Turning Plastic Grocery Bags into Sustainable Fuel

Website Link (Article by Larry Frum)

More than 300 million tons of plastic waste are produced annually, which causes serious environmental issues because of plastic’s life cycle and the difficulty of eliminating it.

Consequently, most plastic waste ends up in either a landfill or the ocean. A significant number of plastics break down into microplastics, which are ingested by fish and other marine life causing havoc to marine ecosystems.

Pyrolysis oil produced from grocery bags CREDIT: Baron Boghosian
Pyrolysis oil produced from grocery bags CREDIT: Baron Boghosian

In Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, by AIP Publishing, researchers from California State Polytechnic University report using catalytic pyrolysis to turn plastic wastes into a valuable fuel source. Pyrolysis is the thermochemical decomposition of carbon-based matter in the absence of oxygen.

Researchers focused on recycling plastic and upgrading plastic into other products or converting it to a vapor with heat, which met a catalyst and turned into the desired fuel-like product. This pyrolytic process transforms primary organic waste into a sustainable fuel or other valuable chemical.

The innovative part of the experiment is the catalyst,” said author Mingheng Li. “The catalyst is critical to this particular pyrolysis process, because it only requires one step to get to the desired fuel product at relatively mild temperatures.”

The catalyst was prepared by dipping a zeolite substrate in an aqueous solution containing nickel and tungsten and drying it in an oven at 500 degrees Celsius. The synthesized catalyst was used in conjunction with a lab-designed, single-stage pyrolytic reactor, which ran at a set point of 360 C to break down a mixture of plastic grocery bags.

The catalytic process used in this experiment on plastic waste could also be used to process other wastes, such as manure, municipal solid waste, and used engine oil, to make usable energy products.

This pyrolysis process serves as a definitive step in reducing reliance on fossil-based fuels,” said Li.

The researchers found the pyrolysis product was very similar to a standard diesel fuel product via gas chromatographic analysis, a type of chromatography used in analytical chemistry for separating and analyzing compounds that can be vaporized without decomposition.

Going forward, the team will work to explain the cracking mechanism that occurs on the surface of the catalyst. In addition, they will try to optimize diesel fuel production from various mixed plastic wastes.

Journal: Catalytic production of diesel-like oils from plastic wastes

What Is SPRING and Why Is It Needed in Packaging Now?

Website Link (Article by Robert Lilienfeld)

SPRING-Graphic-FTR.png

SPRING is an acronym for the new Sustainable Packaging Research, Information, and Networking Group. Here’s what you should know about SPRING, a new virtual think tank to help all stakeholders make effective decisions about sustainable packaging.

Let me introduce you to SPRING, which  stands for the Sustainable Packaging Research, Information, and Networking Group. It’s a virtual think tank that helps policy makers, the media, business leaders, and thought leaders make effective decisions about the creation, use, and regeneration of packaging, thus providing optimum environmental, economic, and social value to consumers and their communities.

The group encompasses scientists, consultants, engineers, thought leaders, and packaging practitioners both across and within all types of packaging: paper, plastic, glass, metal, biomaterials, etc.

Our efforts are based on sound science, transparency, and respect for those with whom we both agree and disagree. Personal attacks, self-promotion, and political agendas are not tolerated.

My LinkedIn page has been converted into a SPRING global forum for the exploration of all issues that impact sustainable packaging decision making. Anyone can participate in our public discussions. Simply request to be connected to us, or to follow us.

Why did you start it?

I started thinking about this concept in 1995, when working on a project called the Center for Informed Decision Making. The goal then is the same as it is now: help ensure that future decisions regarding the environment, and what was then called sustainable development, are based on sound science.

I decided to get serious about the idea about six months ago, as the amount of misinformation regarding plastics and other packaging materials was starting to build at an exponential rate. I also realized that after about 30 years as a sustainable packaging consultant, I now have the contacts, expertise, experience, and hopefully the credibility, to bring SPRING to life.

How does SPRING function?

We have four levels of participants, all with sterling reputations and credentials in the fields of material science, packaging, food safety & waste, mechanical and chemical recycling, environmental policy and law, and supply chain management. The top level is my Advisory Board — people with both recognized management and functional expertise. They help guide the direction of SPRING, as well as provide years of operating experience to the group.

The core level is our Subject Matter Experts (SME), who are academics, engineers, and scientists. There is a great combination of university intellectuals and hardnosed businesspeople. This grouping sometimes makes for fiery discussions, but ensures that we see issues from multiple perspectives and develop multiple solutions.

The next group are people that could in fact be SMEs, but for personal reasons or for legal reasons related to their employers, are known as Personal Contributors. This was merely a creative way for me to build my “dream team” without stepping on political hands and feet.

Finally, we have a few young PhDs and post-docs who are doing research for us. Over time, we’d love to see that the work they do with us, and on their own, allows them to grow into SME roles.

You can see the entire list of participants, and learn more about them, by going to https://www.springpack.net/about. You’re free to ask any of our experts for help or advice. I think you’ll be amazed with whom you’ll be interacting, and their interest in helping you to make better sustainable packaging decisions.

How do you get paid for your work?

