Netherlands aims for bioplastics domination
The Dutch government is investing in creating a bio-based economy and hopes to be known as 'the land of green chemistry' by 2050. A variety of industry leaders met in the Dutch town of Wageningen earlier this year to discuss innovations in bioplastics.
Bioplastics leaders from across Europe gathered in Wageningen for a symposium organised by the Biobased Performance Materials (BPM) programme, where government and industry outlined plans to make the Netherlands one of the largest bio-based economies in the world.
In the opening speech, chairman Jan Noordegraaf from Synbra outlined the Dutch government's plans for sustainable development, which involve biomass production, the implementation of biomass import chains, and production of green chemicals and materials.
By 2050, the Netherlands wants to be one of the top three producers of smart materials in the world, he said.
"The Netherlands are on the threshold of a new golden age," said Noordegraaf, adding that the country has the ideal conditions to build a bio-based economy. The Netherlands has excellent knowledge bases in its universities and chemical companies, as well as various R&D programmes, including BPM itself and BE-Basic, he said. BE-Basic is an international public-private partnership, funded by the Dutch Government.
The Netherlands has ample farming land and is a major grower of sugar beat which, according to Noordegraaf, is "almost unbeatable" in terms of bioplastic feedstock.
The industry will also benefit from a variety of funding he added.
By 2015, €445m will be available for joint research. Industry has already pledged to contribute more than €100m, with 30% coming from SMEs.
The BPM itself, which kicked off in March 2010, will also contribute a large amount of funding to help the Netherlands become a top producer of bio materials. BPM has €4m from industry in its investment fund, as well as another €4m from the ministry of economic affairs.
Karin Weustink from the ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, said during her speech at the conference that the Dutch government also wants to push this initiative forward by reducing bureaucracy.
"We will make finance easier, for example by replacing subsidies with credit agreements and getting direct foreign investments," she said. "It is also important to support SMEs so there will be loan guarantees, for example."
At the symposium several industry leaders highlighted different bio material projects that are taking place in the country.
For example, Royal Cosun, a consortium of Dutch sugar beet growers, announced plans to commercialise a composite based on carrot waste.
Curran, a cellulose material extracted from carrot waste and developed by Scottish science company Cellucomp, can be combined with a variety of resins to create biocomposite materials.
"Although we are still doing research into the material's properties, advantages we have seen so far include stiffness, strength, toughness and light weight," said Royal Cosun spokesperson Bart van Ingen. At the conference Van Ingen showed two successful applications; a fishing rod and a longboard.
Another speaker, Ed de Jong, spoke about Avantium's work in PEF materials, which it makes using YXY technology, a catalytic chemical process that converts carbohydrates into bio-based polymers, including an alternative to terephthalic acid.
According to de Jong, the YXY technology creates a material that delievers superior functional properties to conventional PET in terms of lightweighting potential and barrier and thermal properties. Avantium quotes a study done by the Copernicus Institute at Utrecht University, which shows that PEF has a 50-60% lower carbon footprint than oil-based PET.
Just prior to the conference Avantium signed an agreement to use its technology to produce its PEF bottles for Danone.
Other innovations discussed at the event included Forbo Flooring, which is looking at expanding the use of biobased materials in its linoleum product range, and Audi, which talked about the Scirocco Bioconcept. The car uses as many sustainable processes and materials as possible, including flax-fibre composites in the doors.