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This process improves blends of starch-based plastic with conventional polyolefins

By Scott Jenkins |

Thermoplastic starch, a biodegradable polysaccharide, is an attractive material for environmentally friendly plastics, but its cost and molecular properties have prevented it from being used in thin films. A process for a new starch plastic resin allows the material to be blended with conventional plastics to produce high-quality, high-strength plastic films.

BioLogiQ (Idaho Falls, Idaho; www.biologiq.com) has introduced NuPlastiq, a biodegradable plastic resin produced from waste starch at potato-cutting facilities (for French fries and potato chips). When blended with conventional polyethylene resins, NuPlastiq allows thinner films with the same strength.

Starch is made of amylose, a linear polysaccharide molecule, and amylopectin, which has a highly branched structure that limits its ability to form strong films. BioLogiQ has developed a proprietary process that creates a smaller particle size in the starch powder and removes the material’s affinity for moisture. The modified starch powder is then made into a thermoplastic resin. The BioLogiQ process overcomes the problems created by the branched amylopectin structure, and allows the resulting resin to form strong films.

“To make blends traditionally, starch powder would be blended with conventional polyolefin resin pellets directly using a twin-screw compounding machine,” says Brad LaPray, president of BioLogiQ. “We are making the starch into low-moisture resin pellets that can be mixed with conventional resins in existing production facilities.”

When mixed with linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), NuPlastiQ allows films as thin as 2.5 microns to be produced, the company says. By displacing some conventional plastic and forming thinner films with equivalent strength, the blends reduce net greenhouse gas emissions and may improve the performance of recycling low-value plastic streams.

BioLogiQ recently announced a collaboration with Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics (Midland, Mich.; www.dow.com) that is evaluating which potential thin-film and packaging applications would benefit from using blends of NuPlastiq and conventional Dow resins. “The plastics and packaging industries are looking for additional ways to increase sustainability, and these blends can be another tool in the toolbox,” says Heather Turner, associate marketing director at Dow.

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