We don’t, at least not directly. Most of us are close to retirement and are simply looking to apply what we’ve learned over the last 30-40 years and in effect “give back.

Also, we don’t take donations, as we want to maintain both our independence and credibility. However, if organizations wish to hire any of our SMEs for consulting work, they’re free to do so. 

What’s your position on plastics?

We are anti-waste, both in terms of energy and materials. We take no position on materials, as we want the biggest toolbox available when looking at solutions for specific applications and packages. Most problems are global. But most solutions need to be local, requiring us to be as open-minded as possible.

That stated, most of our expertise is in plastics, because it’s the group of materials about which the public, media, and policymakers are most concerned. However, we are constantly building out our expertise in paper, metals, and glass as well.

What are you working on now?

We’ve created a Sustainable Packaging Roadmap, which lays out our definition of sustainable packaging along with key objectives, strategies, and tactics needed to get there. It’s on our website at https://www.springpack.net/roadmap.

If you look at that page, you’ll see our “Sustainable Packaging Wheel” at the top (and shown at the top of this article).

On November 18, which is the 25th anniversary of Use Less Stuff Day (something I started with renowned “garbologist” William (Bill) Rathje), we will release a full presentation that helps packaging developers and decision makers to create more sustainable packaging, and do so for any city, state, country, or continent on the planet.

We’re also working on four position papers that will dive deeper into key topics related to both this roadmap and general interest regarding packaging policy. These are:

  1. The value of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and best implementation practices;
  2. The identification and prevention of greenwashing;
  3. Strategies to improve the effectiveness of mechanical recycling; and
  4. The value of chemical recycling along with ways to improve its odds of success.

Where can I learn more?

Again, the best place to learn more is on the SPRING website. You can also connect with us by clicking on the red button on the top navigation bar, or by writing me at bob@robertlilienfeld.com.

Benefits of aluminum vs steel: from environmental impacts to meeting consumer needs

Website Link (Article by Brandon Bach)

Transparency in products remains important to consumers. They want to know where the everyday products they purchase are coming from, what they are made of and if they fit their shopping preferences. According to a study from Nielsen and Label Insight, 39% of shoppers would be willing to switch brands to start using products with more transparent labels, meaning they want to know more about the product sourcing information.

One of the biggest forms of transparency that consumers want is a look inside a company’s sustainability efforts. Previously, packaging companies relied on retailers and brands to deliver messaging about waste, recycling and circularity. But now, under pressure from NGOs and other groups to reduce waste, the packaging industry is having to address consumers directly. Because of this, many companies are looking for alternative materials for packaging options.

Making small changes in the materials that companies use can result in large sustainability impacts. One material that is being phased away is steel. Many packaging companies have found a more durable and sustainable alternative that is just as cost-efficient.


Making the switch to aluminum packaging

Aluminum has proven to be a trending new alternative to steel, especially in products such as electronics, building parts and even jar lids. Aluminum is at the top of the recycling chain and can easily be recycled without damaging its durability and quality. Because of this, brands are starting to make the switch to aluminum from other metal packaging that has traditionally been used. In fact, according to The Aluminum Association, more than two-thirds of all aluminum that has been produced in the world is still in use today.


The sustainability benefits of aluminum

Unlike steel, the process of recycling aluminum requires less energy and time. The Aluminum Association also found that “Aluminum is 100 percent recyclable and retains its properties indefinitely. Aluminum is one of the only materials in the consumer disposal stream that more than pays for the cost of its own collection.”

When using materials like steel in packaging, the metals tend to corrode, causing packaging companies to spend additional money on coatings. Plastisol is a liquid that can be heated to form a flexible and rubber-like material that is widely used for a number of packaging needs, including sealing lids to jars. If any metal exposure is present when producing a product like jar lids, it can form corrosion from curing the plastisol to the coating. Most jar lid manufacturers will put a coating over the metal to prevent corrosion do to the acidity of the product being placed in the jar.

Although it sounds like an easy fix, plastisol and other coatings can add up in cost, slow production lines exponentially, and create even worse impacts on the environment.


How does aluminum hold up against steel?

For companies who are on the fence about making the switch to aluminum, the benefits of this material go way beyond sustainability. The cost of recycled aluminum is far less expensive than that of steel, allowing manufacturers to purchase materials that save them money without sacrificing quality.

As far as corrosion, aluminum actually holds up better than steel. The material does not rust easily and does not need additional coatings to maintain its quality. In contrast, steel tends to corrode and rust at a much faster rate. Because of this, manufacturers sacrifice the quality of their goods when it comes to shipping products to different environments. Numerous factors such as air quality or abrasive shipping methods can test the durability of steel and potentially cost manufacturers to replace goods.

Additionally, with the rise of e-commerce sales stemming from COVID-19, more and more consumers are opting to shop online. This means that manufacturers should prepare to see an increase in shipments, especially as we approach the busy holiday season for retailers. Because of this, many packaging companies are considering aluminum due to its light weight, which allows manufacturers to maximize the amount of product that can be shipped at once. Aluminum is shockingly one-third of the weight of steel, making it an easy choice for manufacturers to consider.


