Bortolon.
"And no, bioplastics is not taking land that would be used for
food crops."
According to bioplastics association European Bioplastics, studies have 'decisively
shown' that the impact of biobased plastics on the available
arable land from 2010 to 2024
was negligible.
"Every year, 3% of arable land
is abandoned as exhausted and
no longer useable. According to
European Bioplastics, in 2024
some 0.021% of all arable land
will be used for biopolymers,"
he said. "There is no problem at
this point in time."
Plantura, he went on, focuses
on PLA, but there are also many
other bio-based resins. It is a
group that can be divided into
three distinct categories. First,
there is a category of biopolymers derived directly from vegetable biomass, for example,
from polysaccharose, starch,
cellulose, protein, natural rubber and natural oils.
"Then we have biopolymers
produced by bacteria, from
sugar derivates by directed polymerisation. The most famous

of these are the PHA and PHB
biopolyesters, but there are others. The bacteria digest the sugar or the amides and produce
the polymer inside the cell," he
explained.
The third group consists of
biopolymers obtained from
biobased precursors, intermediates or polymers, extracted or
derived from biomass and then
polymerised. "One big family
are the bio-polyesters, PLA,
and polyesters from bio-based
aliphatic acid. But also polymers that are made from monomers derived from bio-ethanol,
butanol and fermented sugar
- bio-PA, bio-PU, bio-PET, bioPE and bio-PVC - belong to this
group," he added.
"So, there are many technologies, and we simply don't know
which will come out on top.
It is difficult to predict which
technology will be the winning
technology or the winning philosophy for the future," he said.
"But: all these technologies will
have an important impact on
the CO2 emission."
Personally, Vittorio Bortolon believes that reducing
CO2 emissions will be the
driving force for the future of
bio-based plastics. It is a force
that is emerging along two
parallel tracks: one, through
the increased recycling of
fossil-based materials; and
the second through the use
of biomass-based plastics.
Both trends are being pushed
and pulled along by consumer
opinion and legislation handed down by the European
Union, with as aim to reduce

the impact of plastic waste in
the environment.

PLA: biodegradable
and biodurable

Benvic's Italian brand, too,
is pursuing a dual course, as
it brings two families of PLA
products to the market, both
based on biomass.
"One is biodegradable; the
other is bio-durable for different
applications and both are biobased," explained Bortolon. "We
want to avoid oil-based plastics:
despite a short-term benefit for
costs, long term they are not a
sustainable solution."
So what is PLA? "Polylactic
acid is very well known material. Starting from corn or sugarcane, via fermentation you
produce lactic acid, and then
via a chemical reaction produce
the polylactic acid. The ratio between sugar and the polymer is
1.4 kilos sugar for 1 kilo of polymer, which is very favourable,"
he said.
He continued: "The carbon
footprint is also far smaller. We
achieve around 0.5 kg of CO2
per kilo of product. All other
oil-based plastics are above 4.5
kg of Co2 per kg of polymer. So
the benefit is there. And: we are
talking here about PLA but almost all the biopolymers are in
the same situation."
In the area of bio-durables,
Plantura is active mainly in the
automotive and the furniture
sectors. In furniture, the company's first customer was a
French furniture company for
whom it has been producing



Sustainable Plastics - May/June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sustainable Plastics - May/June 2020

Contents
Sustainable Plastics - May/June 2020 - Cover1
Sustainable Plastics - May/June 2020 - Cover2
Sustainable Plastics - May/June 2020 - Contents
Sustainable Plastics - May/June 2020 - 4
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