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Kaneka highlights bio-based and biodegradable polymer technology at K 2019

The Japan-based company has developed the bio-based and biodegradable polymer PHBH, which is recyclable through composting and also biodegradable in natural environments, including marine waters.


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October 23, 2019 by Canadian Plastics

Amid growing calls to cut back on plastic waste and deliver circular economy solutions, Japan-based technology developer Kaneka Corp. showcased its new Kaneka Biodegradable Polymer PHBH technology at K 2019 following recent food contact material approval in the EU, Japan, and the US.

The company has developed the bio-based and biodegradable polymer PHBH, which is not only recyclable through composting, but is also biodegradable in natural environments, including marine waters.

Articles made of PHBH have a major sustainability advantage in helping to cut back on littering and ocean pollution through its biodegradable properties, the firm said. “The plastics industry is being challenged to come up with more sustainable and biodegradable solutions and help reduce littering issues,” said Yukihito Ozaki, the general manager of Kaneka’s biodegradable polymers division. “Particularly in recent years, marine pollution through microplastics has become a major global societal issue. With this new biopolymer, we are offering a plant-based alternative to compostable and biodegradable articles.”

With “OK Biodegradable MARINE” certification that guarantees biodegradability in sea water, Kaneka’s new solution can help to reduce marine pollution. Other TÜV Austria Belgium certified labels for Biodegradable Polymer PHBH are “OK Biobased,” “OK biodegradable Soil,” “OK Compost Home,” and “OK Compost Industrial.”

The new biopolymer is produced through a microorganism fermentation process, in which plant oils and its fatty acids are used as a primary raw material. It shows excellent biodegradable properties under natural conditions such as in soil and in marine waters and will start to biodegrade into CO₂ and water through the digestive process of micro-organisms available in nature.

Kaneka has been piloting the production of PHBH at its Takasago headquarters in Japan since 2011. Current production is running at capacity of 1,000 MT per year. However, pilot production capacity will be upscaled to 5,000 MT per year by December 2019.

Recent food contact material approvals in the EU, Japan and the US will now allow Kaneka to accelerate their expansion of PHBH:

  • In March 2018, PHBH was registered as a food contact material of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • In May 2019, PHBH was adopted to the positive list of the Japan Hygienic Olefin in May 2019, which means that the raw material can be used in food utensils, containers and packaging materials and Japan.
  • In August 2019, Kaneka’s solutions obtained extended food contact approval towards all food types in the EU. This means that from now on, PHBH can be used for articles such as cutlery, straws, cups, on top of dry food contact applications such as fruit and vegetable bags.

Kaneka’s ePHBH is the result of a successful merging between Kaneka’s fermentation and macromolecular core technologies. It relies on the company’s unique access to both the foam particle technology and the natural polymer PHBH. The newly developed bio-based and biodegradable foam particles can be molded with existing equipment into food and non-food packaging without sacrificing the key features of polyolefin foams.