Meeting consumer needs

It’s crucial packaging companies and manufacturers are listening to consumer needs and taking them into account when it comes to producing a product. Practicing material transparency and emphasizing sustainability efforts will both put companies in a better position when it comes to meeting consumer needs and matching their shopping preferences.

In a study by IBM, it showed that 57% of consumers wanted to change their shopping habits to help reduce negative environmental impacts. The switch to sustainable materials—like aluminum—is only projected to increase as consumers continue to shop with sustainability in mind.

Overall, the benefits of aluminum outweigh those of steel – everything from sustainability to durability, transportation and meeting consumer needs.

Transparent Packaging Achieves First 100% rPET Carton

Website Link (Article by Rick Lingle)

The 100% barrier for post-consumer recycle (PCR) content for transparent recycled PET (rPET) plastic folding cartons has been attained. The new sustainably-enhanced product was introduced by custom plastic box manufacturer Printex Transparent Packaging (PTP), which is the largest such company in North America. The Eco-PET 100 folding carton is made from 100% US- or Canada-sourced recycled PET that’s virtually identical to virgin PET.  

Until now, North American PET sheet and film producers offered up to 50% PCR box-grade packaging due to the challenge to produce a clear untinted 100% rPET carton.

PTPPrintex-Flowchart-Graphic-474x404px.jpg
Sourced from Packagingdigest.com

These cartons can help brands to meet their sustainable packaging goals,” PTP Marketing Manager Jane White says. “The new carton is itself recyclable, creating a circular economy in the plastic carton market. They can be added to your blue-bin recycling stream [in Canada].”

Technically, the cartons could be recycled in the same stream as PET bottles.

Product markets include cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, health and beauty, wine, spirits, and other beverages as well as club store and promotional packs. White believes the first Eco-PET 100 carton application will be for a cosmetics brand.

I expect quite a bit of interest in this new carton,” says White. “Every company is looking to be more sustainable, and brands are pleased they have this new choice.”

According to White, PTP offers printing and decorating options for the “entire carton surface” such as full-color CMYK, silk screen, embossing, cold foil, textures, and other techniques. Customers should confirm the techniques used do not affect recyclability.

Technical and cost hurdles.

Eco-PET 100 represents PTP’s 12-year progression through increased percentages of PCR.

Our Eco-PET 25 carton was introduced about 12 years ago followed by Eco-PET 50 about 5 years ago,” White explains.

Previously, the clarity and quality required for plastic box-grade material was not commercially available in 100% PCR and to achieve that was very expensive. The deterrents to its viability were both price and aesthetics. After significant product development and testing, the quality difference to virgin material is essentially indiscernible visually.

As well, the economics of producing this material and bringing it to market at a price point that is more in line with many companies packaging budgets compelled PTP to purchase the 100% rPET sheet in substantial volume. PTP leveraged the buying power of its two manufacturing plants dedicated to clear PET packaging to justify high-volume runs to keep costs competitive.

It’s more expensive for our sheet supplier to extrude the 100% PCR material than virgin PET,” White points out, “but as more companies like Coca-Cola use PCR content that will drive the price down.”

Researchers Have Developed a Chameleon-Inspired Solution to Keep Fish Fresh

Website Link (Article by Tara DiMaio)

Red light, green light. Your first thought may be Squid Game, but these two colors are part of new food technology used for real squid.

Researchers invented a material that changes color to measure how fresh seafood is, inspired by (you guessed it) chameleons. It can save consumers from eating spoiled fish and can keep food waste out of landfills.

Why does your fish smell so fishy?

You probably are familiar with fish that smells… well, too fishy. This unpleasant odor comes from volatile gases in seafood, such as dimethylamine or ammonia. As the temperature of fish rises, its acidity changes, and ammonia is released.

Your salmon or shrimp has definitely spoiled if you can smell this gas — but ammonia can increase to dangerous levels before your nose can detect it. “Seafood easily spoils due to microbial growth that produces volatile amine gases,” said researcher Tao Chen in an interview.

A key part of seafood production is the ability to detect these volatile gases. Current standards take about four hours to find ammonia or dimethylamine in just one sample of fish.

Imagine if the commercial fishing industry had to set aside four hours for every piece of fish in their warehouse. The process would take days, and all the food would be at risk for spoiling. In reality, most fish inspections are done visually and are highly prone to error.

Here is where a team of food scientists and chemists enters the picture. New technology from Chen and his team at the Key Laboratory of Marine Materials detects when seafood has spoiled.

Chameleon skin inspired this material

The skin of a chameleon can shift its hue to blend into different environments in just a few seconds. In a similar show of colors, the hydrogel can change its fluorescence from red to blue to green in a few minutes. These three colors allow scientists to visualize changes in response to stimuli.

The hydrogel changes color as heat and ammonia levels rise. The technology is easy to use, as the hydrogel can be placed directly into any package to check if fish or shellfish are safe to eat. Though customers should not eat the gel, it will not affect the product’s taste.

The soft material is unique in its ability to change colors. Both chemists and material engineers have struggled to design a synthetic fabric that could change colors. Until this study, scientists have been unable to model the structure of panther chameleon skin in a lab.

