"PLASTICS represents the entire plastics supply chain, so we have an opportunity and responsibility to be a leader in plastics sustainability."
Supporting the entire US plastics supply chain – the only organisation to do so – the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) represents nearly one million professionals and has since 1937 has been working to make its members and the industry more globally competitive, all while advancing recycling and sustainability. The company is hosting the second annual Bioplastics Week from August 21 to Friday 25.
For this week’s 5 Minutes With... PLASTICS' Assistant Director, Patrick Krieger, shares his expert view with Dave Songer on the advantages of using feedstocks, how effective collaboration can aid the switch to bioplastics and why – with so many innovative products on the market – he uses his mother’s wisdom to pick his favourite.
Dave Songer (DS): What has led you to working within the bioplastics space?
Patrick Krieger (PK): Serendipity. I was looking for an opportunity to grow within a role that challenged me and afforded me the opportunity to be a jack-of-all-trades. Working for the third largest US manufacturing industry certainly keeps me busy, and one day is seldom like the day before.
Bioplastics have an outsized role in history of the plastics industry. The first man-made plastics were bioplastics, and today some of the biggest industry innovations are in bioplastics – both in new polymers and new feedstocks. So I get to honour where plastics have come from, and also get to be a part of where plastics are going.
DS: What do you enjoy most about your role?
PK: Even before my time at Texas A&M University, I’ve always loved agriculture and science. As a kid in Texas, I would spend the summer at my grandparents’ ranch reading books about the rainforest and feeding the cows. Working with the Bioplastics Division at the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) lets me do both. At PLASTICS, I’m surrounded by amazing colleagues and I work closely with our members, all of whom are fun and easy to work with. Our CEO, Bill Carteaux, works hard to make sure that PLASTICS is an organisation that is reflective of the plastics industry: filled with superior people who do great things. We set high expectations for ourselves, but that is because we are confident and trust each other to accomplish them.
DS:What are the current priorities for PLASTICS?
PK: To promote and advance the plastics manufacturing industry and strengthen its global competitiveness in a sustainable way. PLASTICS ( @PLASTICS_US ) represents the entire plastics supply chain, so we have an opportunity and responsibility to be a leader in plastics sustainability. Within the Bioplastics Division, the group at PLASTICS that represents the US bioplastics industry, we work on behalf of this sector to educate, advocate and collaborate.
DS: What are the biggest challenges the industry faces?
PK: Regarding bio-based bioplastics, infrastructure efficiency is an important nut to crack. The advantage of using first-generation feedstocks such as corn and sugarcane is that there are developed systems in place for their collection and transport. As new feedstocks, such as switch grass or biogenic methane, come online the infrastructure around them will need to evolve, and that’s just to get the feedstock from the field to the front gate. At the point of actual polymer synthesis, the industry is working on making the processes more efficient and in growing production volumes to obtain the benefits from the economy of scale. Already the industry has seen substantial growth, with bio-based bioplastics projected to see more than a 50 percent increase in production capacity from 2016 to 2021.
The industry deserves a lot of credit for doing this in a responsible, sustainable way. For example, Total Corbion PLA has been certified by Bonsucro, which works to ensure sugarcane is produced using sustainable agricultural principles. Eastman sources cellulose for its Treva line from sustainably-managed forests certified by the Forrest Stewardship Council. Braskem’s ethanol supplier code of conduct goes beyond ensuring sugarcane is grown responsibly from an environmental standpoint, and includes priorities like gender equality and promoting the development of local communities.
More broadly, the bioplastics industry continues to work to educate on what bioplastics are, where they come from, how they can be used and what are their end-of-life options. As a division, we work to develop materials such as our ‘Bioplastics Simplified: Attributes of Biobased and Biodegradable Plastics’, as well as events such as Bioplastics Week, which is taking place between August 21-25, 2017. The show allows us to give people the information that they want and need during a dedicated week where we create social media conversations and drive awareness. More work can be done in this area, and we hope to move the needle on bioplastics knowledge.
DS: What advice would you give for a company looking to switch from traditional, oil-based plastics to bioplastics?
PK: Patience and collaboration is key. It’s an exciting time of innovation and experimentation for bioplastics, so we advise working with your suppliers and processors and being willing to try new things. Joining groups like the Bioplastics Division of PLASTICS or attending events like the Re|Focus Sustainability & Recycling Summit can provide education and the networking valuable to those who want to be leaders in this space, and those who want to learn from established leaders in this space.
DS: And finally, what is your favourite bio-based product?
PK: I think it is those products that help me tell the story of bioplastics – and that’s not just because my members may read this. The Dasani bottle made out of 30 percent bio-based PET is both well-known and also supports the point that bio-based bioplastics can be readily recyclable. Also, Arkema’s castor bean-based nylons, which can be used in car fuel lines, demonstrate that bio-based bioplastics can be incredibly durable. Compostable bags by Novamont and BASF, or coffee pods using NatureWorks’ PLA, show the significant role that bioplastics play in diverting food waste from landfill and promote composting and/or anaerobic digestion.
However, bioplastics hold so much promise for our future and do so many different things, it’s difficult to pick just one, so I’ll have to borrow a dodge from my mom, who when asked which of her sons is her favourite, she says: “they are all my favourite”.
DS: Thanks very much Patrick and good luck with Bioplastics week!
Our last 5 minutes with...
Bio-Based World News will bring this 5 minute feature to our readers every week. This will able to put a face to the brand and provide established businesses and new start-ups the crucial advise they need in this industry. If you would like to be interviewed about your own bio-based/sustainable business then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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