“We are looking to replace those multi-layer films with a mono-layer of PEF that brings all the functionalities that people are looking for in terms of barriers and physical and mechanical properties.”
Dutch renewable chemicals company Avantium aims to produce furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) to help the bioeconomy supply chain to manufacture polyethylene furanoate (PEF) for high-value, easily-recyclable packaging applications, CEO Tom van Aken told Bio Market Insights.
Van Aken’s comments come after the company recently announced that it would build its five-kiloton-per-year FDCA flagship plant at Chemie Park Delfzijl, the Netherlands.
FDCA (a bio-based monomer) is a key building block for many chemicals and plastics such as PEF. PEF is a bio-based alternative to fossil fuel-based PET. It offers superior barrier and thermal properties and makes it the ideal material for a wide range of applications in the packaging industry, including multi-layered films and drink bottles.
Van Aken told BMI that Avantium was looking to build a new supply chain and work with industry experts who could convert FDCA into PEF and packaging brands who would use the material for their packs. He said that the company was specifically targeting high-value PEF applications.
He explained: “We are not looking to introduce PEF into applications where we are competing like for like with PET. We are aiming to launch the material in applications where you are competing with petroleum-based multi-layer films or bottles, which tend to be difficult to recycle.”
These petroleum-based multi-layer packs typically have a layer of PET, polyethylene, a layer to glue it together and a coating layer to protect printed symbols. Some food packs even have up to 11 layers of polymer within them.
Van Aken said: “We are looking to replace those multi-layer films with a mono-layer of PEF that brings all the functionalities that people are looking for in terms of barriers and physical and mechanical properties.
“Essentially, we are looking at high-value applications of PEF, where you can also justify a higher sales price because of its performance and by the fact that it can be easily recycled in contrast to conventional multi-layer packaging, which can be difficult to recycle.”
It is not just films that the company is throwing the idea at, multi-layered drink bottles are also in the frame.
In relation to recycling PEF, Van Aken said that PEF is similar to PET in terms of its recycling properties. It is suitable for mechanical and chemical recycling, he added.
Looking forward, Van Aken said that Avantium hoped to make an investment decision on the company’s FDCA plant by the end of the year, followed by two years of construction, with the aim of unveiling FDCA to the market by 2023.
“This will give us a few years to plan for the commercialisation of this material to make sure that everybody in the supply chain, including recycling facilities, are prepared for it,” he added.