“Is it possible to mimic this unique structure into artificial color-changing materials? As described in our paper, the answer is yes,” Chen said.

“Up to now, the responsive color-changing capacity of synthetic materials was still far inferior to that of the natural chameleon skin,” researcher Patrick Théato said in an interview. Théato collaborated with the team in China for this bio-inspired project.

Science: Taste the rainbow

The team discovered that the secret was in the separation. Instead of placing all fluorescent materials onto one sheet, each color has its own layer.

As seen in the diagram below, at the core of the hydrogel is a red layer that stays true to its hue. A middle blue layer measures the temperature of the seafood, and an outer green layer tests acidity and ammonia levels.

The hydrogel changes color in the presence of ammonia (NH3) or heat. It shifts to a green hue when ammonia is present or becomes more purple as the temperature rises. At either end of the spectrum, the fish in question is unsafe to eat.

The blue hydrogel layer changes color from purplish red to blue when the temperature rises. At 20º Celsius, the material appears to be purple or red, and when the heat rises to 50º Celsius, the hydrogel turns blue. The whole hydrogel turns green when ammonia is present and has no color change if ammonia is not present in the sample.

Not only do the different layers mimic the skin of a chameleon, but they also let scientists test the environmental variables on their own. Existing methods combine heat and ammonia into one reading and are less accurate. For example, current technologies would likely miss a slight change in acidity if the temperature stayed static.

Almost one-third of food in China is wasted

Chen spoke to his personal motivation to create seafood-focused technology. His team hails from Ningbo, a coastal metropolis in China. “Many people in this city love seafood very much,” Chen said.

However, a significant amount of this catch ends up in landfills. A new study shows that 27% of all food in China is wasted per year. To put that number in perspective, food waste emissions in China are equal to total emissions in the United Kingdom.

How is the country keeping food out of the garbage? Well, President Xi Jinping declared war on food waste last year. As of April 2020, it is illegal to order too much food at a restaurant. ‘Mukbang‘ videos are similarly discouraged and were removed from many social media sites.

Another potential solution? The hydrogel. It can help reduce food waste on an industrial level. Commercial fisheries can use the gel for faster and more accurate readings and take immediate action if some of their seafood is beginning to spoil.

Color in cephalopods

Théato, Chen, and many of their collaborators are working on a new project inspired by a different type of animal: Cephalopods.

These ocean dwellers – cuttlefish and squids, to name a few – are masters of camouflage. They can change their color faster than a chameleon. The researchers are creating a fluorescent hydrogel that takes notes from octopuses.

The team’s original hydrogel looked to acidity or temperature as the catalyst for color change. The new version has an electric stimulus, which is easier to control and free from any chemicals. It is currently under development for larger-scale applications.

Seems that octopuses are teaching us, after all.

Study links nut consumption to improved cognitive function

Website Link (Article by Nikki Hancocks)

Higher habitual nut consumption is positively associated with cognitive function, especially among old adults, according to an observational study of 1,000 Qatari adults.

Globally, cognitive impairments including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, have become a major concern. The total number of people with dementia has increased from 20.2 million in 1990 to 43.8 million in 2016​ and dementia was the fifth leading cause of death accounting for 2.4 million deaths worldwide in 2016​. 

Diet can affect brain function through different mechanisms including the regulation of neurotransmitter pathways, synaptic transmission, membrane fluidity and signal transduction pathways. Many nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, vitamin E, have been examined for their role in cognitive function.

Nuts are good sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids, phytosterols, polyphenols, and magnesium. Nut consumption has been shown to be beneficial for the prevention of many chronic diseases including diabetes and hypertension​ – both of which are risk factors for cognitive impairment.

Previous population observational studies suggest a beneficial effect of nuts on cognition​. On the other hand, a few studies have shown no association between cognitive function and nuts intake​. 

The aims of the current study were to:

  1. to assess the association between nuts consumption and cognitive function among the Qatari population;
  2. to test whether magnesium, hypertension, and diabetes mediate this association between nut consumption and cognitive function.

The study

Qatar Biobank Study (QBB) is an ongoing cohort study​ started in 2012 with over 15,000 participants. In the current analysis, 1000 Qatari adults aged 20 years and above were randomly selected by the QBB management team. Using a self-administered questionnaire, socio-demographic information, lifestyle factors, and dietary habits were collected. In addition, medical and family history information were obtained by a nurse interview and a health examination was conducted. Cognitive function was assessed by a computer-based test to measure the mean reaction time (MRT) and a 102 item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) was used to assess dietary habits. 

Results

A total of 21.1% of the participants reported consuming nuts ≥4–6 times/week (high consumption) while 40.2% reported consuming ≤1 time/month (low consumption). Overall, an inverse association was found between nuts consumption and MRT and the association between nuts and MRT was mainly seen among those aged over 50 years.

The association between nuts consumption and MRT was not mediated by hypertension, diabetes, or serum magnesium.

The authors therefore conclude that habitual higher consumption of nuts is positively associated with cognitive function, especially among old adults.

