Alpla Group has announced that it has acquired what it describes as a ‘significant’ minority stake in Panara, a biopolymers company based in Nitra, Slovakia.
The acquisition, said the company, is in line with Alpla’s strategic focus on increased investment in the circular economy. The packaging specialist has a clearly laid-out approach based on the sustainability tenets of the four Rs: Replace, Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.
These are crucial to identifying and advancing the areas of action relevant to achieving its goal of ultimately achieving a functioning circular economy.
For Alpla, the investment in Panara comes under the heading of ‘replace’: exploring the use of alternative bio-based or biodegradable materials that can replace conventional fossil-based materials in new, sustainable packaging solutions.
“Panara has a lot of experience in the area of bio-based plastics. In acquiring a stake in the company and partnering with Panara, we want to leverage this expertise and make the transfer of knowledge possible for our applications and customers,” said Alpla Chairman Günther Lehner, who is responsible for sustainability, circular economy, technology development and innovation.
Founded in 2001, Panara has been conducting research in the area of biopolymers since 2006, with a focus on the development of new PHA/PLA blends. The company has collaborated over the years with the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava and the Centre for Applied Research of Environmentally Friendly Polymeric Materials (CEPOMA) in Nitra. Panara recently announced that it was introducing its first commercial bioplastic to the market under the brand name Nonoilen.
The new 100% bio-based material is a blend of PHA, PLA with small quantities of other bio-based components – modifiers and fillers - added in. It is recyclable and can be completely industrially composted at the end of its life cycle. Temperature-resistant and stable, it can also be modified from being very rigid to highly flexible. According to Panara, the material can also be processed on all standard production lines used for plastics processing.
Christian Zmölnig, Director of Corporate Research and Innovation at ALPLA, sees the collaboration as another step in the direction of the packaging of the future: ‘As a technology leader in the area of packaging materials, we engage in ongoing work with partners to develop new raw materials that will minimise carbon dioxide emissions as well as resource consumption.’
Alpla’s other research in the ‘Replace’ area includes the development of paper-based bottles with the company Paboco, for example. The company has also unveiled a home-compostable coffee capsule to the public.
Its ‘Reduce’ pillar focuses on an ongoing reduction in material consumption; Re-use is all about optimising the properties of plastic bottles for reuse systems and Recycle addresses the overarching objective of keeping as much plastic as possible in the recycling cycle.