BASF opens new plant to feed bioplastic PEF demand

A new joint venture between BASF and biomaterials developer Avantium is aiming to add volume production to the fledgling bioplastic packaging market.

The new company, called Synvina, will be based in the Netherlands, and twins Avantium’s chemical building block technology for furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) with BASF’s investment muscle. The German chemicals firm reports it plans to ‘invest a mid-three-digit million euro sum’ to develop a reference plant for FDCA with an annual output of up to 50,000 tonnes. The agreement announced on 8 October extends into evolving the market for the FDCA-based bioplastic polyethylenefuranoate (PEF). This polyester material can substitute for petrochemical-derived polymers in carpet fibres, textiles, and food and drink packaging. In the latter application PEF offers superior barrier performance compared to some existing plastics, which can translate into increased shelf life for produce or thinner walled pack designs. It also has a lower environmental profile because it is fabricated from plant fibres using technology developed in Avantium’s laboratories. It is also fully recyclable.  Avantium has already explored PEF packaging markets through projects with Toyobo, Mitsui, Coca Cola, Danone and Alpla. Synvina will continue to collaborate on these initiatives.

The head of BASF’s intermediates division Stefan Blank says: ‘With Synvina we will enter the promising business with FDCA and PEF, and support our customers in the various industries to create value. We strongly believe that the future belongs to these products because they combine superior characteristics with a production process based on renewable feedstock.’

Tom van Anken, CEO of Avantium, adds: ‘FDCA is a sleeping giant with huge potential. I strongly believe that Synvina will wake up that sleeping giant and make it available for industrial use. ‘With the development of a proven FDCA production process, and the construction of a strong partnering and cooperation network, Avantium has provided Synvina with all necessary prerequisites. ‘It will benefit from BASF’s expertise in market development and large-scale production, and as a reliable chemical company in the business of intermediates and polymers.’

Packaging presents a key market for bioplastics developers. The Smithers report The Future of Global Bioplastics to 2021 shows that global production will rise at 19% year-on-year through to 2021, at which time global demand will be 5.25 million tonnes. Of this over 35% will be for use in food packaging, with non-food packaging being the second largest consumer.

This article comes from Food Contact World, which provides exclusive news and analysis on developments in digital print trends, markets, and technologies.