The report concludes: “Nuts consumption is beneficial for cognitive function as measured by MRT, especially among those with old age, diabetes, and hypertension. Further prospective studies and randomized clinical trials are needed to assess the amount and type of nuts consumption on cognitive function.”

The authors note the study has some limitations.

  • First, MRT is the only indicator used for measuring cognitive function.
  • Second, the sample is relatively small and most of the participants were young so results cannot be extrapolated over the general population.
  • Third, the food frequency questionnaire used included only the frequency of the nuts consumption without specifying the amount or type of the consumed nuts. Thus, we could not estimate the actual amount (grams/day) of nuts intake.
  • In addition, recall bias is considered another limitation in this study. 
Source

“Higher Habitual Nuts Consumption Is Associated with Better Cognitive Function among Qatari Adults” (Nafea et. al. 2021)​

Cold plasma for the preservation of aquatic food products: An overview

Website Link (Article by Rathod et. al. 2021)

ABSTRACT

Cold plasma (CP) is an upcoming technology implemented for the preservation of highly perishable foods, especially aquatic food products (AFPs). The high moisture content, high-quality protein with all essential amino acids and unsaturated fatty acids makes AFP more susceptible to microbial spoilage and oxidation of lipids and proteins.

Spoilage lowers the nutritive value and could generate toxic components, making it unsafe for consumption. In recent times, the rising demand for food products of aquatic origin with preserved quality and extended shelf-life has been recorded.

In addition, minimally or nonthermally processed and preserved foods are gaining great attention. CP technology has demonstrated an excellent ability to inactivate microorganisms without promoting their resistance and triggering some deteriorative enzymes, which are typical factors responsible for the spoilage of AFP.

Consequently, CP could be recommended as a minimal processing intervention for preserving the quality of AFP. This review focuses on different mechanisms of fish spoilage, that is, by microorganisms and oxidation, their inhibition via the application of CP, and the retention of quality and shelf-life extension of AFP.

CONCLUSION

The demand for safe, nutritional, and quality aquatic fish products is growing. The innovative nonthermal CP technology has been discussed for the preservation and safety of AFP.

CP has clearly demonstrated the inactivation of specific spoilage and pathogenic organisms associated mainly with spoilage of AFP, which are Enterobacteriaceae, P. fluorescens, L. monocytogenes, S. aureus, B. cereus, hydrogen sulfite-producing bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, C., and so on.

The effect was attributed to the generation of reactive species by CP, which was dependent on fed gas composition, energy applied, and the treatment interval. Despite excellent microbial inactivation, CP was found to initiate oxidation in lipids and proteins, limiting its application.

However, the oxidation effect could be controlled by specifically optimized CP conditions and usage of natural compounds having synergistic impacts. The inclusion of natural compounds reduces the deterioration induced by CP-generated reactive species. Additionally, recent applications have shown a better understanding of CP in combination with other natural compounds as “hurdle technology” for AFP with desired outcomes.

Furthermore, CP has advantages and could be coupled with other nonthermal technologies by performing a prerequisite optimization for enhanced microbial destruction and retained nutritional value.

Commercialization of next-generation biomaterials

Website Link (Article by Rachel Arthur)

The Coca-Cola Company, Changchun Meihe Science & Technology and UPM have announced the first planned commercialization of new tech to create plant-based monoethylene glycol (bMEG): which can replace traditional oil-based MEG in PET bottles.

The tech will allow the companies to efficiently convert second-generation biomass to the plant-based bMEG: a process that is not only more efficient than current bMEG production but also uses feedstock that is not a source of food. 

Ultimately, the scaled-up production of bMEG can reduce dependence on virgin oil-based packaging.

Furthermore, Coca-Cola has pledged to offer commercial quantities of the biochemical to anyone in the industry, including its competitors.

Efficient process

Co-owned and co-developed by Coca-Cola and Chinese science and tech development company Changchun Meihe, the technology is now being scaled to commercial quantities by the Finnish forest-based bioeconomy company UPM.

The technology to produce bMEG takes a sugar source and removes the step of creating ethanol as part of the conversion process to produce plant-based MEG. This means the process is simpler than incumbent processes and provides flexibility in feedstock choice. 

“The next-generation technology marks a significant step forward toward commercializing a process that is not only more efficient than current bMEG technologies but is based on feedstock that cannot be used as source of food: hardwood taken from sawmill side-streams and forest thinnings as part of sustainable forest management,” ​say the partners.

Production to start in 2023

Coca-Cola says the new tech marks ‘the most significant advancement’ in the commercial viability of bioplastics since it introduced the first-generation technology in its PlantBottle packaging in 2009.While new technologies were first validated at demonstration scale in 2017,  this is the first time it is being taken into large-scale production.

UPM is currently constructing a full-scale biorefinery: which will produce plant-based monoethylene glycol (bMEG), plant-based monopropylene glycol (bMPG), as well as lignin-based Renewable Functional Fillers (RFF) made from 100% certified hardwood taken from sawmill and other wood industry side-streams.

The biorefinery will ramp up production in 2023 with a total annual capacity of 220,000 tonnes.  The products will have a significantly improved CO2 footprint and can be integrated in existing material recovery and recycling streams while meeting product performance requirements, according to the companies.  

