Insights from industry

The Growing Need for Sustainable Pallet Materials

In this interview, AZoCleanTech talks with Laurence Dummett, CEO of Biofiba, about the need for sustainable pallet materials.

Could you please give a brief overview of Biofiba?

Biofiba Limited (the Company) was established in Australia in 2009 with a focused commitment and the strong belief that a sustainable profitable business concept must include environmentally friendly processes and policies.

The Company is primarily committed to developing and designing products that utilise innovative ‘green’ low carbon dioxide emitting manufacturing technology and processes.

Sharing its name with the Company is Biofiba® the product. This is an extruded biodegradable simulated timber - a timber substitute. The first application of Biofiba® is in the pallet market with the production of Biopallets®.

The product has been developed and is available now. This technology has been certified by the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and endorsed by multiple international bodies including ‘Australia Made.’

The Company is the only company globally to produce pallets (Biopallets®) using the only known truly 100% biocomposite. Biopallets® are a ‘Green Eco friendly Composite’ comprising, 100% natural organic matter sourced from commercially grown, renewable, non-food crops processed and extruded into a simulated timber plank as an alternative to timber, plastic and polystyrene pallets – traditional pallet materials.

At the end of its short life span the biodegradable Biopallets® decompose naturally into a harmless, safe, and potentially valuable, garden mulch that will not contaminate, or damage the environment.

This presents a substantial difference to the treatment of timber export pallets. There are approximately 6 billion export shipping pallets produced annually with an estimated 94% being made from timber. After a single use, they typically end their journey in landfill. Due to the size of the timber export pallet market and the positive environmental impact, the Company will offer the market Biopallets® as a substitute to timber export pallets. Further, Extruded Biofiba® planks used to produce Biopallets® fit exactly into the existing timber pallet manufacturer’s fabrication system making it a relatively seamless substitution or replacement process.

The Company has based its business model on that used by global beverage companies in that it is predominantly a licensor of proprietary technology. Licenses available include regional country marketing licenses, production licenses, manufacturing (sub) licenses in addition to farming contractors. In addition to licensing fees, the Company earns revenue by supplying equipment and raw material to parties involved in the production process.

The global market has embraced the Biofiba Technology as evidenced by the multiple licenses and memorandum of understanding agreements currently in place in regions including Australia/New Zealand, Africa, Canada/USA, China and Greater Asia.

 

How is Biofiba88 produced?

Biofiba® is a ‘green eco composite’ comprising, organic starches, binding agents and cellulose fibre sourced from commercially grown, renewable, non-food crops - It is a cost effective biocomposite timber substitute. The technology offers a sustainable, earth-friendly alternative for existing pallet manufacture, freeing timber resources for higher value-added uses.

To the best of the Directors’ knowledge, the Company is the only company globally with technology (patent pending) able to produce a simulated timber plank that is used to manufacture pallets that are 100% biocomposite. At the end of their short life span these biodegradable pallets decompose naturally into harmless, safe, and potentially valuable, garden mulch that will not contaminate or damage the environment.

Is it possible to achieve high volume production of Biopallets? Can Biofiba pallets be used in the same way as timber pallets? How do properties differ?

On average current pallet manufacturers using automatic plank nailing machines produce a completed pallet every 10 seconds. Biofiba extruded planks simply replace the use of timber and production output is controlled by the manufacturer’s current production infrastructure.

Extruded Biofiba planks can simulate in every respect the same physical and mechanical properties as timber.

What are the carbon emissions of Biofiba compared to other pallet materials?

The Company has a process and product that will cause significant environmental cost savings at all levels. These are saving that current products such as Plastic, Polystyrene and chemically treated timber can’t address and the continued use of these products will decrease as more stringent bio-security environment regulations are introduced.

Biofiba will; eliminate the use of methyl bromide a cariogenic chemical fumigant; reduce manufacturing waste; reduce CO2 emissions; reduce land fill cost; lighter weigh reducing freight costs; a green and cost efficient manufacturing process.

An independent cradle to gate life cycle analysis has been carried out comparing hardwood pallets to Biopallets®. The analysis was conducted by the Ecosystem Science Division of the CSIRO to determine the effect on the environment of CO2 emissions. The report concluded that:

  • Hardwood pallets emitted 25% more CO2 when compared to Biopallets®; and
  • Plastic pallets emitted 15 times more CO2 when compared to hardwood pallets.

What are the other key environmental benefits of Biopallets?

The Biopallet® has many unique properties and key advantages over other non -renewable materials.

These include:

  • Biopallets® will, biodegrade, free of chemicals which is a stark difference to the treated timber and plastic composites that are used as export pallets; and
  • Biopallets® are cost competitive;
  • Biofiba® has the same workability as timber with unique properties that cause decomposition into harmless and safe environmental mulch;
  • Biofiba® removes the requirement to fumigate the base materials (required for timber);
  • Biopallets® removes the need to install heat treatment chamber (required for timber);
  • Biopallets® is fully compliant with ISPM 15;
  • Biopallets® are bio-security compliant
  • Biofiba® planks can be manufactured to exact length, minimising waste;
  • Biofiba88® extrusion pellets will occupy less storage space in comparison to current raw materials (timber) resulting in cost saving; and
  • The use of Biofiba® reduces carbon emissions leading to a cleaner environment.

 

GT: What tests has Biofiba undergone and what certification has it received?

LD: Biofiba® has been tested and certified by the CSIRO and complies with Australian Standards AS ISO 14855 – AS 4068-1933 Biodegration compliance and Australian Standard AS 4068-1993 flat pallet transportation.

GT: Biofiba has recently been named as a finalist in the Australian Cleantech Competition 2012 – could you explain a little about this and what it means to the company?

LD: Being selected as a finalist is a testament and a recognition of the dedication of the research, scientific, engineering and marketing teams and reaching this stage has taken years of extensive development which broadly involved designing and testing specific processing equipment and the formulation of a biocomposite polymer resin binder. Also as a finalist Biofiba will be showcased to a broader global market which has the potential to further high light the environmental and commercial benefits of Biofiba.

GT: Do you feel enough is being done to promote growing cleantech companies?

LD: The term Cleantech covers a raft of products and services each striving to provide, cost savings, clean and efficient environmental solutions. However, the global population in general is very much unaware of these technologies and products. There must be now a concerted effort by all sectors to further promote and encourage such products and services.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

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