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FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY

The zero-sum game of bio-based plastics


We at Nolato are striving to be a leading enterprise in the fight against climate change. One way of ensuring that we create positive change is to innovate how we produce our products to minimize carbon emissions. One plastic material that has shown great potential for becoming the plastic material of a sustainable future is bio-based plastic.

What are bio-based plastics?

Bio-based plastics are plastic materials produced from renewable biomass sources such as vegetable oils, sawdust, and recycled food waste. Bio-based plastics possess the same qualities as plastics made from oil.

Today, Nolato uses bio-based plastics produced from the residues of sugarcane in sugar production. After pressing the sugar out of the sugarcane, debris in the form of biomaterial will remain. This debris can then be fermented and distilled into ethanol. Dehydration of ethanol transforms it into ethylene. Polyethylene is then made by polymerizing the ethylene. The final product is then made in the same way as fossil-based polyethylene. The bio-based plastic can after its lifetime be recycled in the same system as fossil-based plastic. It is also possible to use the remains from the production of ethanol as fertilizer.

Environmental effects

The primary reason for choosing bio-based plastics over fossil-based plastics is that bio-based plastics emit substantially lower amounts of CO2 over its lifetime. This is partly due to lower emissions during the production phase but first and foremost a result of the fact that bio-based plastics potentially emit no additional CO2 into the atmosphere when incinerated. This is due to the fact that the amount of CO2 released when bio-based plastic is incinerated is equal to the amount absorbed by the plants, of which the bio-based plastic is produced, when they grow. This fact of biology combined with the fact that we at Nolato use fossil-free energy wherever it is a possibility means that our bio-based plastics can obtain a CO2-emission level of zero.

Concerns regarding bio-based plastics

Whilst the use of bio-based plastic is mainly positive, there are some concerns regarding the production of bio-based plastic. For instance, a large area of land is needed to produce the biomaterial. However, sugarcane is not grown in environmentally sensitive areas such as rainforests, but rather in drier climates. At the same time, it is important to point out that the cultivation of sugarcane would occur regardless of the production of bio-based plastics, as it is used in other areas of the economy. All the while, the biomaterial is produced solely as a residue. Producing bio-based plastics is therefore a means of taking advantage of rest products deriving from agriculture, as well as other industries that use plants as raw material.

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  • Sustainability

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