UPM and Coca-Cola have announced that they will offer commercial quantities of these biochemicals to anyone in the industry, including Coca-Cola’s direct competitors.

“The commercialization of this technology marks a significant milestone not only in the evolution of renewable glycol production but also more widely in the development of fossil fuel-free PET plastic,”​ says Coca-Cola.

“MEG is one of two molecules necessary to create PET, the other being terephthalic acid (PTA). Investments in the scaling of plant-based, renewable materials like bMEG support Coca-Cola’s ambition and work to reduce the use of virgin oil-based plastics in its packaging, alongside investments to increase the use of recycled content.”

Reducing virgin plastic 

Coca-Cola has set out its vision to be net zero carbon by 2050, and to use 3 million tons less of virgin plastic from oil-based sources by 2025.

One of its goals is to increase the use of recycled PET (rPET): through a combination of new recycling technologies and encouraging consumers to recycle. Improvements in packaging design and new delivery systems are other ways to reach the goal. But it also wants to create new technologies that offer a plant-based alternative to virgin material: noting that well-designed technologies that can be successfully scaled up will play a key role in achieving its goals.

“The viability of this next-generation biomaterial is a significant technological breakthrough in our ongoing efforts to reduce our use of virgin oil-based plastics, by increasing our use of recycled and renewable alternatives. It can not only help us achieve our commitments to carbon emission reduction but can also enable the entire industry to shift to a more circular economy,”​ said Nancy Quan, Chief Technical and Innovation Officer at The Coca-Cola Company. 

“It takes years of work to bring a technology from the lab to the market, reflecting our keen focus on developing and delivering sustainable packaging solutions that can bring tangible environmental benefits, once scaled, to the communities we serve.”​ 

Daniela Zahariea, Director of Technical, Innovation and Supply Chain at Coca-Cola Europe, added: “In Europe, as we work towards our goal to collect a bottle or can for every one that we sell we are also working closely in parallel with our bottlers to drive down and eliminate the use of oil-based virgin PET from our plastic bottles. We will accelerate delivery of this ambition by increasing the use of recycled content and, as we move forward, also replacing some new ‘virgin’ material that is required with renewable, bio-based sources. That is why we are investing and driving innovation to boost the supply of feedstock from renewable sources, in addition to our focus on sources derived from enhanced recycling technologies.”

The world is banking on giant carbon-sucking fans to clean our climate mess

Website Link (Article by Ivana Kottasová)

The windswept valleys surrounding the Hengill volcano in southwestern Iceland are dotted with hot springs and steam vents. Hikers from all over the world come here to witness its breath-taking scenery. Even the sheep are photogenic in the soft Nordic light.

Right in the middle of all that natural beauty sits a towering metal structure resembling four giant Lego bricks, with two rows of six whirring fans running across each one. It’s a contraption that looks truly futuristic, like something straight out of a sci-fi film.

Humans have emitted so much carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere that machines like this are being used to literally suck the gas back out, like giant vacuum cleaners, in an attempt to slow the climate crisis and prevent some of its most devastating consequences.

The Orca plant — its name derived from the Icelandic word for energy — is what is known as a “direct air carbon capture facility,” and its creator and operator, Swiss firm Climeworks, say it’s the world’s largest.Climework’s Orca project at the Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Plant in Iceland opened last month.

Dr. Edda Aradóttir is a chemical and reservoir engineer and the CEO of Carbfix.The aim of Orca is to help the world reach net zero emissions — where we remove as much greenhouse gas from the atmosphere as we emit.

Scientists say that simply cutting back on our use of fossil fuels won’t be enough to avert catastrophe; we need to also clean up some of the mess we’ve been making for hundreds of years.Orca is a depressing symbol of just how bad things have become, but equally, it could be the tech that helps humanity claw its way out of the crisis.

We, as humans, have disturbed the balance of the natural carbon cycle. So it’s our job to restore the balance,” said Edda Aradóttir, a chemical engineer and the CEO of Carbfix. “We are assisting the natural carbon cycle to find its previous balance, so for me, at least, this makes total sense — but we have to use it wisely,” she said.

It opened last month and currently removes about 10 metric tons of CO2 every day, which is roughly the the same amount of carbon emitted by 800 cars a day in the US. It’s also about the same amount of carbon 500 trees could soak up in a year.It’s a fine start, but in the grand scheme of things, its impact so far is miniscule.

Humans emit around 35 billion tons of greenhouse gas a year through the cars we drive and flights we take, the power we use to heat our homes and the food — in particular the meat — that we eat, among other activities.

All this CO2 accumulates in the in the air, where it acts like the glass of a greenhouse, trapping more heat in the atmosphere than Earth has evolved to tolerate. That’s where the technology used for Orca, called carbon capture and storage (CCS), comes in.

Carbon capture and storage is not going to be the solution to climate change,” Sandra Ósk Snæbjörnsdóttir, a geologist with the Icelandic company Carbfix, told CNN. Carbfix is the company that carries out the process to store the CO2 underground. “But it is a solution. And it’s one of the many solutions that we need to implement to be able to achieve this big goal that we have to reach.” She added: “First and foremost, we have to stop emitting CO2 and we have to stop burning fossil fuels, the main source of CO2 emissions to our atmosphere.

