Novamont has announced a revamped Mater–Biopolymer plant south of Rome, significantly boosting production capacity from 120,000 to 150,000 tons per year.
The investment will help boost its efforts to enter the food packaging and food servicing market, as well as supplying compostable plastic carrier bags.
The new facility will increase production of Origo-Bi, Novamont’s biopolyesters featuring high levels of renewables, components of Mater-Bi compostable bioplastics, used to manufacture various applications as an alternative to traditional plastics, including coffee cups and pods, carrier bags, cutlery, straws and food packaging.
The overall investment amounts to €70m, rising to €100m within the next three years.
With a production capacity of 100,000 metric tons of Origo-Bi per year, and occupying a total surface area of 140,000sqm, the Patrica site employs around 90 people.
Novamont has also perfected a process for wastewater purification to obtain tetrahydrofuran (THF) from renewable sources – a chemical intermediate used by the pharmaceutical industry to produce antidepressants and hormone drugs. It will be the first industrially produced bio-THF.
Novamont recently announced a contract with the UK’s Co-op retailer to supply bio-based and compostable carrier bags for shoppers at its stores.
The increased production of the Patrica site will help meet the demand from contracts for compostable plastic bags to retailers throughout Europe, including Leclerc (France), Carrefour (France and Italy), Coop (Finland), Delhaize (Belgium), and Esselunga (Italy).
“Novamont’s industrialisation efforts over the last few years have been enormous and have few equals anywhere in Europe,” said Catia Bastioli, Novamont chief executive.
The Italian bioplastics giant has been working to enter the food packaging and carrier bag market in Northern Europe recently.
Alberto Castellanza, Novamont’s international sales manager, said the company has been working on a number of applications for food.
“Food packaging is the real market of interest – there are certain grades of Mater Bi that are so advanced that they can be used for food. We are working on replicating the barriers for flexible food packaging, and have made good progress with some brand owners working towards the same performance in terms of oxygen, nitrogen, moisture, compared to standard plastics.”
The firm is also working on rigid packaging in the food sector, as well as films.
“Cling film is a perfect solution for Mater-Bi because you are replacing PVC, which is difficult to recycle,” he said.
Novamont has succeeded in entering the UK retail carrier bag market with its recent contract to supply compostable carrier bags.
The alternative to the traditional non-biodegradable and non-compostable plastic bag comes as part of a new strategy by the Co-op, which will see around 60 million traditional single use plastic carrier bags, equal to 340 tonnes of plastic, removed in a phased rollout, following the supply agreement with Novamont.
The community retailer’s blue-print sets out how the Co-op will ban single-use own-brand plastic products and reduce its overall use of plastic packaging within five years and stop using hard to recycle materials, like black plastic.
The bags are designed for dual use: while used for carrying shopping from stores, their secondary use is as food waste caddy liners.
They will be rolled out to almost 1,400 Co-op food stores, initially in towns, cities and villages where the bags are accepted in food waste collections and, along with the food waste, can be turned into peat-free compost.
Castellanza said the compostable carrier bags bio degrade in up to 1.5 years, compared to standard plastic bags which can take hundreds of years to decompose.
“By the end of November Co-op plan to have compostable bags available in all their stores in the UK where there is organic waste collection – we want to push this system.”
He revealed to Packaging News that the firm is in talks and trials with Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, to supply similar compostable carrier bags.
“We are generally working with the main supermarket chains in the UK – in some cases for the carrier bags, in some cases for other projects,” said Castellanza.
“We are confident as after one retailer signs up to the bio project, the interest in this kind of solution starts to grow. Now we are in a good stage of development with other super markets. In general in the UK there is a big interest in carrier bags and how we can get an alternative solution.”