Nathan Kemeling, director of business development for YXY at Avantium Chemical, told FoodProductionDaily that the YXY team is striving to develop and commercialize PEF, a material with advantages that go beyond environmental friendliness.
“PEF bottles should have at least the same performance as conventional bottles, but we think that’s not enough,” he said. “It should go further, it should perform better.”
Kemeling said that PEF facilitates production of bottles that are lighter weight, stronger and thinner than PET containers. The properties further boost the material’s sustainability profile and lower overall materials costs.
Additionally, Kemeling said, PEF has bested conventional PET in terms of barrier performance (oxygen, water, and carbon dioxide) and thermal stability.
Avantium, in the effort to bring YXY from the lab to commercial-scale production, has collaborated with a number of companies. Coca-Cola (also partnering on the technology behind biobased PlantBottle containers) is lending a hand, as is converter Alpla and food/beverage giant Danone (which has worked on Bouteille Vegetale, another bio-based container technology).
Collaborating with other corporations, Kemeling said, has enabled them to cover all the bases, from laboratory research, looking into creating a market pull, working out converting and production issues, and ironing out supply chain concerns.
Recycling vs. composting
The goal of the project has been from the get-go creating 100% biobased material, and 100% recyclable polyester material. Kemeling said the work is purposely focusing on recyclability, rather than compostability.
“By recycling you can capture most of the value of the material,” he said. “Our preferred end-of-life solution is to recycle and reuse it for new products.”
Avantium first began work on YXY, a bio-based material that produces PEF, a more sustainable alternative to petroleum-derived PET bottles, in 2005. They anticipate the first commercial-scale plant will be constructed in 2019.
In the road to industrial-scale production of PEF, Avantium is finalizing food contact studies. Kemeling said all research to date indicates the material is totally safe for food contact; an EFSA petition was filed in 2013, and FDA registration is in the works.
Kemeling also told FPD that Avantium and its partners are delving into turning PEF into thin fims for flexible packaging, sheets for thermoforming containers, and various non-packaging applications. It also is researching PEF to PEF recycling, sorting trials at waste and recycling.
Kemeling spoke at the Packaging Conference, an annual, three-day event focused on packaging for food, beverage and other industries. Sponsored by Plastic Technologies Inc. and SBA-CCI, the event is tackling a range of concerns, including sustainability, metal packaging advances, shelf-life improvement and more.