How the ‘magic’ happens

Process Animation

The Orca machines use chemical filters to capture the heat-trapping gas. The “fans,” or metal collectors, suck in the surrounding air and filter out the CO2 so it can be stored.

Carbon dioxide’s concentration in Earth’s atmosphere has likely not been this high at any other point in the last 3 million years, according to NASA scientists. But at levels over 410 parts per million, to actually capture a meaningful amount of CO2, a huge amount of air needs to pass through these machines.

“What is happening is that CO2 in the air is an acid molecule and inside the collectors we have alkaline. Acids and alkaline neutralize each other,” Climeworks co-CEO Christoph Gebald told CNN. “That’s the magic that happens.”

In two to four hours, the surface of the filter is almost completely saturated with CO2 molecules — as if there are “no parking slots left,” as Gebald puts it. “Then we stop the airflow and we heat the internal structure to roughly 100 degrees Celsius, and at that temperature, the CO2 molecules are released again from the surface, they jump off back to the gas phase and we suck it out.” Because of the high temperature that is needed for the process, the Orca plant requires a lot of energy. That’s a problem that’s easily solved in Iceland, where green geothermal power is abundant. But it could become a challenge to scale globally.

Emissions crisis

The latest state-of-the-science report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half over the next decade and achieve net zero by 2050 to have any chance of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.The higher temperatures rise beyond 1.5 degrees, the more the world will experience an increase in extreme weather events — both in strength and frequency — like droughts, hurricanes, floods and heatwaves.

Atmospheric concentrations of CO₂

The amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere has fluctuated over time, but human activity since the Industrial Revolution has pushed levels to unprecedented highs.

CCS technology sounds like the perfect solution, but it remains highly controversial, and not just because of the amount of energy it needs. Its critics say the world should be aiming for zero emissions, not net zero. But scientific consensus is pretty clear: some level of carbon capture will soon become necessary. The IPCC estimated that even if emissions decline dramatically, to keep temperature increases below 2 degrees will require the removal of between 10 billion and 20 billion tonnes of CO2 every year until 2100.

I don’t think carbon capture is a silver bullet, because there is no silver bullet,” said Nadine Mustafa, a researcher that specializes in carbon capture at the department of chemical engineering at Imperial College London, and is not involved with Orca. “It’s not that we are going to fix everything by using renewables, or that we’re going to use carbon capture and storage and we’re going to fix everything with that. We’re going to need everything, especially because we’re already behind on our goals.”

The oil and gas link

Opponents of CCS argue the technology is simply another way for the fossil fuel industry to delay its inevitable demise. While they are not involved in the Orca plant, fossil fuel giants dominate the sector. According to a database complied by the Global CCS Institute, a pro-CCS think tank, an overwhelming majority of the world’s 89 CCS projects that are currently in operation, being built or in advanced stages of development are operated by oil, gas and coal companies.

Oil companies have had and used the technology to capture carbon for decades, but they haven’t exactly done it to reduce emissions — ironically, their motivation has been to extract even more oil. That’s because the CO2 they remove can be re-injected into oil fields that are nearly depleted, and help squeeze out 30-60% more oil than with normal methods.

The process is known as “enhanced oil recovery” and it is one of the main reasons why CCS remains controversial. Fossil fuel companies are also investing in the newer carbon capture tech that removes CO2 from the air — like Orca’s machines do — so they can argue they are “offsetting” the emissions that they can’t capture in their usual processes. It’s one way to delay fossil fuels’ inevitable demise as the world transitions to renewable energy sources.

There is another way to look at it.Fossil fuel companies have the big bucks to invest in this expensive tech, and considering fossil fuels are by far the main driver of climate change, it can be argued that they have a responsibility to foot the bill for what could be the biggest environmental disaster clean-up in human history.

The global fossil fuel industry is worth trillions of dollars. In 2019, the last year before the pandemic, publicly listed fossil fuel companies raked in $250 billion in profits, according to data compiled for CNN by Refinitiv. That figure doesn’t include Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, which was not publicly listed until December 2019. On its own, the company made $88 billion that year.

This is a group who could transition to providing this service to society at large,” said Graeme Sweeney, chairman of the Zero Emissions Platform (ZEP), which is one of the more powerful advocates for CCS in Europe. The group acts as an advisor to the European Commission, from which it also receives part of its funding, and comprises research groups, the European Trade Union Confederation, as well as many of the world’s biggest oil companies, including Shell, Total, Equinor, ExxonMobil and BP.

The way Sweeney sees it, providing this tech could even be a chance for the fossil fuel industry to begin to atone for the climate crisis. “It would be, in a sense, odd, if that was not the contribution that they made,” said Sweeney, who previously worked for Shell for three decades.Asked whether CCS should be used to allow more fossil fuel production in the future — something climate activists worry about — Sweeney said: “If we regulate this appropriately, then it will produce an outcome which is compatible with net zero in 2050 … what’s the problem?

