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Biodegradable Plastic to Undergo Trials for Waste Disposal in Germany

BASF’s biodegradable plastic Ecovio® FS Film is being used in a pilot project by the waste management service AWB, in the district of Bad Dürkheim , Germany.

Starting on April 6, 2011, a three-month test will be conducted to determine whether the bags are suitable for collecting organic waste and how these bags behave on a large scale at an organic composting plant in Grünstadt owned by the waste management company GML Abfallwirtschaftsgesellschaft mbH.

At the beginning of the project, each of the approximately 65,000 households in the district of Bad Dürkheim will receive 10 bags free of charge by mail along with information material. Additional bags will be available at a number of distribution points throughout the district . Residents are encouraged to use the bags to collect food waste and then dispose of them via the organic waste bin. Garbage bags made of Ecovio make the collection and disposal of biodegradable waste cleaner, more hygienic and easier: They not only prevent unpleasant odors and keep out insects, but also mean that it is no longer necessary to wash and clean the waste pail in the kitchen.

Thanks to the excellent wet strength of the bags, liquids from teabags or fruit leftovers cannot leak through and the bags remain stable. The bags are not suitable for home composting; industrial composting plants, however, provide the conditions needed to ensure residue-free degradation.

The seedling logo that is printed on the bags indicates that the bags as well as the products Ecovio and Ecoflex meet the stringent statutory requirements of European standard EN 13432 which governs the biodegradation and the compostability of packaging. “In addition, an extensive series of tests conducted by BASF at the organic composting plant in Grünstadt at the end of 2009 has demonstrated that the bags are also well-suited for the short cycle times of professional composting plants. Of the plastic bags tested, only organic waste bags made from Ecovio were degraded completely and quickly enough,” explained Jürgen Keck, head of the global business with biodegradable plastics at BASF in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

The residents of Bad Dürkheim district: an integral part of a project partnership

The field test that is now starting goes one step further and examines whether such bags are also appropriate in large quantities in the daily routine of a composting plant. Another important aspect is whether the bags are well accepted and pass the test in the residents’ kitchens.

For this pilot project, BASF and the Bad Dürkheim waste management service AWB are cooperating with additional partners: the Weltplast company is producing the organic waste bags using Ecovio granules provided free-of-charge by BASF, while GML and Veolia Umweltservice GmbH are carrying out the actual composting at the Grünstadt organic composting plant. The independent consulting company IBK-Solutions will be monitoring the project and performing the scientific evaluation. Once the project has been concluded, all of the companies involved and the local residents will be informed about the results. Should the pilot project be successful, then the bags will be permanently approved and made available throughout the district of Bad Dürkheim .

Biodegradable plastics: Ecovio and Ecoflex

Whereas the first Ecovio products made use of BASF’s classic, oil-based biodegradable polyester Ecoflex®, Ecovio FS Film is a new development. This material is made of the partially bio-based Ecoflex FS and PLA (polylactic acid), which is obtained from corn starch. Thanks to this combination, the bags used in the Bad Dürkheim project consist of more than 50 percent renewable raw materials. Like the biodegradable waste itself, the Ecovio molecules are broken down by microorganisms with the aid of enzymes.

The decisive factor for this degradation process is the structure of the molecule, not the origin of the raw materials. At the end of the composting process, the microorganisms completely convert the bags into carbon dioxide, water and biomass. This is a key advantage in terms of waste recovery since the waste disposal companies do not have to remove the bags laboriously. On the contrary, the bags are turned into valuable compost together with the rest of the biodegradable waste. Ecovio bags can thus help to reduce the volume of biodegradable waste in residual waste bins, protect the environment and reduce the cost of disposing of residual waste.

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