Italian bio-plastics leaders, Bio-on have inaugurated its first owned plant designed to produce 100% natural and biodegradable special PHAs bioplastics for use in high added value niche markets such as the microbeads used in the cosmetics sector. Production capacity is at first 1000 tons per year, but the team are confident that this can be quickly doubled.
“We are extremely proud,” explains Bio-on Chairman and CEO Marco Astorri, “because this factory demonstrates all-Italian excellence and is the beginning of a new era in the global green chemical industry. From today, thanks to our bio-plastic, many companies will have the chance to protect the environment and give ecological credentials to their products, in compliance with ever more stringent limits on the use of conventional plastics.”
The new production hub is located in Castel San Pietro Terme just outside Bologna in an area of 30,000 m2; it has 3,700 m2 covered space and 6,000 m2 land for development. The plant, managed by Bio-on Plants, the division responsible for production, future expansion and new plants, is equipped with the very latest technologies and the most advanced research laboratories. Here, over 20 researchers in the CNS division (Cosmetic, Nanomedicine & Smart Materials) can test new carbon sources from agricultural waste to produce new types of biodegradable bioplastic and increase the range of technologies offered by Bioon. Bio-on also demonstrates its focus on sustainability in its choice of site, opting to convert a former factory without occupying any new land. The overall investment in the production hub and new research laboratories is 20 million Euro.
“We are very pleased because since March 2017, when the first stone was laid, we have kept to our schedule and kept the promises we made to the market,” says Marco Astorri. “Our technicians and partners have been incredibly reliable throughout the process.”
“Like all complex industrial plants, the new production hub is running a series of tests before becoming fully operational in the autumn. The entire production cycle is run from an innovative control room at the heart of the plant,” explains Riccardo Casoni, Bio-on Plants director, “and this is where the entire industrial process will be tested before production begins 24/7.”
The first product to come out of the Castel San Pietro Terme plant will be Minerv Bio Cosmetics, the bio-plastic microbeads for cosmetics designed to replace the oil-based plastic particles currently used, which are very harmful and non-biodegradable. These microbeads, which are used as thickeners or stabilisers in such widely used products as lipstick, lip gloss, mascara, eye-liner, nail polish, creams, shampoo, foam bath and even toothpaste, pollute the environment because once they are rinsed off after use, they become a permanent part of the natural cycle: plankton in the rivers and seas swallow these plastic particles and thus introduce them into the food chain.
The level of pollution is so serious that the USA was the first country to bring in a law (Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015) banning the use of oil-based polymers in body care products. Some countries, such as Canada, UK, Sweden and France, recently followed suit while others, such as Ireland, Netherlands, Italy, have announced they will do so*. Using Minerv Bio Cosmetics bioplastic in cosmetics products eliminates these pollutants because the micro particles of bio-plastic are naturally biodegradable in water and, therefore, do not enter the food chain. What is more, the bio-polymer developed at the Bio-on laboratories actually decomposes into a nutrient for some micro-organisms and plants present in nature. The benefit for the environment is therefore two-fold.
The new production hub is also the headquarters of Business Units RAF (Recovery And Fermentation), which develops and optimises bio-plastic fermentation and extraction processes to obtain the best possible product yield; and CNS (Cosmetic, Nanomedicine & Smart Materials), which uses cutting-edge scientific equipment to test new types of bio-plastic and develop new applications. The areas of operation are Cosmetics, Nanomedicine, Biomedical, Nutraceuticals, Bioremediation, Organic Electronics and Advanced Materials. CNS laboratories are the base for over 20 researchers from various parts of the world and many different scientific disciplines, such as chemistry, physics, biology, pharmacy, materials engineering, biotechnologies, electronics, and mathematics with an average age of 30.
All the Minerv PHAs bioplastics (polyhydroxyalkanoates) developed by Bio-on (@BioOnBioplastic) are made from renewable plant sources with no competition with food supply chains. They guarantee the same thermo-mechanical properties as conventional plastics with the advantage of being 100% eco-sustainable and naturally biodegradable,
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