One remaining risk in this technology is the impact that storing the carbon may have on the Earth, or at least its immediate environment. In its special report on carbon capture and storage, the IPCC said that by far the biggest risk comes from potential leaks. A sudden and large release of CO2 would be extremely dangerous.

In the air, a CO2 concentration of around 10% is deadly, but even much lower levels can cause health issues. It’s a massive risk to take. But the idea of using deep sea storage is not new and it has been used for some time.

At Sleipner, a gas field in Norway, CO2 has been injected underground since 1996. The site has been monitored closely, and apart from some issues during the first year, it has not shown any problems in its 25 years running.

Snæbjörnsdóttir, who heads the CO2 mineral storage at Carbfix for Orca, said the mineralization process they use in Iceland eliminates the risk of leaks. And the basalt — which is volcanic rock — around the plant makes for an ideal geological storage.

These rocks are very permeable, so they are kind of like a sponge, and you have a lot of fractures for the CO2-charged fluid to flow through, so it mineralizes quite rapidly,” Snæbjörnsdóttir said.Standing next to the injection site, Snæbjörnsdóttir grabbed a piece of crystallized calcium carbonate, known here as the Icelandic spar, and held it against the sunlight. “This is nature’s way of turning CO2 into stone, in its most beautiful way,” she said as tiny reflections of light from the rock danced on the walls around her.

ADM eyes eight emerging trends

Website Link (Article by Eric Schroeder)

Plant-based lifestyles, clean and transparent sourcing, and sustainable goodness are among the eight trends ADM sees fueling current and future global growth.

Drawing on research from its Outside Voice consumer insights platform, the company’s top trends for 2022 point the way for ADM’s innovation, renovation and development platforms, the company said. Many of the trends are being shaped by the coronavirus pandemic that has lingered for the past 18 months.

Consumers today continue to navigate a tumultuous environment that has uprooted every aspect of their lives,” said Brad Schwan, vice president of category marketing at ADM. “This has led forward-thinking brands to develop new solutions purpose-built to help consumers establish a sense of normality for themselves, their families and their pets. We’re seeing everything from foods, feeds and beverages that promote gut health to plant-based meat and dairy alternatives to biodegradable packaging.”

1. Balanced approach to diet and lifestyle

Heading into the new year ADM said it expects consumers to be more proactive about supporting their mind and body through a balanced approach to diet and lifestyle. The coronavirus pandemic has placed renewed interest on mental well-being, and ADM said it expects more consumers to seek effective ways to cope with stress and anxiety. Thirty-seven percent of global consumers expect the snacks they eat to improve their mental well-being, according to ADM’s Outside Voice research.

2. Plant-based lifestyles

Another continuing trend is the shift toward plant-based lifestyles. ADM’s research shows a flexitarian approach to eating has become mainstream as consumers look to functional, wholesome, plant-based nutrition to support healthy, environmentally friendlier lifestyles. Alternative proteins are likely to account for 11% of the total protein market in 2035, ADM said, driven primarily by COVID-19, which has accelerated interest in plant-based as a health-forward alternative for consumers who are paying attention to their body’s nutritional needs.

3. Gut health and overall well-being

Third, consumers are seeking foods, beverages and supplements that support gut health and overall well-being. As a result, ADM said awareness of the microbiome as central to wellness has grown over time. Data from ADM Outside Voice indicates that 58% of global consumers are aware of the potential benefits that bacteria in the digestive system can have on their overall health.

4. Clean Label

Clean label has been trending for several years and ADM said it expects clean and transparent sourcing to remain a key trend heading into 2022. Most recently, consumers have used the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to place an increased emphasis on learning where their food comes from and trying to ensure the health and safety of themselves, their families, their pets and their communities. ADM said 58% of global consumers say they will be more attentive to locality claims as a result of COVID-19.

5. Better Pet Food

The humanization of pets has taken on greater significance and will continue to shape trends next year, ADM said. In fact, many consumers are transposing their purchasing values and preferences onto their pets. ADM Outside Voice found that 30% of global pet owners spent a significant amount of time researching the best food options in the last year.

6. Precise and responsible animal feeding

Precise and responsible animal feeding, and the interconnectedness of the animal product supply chain is another trend top of mind for today’s consumers, according to ADM. ADM said companies are taking steps to provide digital documentation explaining how animals are raised, particularly related to its consumption of antibiotics and/or growth hormones. Nearly half (49%) of consumers are willing to pay a premium for products with high quality assurances and verifiable safety standards, ADM noted.

7. Sustainable goodness

A seventh emerging trend is sustainable goodness. With nearly half of global consumers now more attentive to sustainability claims there has been a surge in demand for ethical production and sustainable sourcing practices — such as regenerative agriculture and carbon negative production to protect the food supply of the future, ADM said. Brands are responding by taking positions on environmental matters, aiming to reflect their commitments to increasing the sustainability of their production and distribution systems.

8. Advanced renewables and biosolutions

Finally, the importance of advanced renewables and biosolutions is coming to the forefront. ADM noted research showing 38% of global consumers are now willing to pay more for products made with sustainable materials. Additionally, conscientious consumers are paying close attention to seeking food, personal care and home care products that support the needs of their families, the environment and their local communities.