The European Union has in recent years taken a number of decisive steps in pursuit of a more circular economy. With the formulation of its Action Plan for the Circular Economy, the Plastics Strategy and the Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive, the EU has pushed sustainability, and especially sustainability in plastics, to the top of the agenda.
The new requirements and regulations have strongly impacted - and continue to impact - the industry, driving innovation in response to the changing needs and demands of a more sustainable future. Manufacturers of machinery and materials have worked to develop the more environmentally responsible products demanded by the market.
"We are facing a real paradigm shift that is influencing the development of the latest generation of extrusion machines capable of operating with even greener formulations" says Massimiliano Fenili, technical manager at Italy-based Bausano. "Our customers are becoming increasingly environmentally aware and are investing in advanced technologies and in a virtuous policy of recovery and recycling."
Bausano, specialised in the design and production of customised extrusion lines for plastics processing, has developed technology that can handle a wide range of eco-friendly formulations: plant fibre-plastic composites, blends that integrate environmentally sustainable plastics, such as PLA, with a plant component (rice husks, coffee grounds, banana peels, seaweed, almond shells, avocado kernels, cork and other plant residues). The company has also developed technology that makes it possible to process a wood plastic composite (WPC), made from plastic waste and a plant-based component of some kind.
Possible formulations include:
- ABS terpolymer derived from the recovery of post-consumer electronic equipment (WEEE) currently undergoing testing;
- LDPE thermoplastic polymer from bottle caps with up to 60 per cent post-consumer material,
- High-density polyethylene HDPE, derived from bottles, with up to 60 per cent post-consumer component;
- PLA-based WPC, with polylactic acid component required by the customer between 60-80% and sawdust component between 20-40%, for an output of 100 kg/h with MD series twin-screw extruders;
- Biodegradable PBAT (adipic acid copolyester) thermoplastic, generates 900 kg/h for the production of flexible packaging.
"The most recent guidelines issued at European level show that the reduction of virgin plastic consumption is one of the cornerstones of the new directives. Among the sectors in which plastics volumes remain particularly high is packaging. In order to limit the exploitation of natural resources, it is therefore essential to promote the use of viable alternatives, which are both environmentally friendly and high-performance,” concluded Fenili. “In this context, corporate strategies must also be renewed to contemplate long-term sustainable development goals, considering these changes as an opportunity to search for novel and pioneering solutions”.