Stan Higgins 2

Member Article

Supply chains demand more sustainable products and processes

NEPIC’s New Green Management Programme for SME’s aims to develop sustainability expertise writes Dr Stan Higgins CEO of NEPIC.

Tier one consumer facing companies (defined as the most important member of a supply chain) are bowing to both legislative and consumer demand to be able to present their sustainability credentials. This is beginning to impact on the long supply chains that are often involved, most of which reach back into the process sector. This means that SMEs and others will have to accurately present their efficiency credentials as well as their carbon consumption. There will become a need to present this data in order to generate a sale so that the data can be assimilated into the data delivered to the consumer. NEPIC are aiming to help

companies in the process industry supply chains to understand the policy drivers, and also awareness of and access to, both novel and renewable feedstocks. Additionally, help in measuring and presenting their sustainability data with the clear aim of increasing the ability of these companies to make future sales, ahead of others that are not prepared.

The programme is part funded through ERDF and is entitled Developing Energy Efficient Low Carbon Sustainable Industry (DEELOCSI) and managed by NEPIC – the North East Process Industry Cluster. The Cluster is charged with engaging with a large number of SMEs over the 3 year duration of the programme to help them improve their overall environmental management and for some of those engaged, to receive detailed practical implementation programmes allowing them to demonstrate resource and energy efficiency
improvement. NEPIC believe that such a programme will build competency in the regions industry which will be of significance to its economic development for many years to come.

There are a number of current examples of the ‘greening up’ of industry - transport (biofuels), construction industry (lower energy buildings) and specialities (cosmetics). A further example is that within polymer production and use of plastics for food and drinks packaging. Low Carbon, green and sustainable polymeric materials have been in development for many years, yet the adoption of such materials can seem like a pipedream. The relevance and importance of such materials in the commercial world seem to take on greater significance when a global brand bases its future on such materials. In December 2011, Coca-Cola stated that it had started to base the plastic bottles, in which its main brand Coke and other drinks are sold, on 30% plant based polymeric material. The world’s most iconic brand has said the future is sustainable polymeric packaging materials.

Sustainability note:

What does bio-based or bio-degradable mean in terms of the raw materials from which sustainable polymers can be made? Bio-Based or Bio-Sourced material means that the product has been made from a living, biological or renewable source such as waste, crops, trees or algae. This should not be confused with Bio-Degradable where the product can be broken down by other living organisms, such as bacteria, that exist in nature. So being bio- based does not mean a material is bio-degradable. Being bio-degradable does not mean a material is bio-based.

The Coca-Cola Company will call their new packaging “PlantBottle” and will promote this to consumers as the first-to-market plant based PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottle in the industry. PlantBottle is already on the shelves in eco-conscious Denmark, it was introduced in Canada in December 2011, and San Francisco, LA and Seattle in January 2012 and was the only Coke packaging available within the surrounding area of the London Olympic Stadia during the 2012 Olympics. Coca Cola aimed to produce 2 billion PlantBottles by the end of 2011. Muhtar Kent, Coke’s Chairman and CEO called PlantBottle “the bottle of the future” and “a first step towards achieving the Company’s vision of bringing to market plastic bottles that are made with 100 percent renewable raw materials and are still fully recyclable.” The PlantBottle packaging polymer is currently made from PET manufactured with raw material derived from ethanol manufactured from sugar cane and molasses. But the company recognizes that its goal is to use non-food, plant-based waste, such as wood chips or wheat stalks to produce recyclable PET plastic bottles.

Sustainability note:

In addition to PET mentioned above there are a number of other sustainable polymers industry hopes to introduce to make consumer goods greener. Polylatic acid (PLA) can be made from corn starch, and is fit for use in kitchenware, ridged packaging, textiles, flexible films and coatings. Polyhydroxyalkanote (PHA) is also made from corn based carbohydrate and is also biodegradable, it is also heat and moisture resistant and has resistance to grease and oils. This material can be used in agricultural and horticultural applications such as grow/compost bags, packaging including screw caps and closure devices, detergent sachets, electronic and consumer goods and also in the marine environment.

NEPIC is working with a number of companies on a wide range of projects with investors that are making the Northeast of England a leading location in the low carbon economy and the future of polymeric materials. Low carbon manufacturing is well underway in the North East of England with over 20 live projects. This includes the production of renewable fuels, electricity, biopolymers, biopharmaceuticals and the recycling of polymer for food packaging. Additionally, the Northeast hosts the manufacturing centres for Lucite International (Acrylics), The Technical and Research unit of Dupont Tejin Films (Speciality PET and PEM) and the UK National Plastic Electronics Development Centre managed by Centre for Process Innovation (CPI).

The region will also benefit from the announcement of a doubling of PET manufacturing capacity through expansion and further investment by Lotte Chemicals and the construction of a syngas unit based on societal waste announced by Air Products. PYReco are seeking to pyrolise waste tyres and produce oil, gas, steel and carbon black. These current and planned investments are further underpinned by a number of technologyinnovation facilities including the National Industrial Biotechnology Facility designed to help companies of all sizes develop biotech products and processes quickly and cost?effectively. The Anaerobic Digestion Development Centre is an open access asset based facility at Wilton, designed to help organisations of all sizes develop tailored processes for a wide range of wastes in single or mixed streams and also the Thermal Technology Centre housing a pilot plant gasifier and pyrolysis unit.

All of this activity shows an increasing trend towards the greening of the chemical and polymer industries. If you are supplying the process sector in the future your contribution to efficiency and carbon footprint will be required by your customers.

Sustainability note:

It is vitally important that supply chain companies support the green investments mentioned elsewhere in this article. Suppliers into these industries must be able to articulate their carbon footprint, their green credentials and understand where improvement can be made. NEPIC is ensuring that its supply chain members are playing their part in increasing the know-how and understanding of the carbon foot printing. The improved presentation of their green and sustainability credentials when biding for work should ensure that supply chain companies are likely to win more business going forward. Join the DEELOCSI programme
by contacting NEPIC on 01642442560.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Dr Stan Higgins .

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