[PROCESS INFO] Our expert talks about Blown Film Extrusion

Because the support of our partners is a key step for the integration of our technology, our R&D team uses all its know-how to insert Lactips innovation throughout the product value chain with the aim of supporting the transformation of the plastic industry in an efficient and eco-responsible way.

Experienced in the various plastic technical transformations, Kheirdine Mellouki, our plastics process expert, presents the transformation process by blown film extrusion:

What is blown film extrusion?

Blown film extrusion is a method of processing plastic raw materials. Pellets material is heated inside a sheath and pushed by an extrusion screw through an annular die with air injected into the centre to shape a bubble. The resulting sheath can be rolled up for bagging applications or split to produce films for packaging applications for example.

How Lactips material is transformed by the blown film extrusion process?

Blown film extrusion is the most widely used transformation process since the creation of Lactips. First tested in the laboratory of the Jean Monnet University and then developed in our development workshop, the CareTips® material, a real breakthrough innovation, is transformed into film to meet numerous historical applications such as single-dose water-soluble packaging for dishwasher tabs or even more recent applications such as the manufacture of water-soluble ties for anti-contamination laundry bags for example.

The CareTips® range includes specific products for processing by blown film extrusion: CareTips® 300 and CareTips® 310. Lactips has also developed the ProcessTips range which is a processing aid grade in the CareTips® matrix to facilitate processing.

While CareTips® is compatible with blown film extrusion machines, it is necessary to take into account its unique characteristics. For example, a low process temperature is required. A temperature profile with a conventional ramp up is recommended. The process temperatures depend on the type of machine and its size.

A high screw rotation is necessary for the processing of our material in order to limit its residence time in the extruder while having a good material work, trying however to limit self-heating. As CareTips® material is rheofluidic, it is also important to have sufficient filtration to allow the establishment of a high back pressure which is essential for good material processing.

The winding tensions must be adjusted to ensure a good winding of the reels. All parts from the extrusion screw outlet to the die must be chrome or nickel plated.

Because the needs of our partners are unique, our process support team assists them in the realisation of their specifications and answers their problems thanks to our innovative, natural and customisable material.

What are the applications?

Because plastic raw materials are necessary for human activity, but controlling their end-of-life is essential, Lactips has formed a partnership with Plastiques Venthenat, a French industrial company that has been specialising in the blown film extrusion of highly technical plastic films for over 40 years.

To further strengthen and extend its dedicated range of plastics for water-soluble packaging, Plastiques Venthenat transforms CareTips® pellets, into rolls of films, marketed under the BIOCYTER® brand. Plastiques Venthenat is directly addressing the single-dose monolayer packaging and detergent markets and laundry services, particularly in the medical sector (thanks to the applications for water-soluble ties and bags).

What is the difference between Solubility and Biodegradability ?

What is Solubility ?

Solubility is the property of a solid, liquid or gaseous substance (solute) to dissolve in a solid, liquid or gaseous media (solvent). The solubility depends on the physical and chemical properties of the solute and solvent, on temperature, pressure and presence of other chemicals of the solution. It is measured as the saturation concentration. When adding more solute does not increase the concentration of the solution it will begin to precipitate the excess amount of solute.

Example of salt in water :

When a salt such as sodium chloride (table salt) dissolves in water, its ionic lattice is pulled apart so that the individual sodium and chloride ions go into solution:

If we continue adding salt to the solution, the undissolved solid in contact with water will come into equilibrium with the ions it has released. At this point the solution is said to be saturated and the salt will start to precipitate.

The solubility will increase if we increase the temperature (or decrease the pressure). For instance, the salt will precipitate earlier if we dissolve it in cold water.

In all this process, the salt has always been there. We could force its precipitation and recover the salt in solid phase. It has not been transformed into other constituents; it is still salt either in solid state or in soluble structure

Soluble Polymers

We could extend this example to soluble polymers in general: the polymer is dissolved in water but the chemical structure of the material is still there. This could imply the persistence of this plastic in fresh and marine water and the environments and bring or not a pollution according to the chemical nature of the polymer.

What is Biodegradability ?

Plastic biodegradation is the microbial conversion of all its organic constituents to carbon dioxide, microbial biomass, water and mineral salts (oxic conditions), or to carbon dioxide, methane, water, new microbial biomass and mineral salts (anoxic conditions).[1]

The term ‘biodegradable’ is a very wide concept. It does not imply that the material will biodegrade anywhere, or in a certain period of time. A plastic material could biodegrade in 1 million years and still, it could be called biodegradable. The rate at which a plastic item biodegrades depends on the material and also, on the conditions in the environment where it ends up.

Plastic designed to biodegrade in industrial composting facilities may not do so as effectively in the natural environment, whether in the soil, freshwater, or the sea.

Plastic items can only be considered ‘biodegradable’ if they can be fully broken down by microorganisms and transformed into organic constituents. Plastic items that only break down into smaller pieces (like microplastics) are not an improvement over conventional plastic. In fact, the lack of physical visibility could transform them into extremely dangerous materials. These type of materials are advertised as being ‘oxo-degradable‘ and are made from conventional plastics and mixed with additives in order to mimic biodegradation. These products to not comply with the standards for compostability and are not considered biodegradable or bioplastics.[2]

Labelling plastic items as ‘biodegradable’, without explaining what conditions are needed for them to biodegrade, causes confusion among consumers and other users. It could lead to contamination of waste streams and increased pollution or littering. Clear and accurate labelling is needed so that consumers can be confident of what to expect from plastic items, and how to properly use and dispose of them.

There is currently no EU law in place applying to bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics in a comprehensive manner. Therefore, in the European Green Deal and new circular economy action plan, the European Commission announced a policy framework on the sourcing, labelling and use of bio-based plastics, and the use of biodegradable and compostable plastics. The Commission will assess where the use of bio-based feedstock leads to genuine environmental benefits, and not only reduces the use of fossil resources. The Commission will also assess where using biodegradable and compostable plastics can be beneficial to the environment, and the criteria for these uses. [3]

Standards on biodegradable polymers

As mentioned, it is misleading to claim biodegradability without any standard specification. If a material or product is advertised as biodegradable, further information about the timeframe, the level of biodegradation, and the required surrounding conditions should be provided, too.

Standard references are important to understand under what conditions the polymer is going to biodegrade, Table 1 shows the standards with specific conditions for the different environments in which a plastic could be biodegraded:

Soluble VS Biodegradable

Copyright © Emmanuelle KIENER

As a conclusion, the difference between solubility and biodegradability relies in the fact that a soluble material will just dissolve in the solvent (mainly water), without changing its constituents to organic ones. However, a biodegradable material will be transformed by microorganisms to organic elements. The biodegradability of a material will depend on the surrounding conditions, for this reason, when biodegradability is claimed it is important to mention under what conditions a material will biodegrade.

LACTIPS material

Even though some polymers claim to be soluble in water, its biodegradability is not confirmed by any means. On the contrary, Lactips is a plastic free material according to REACH regulation and CareTips 300A has been validated to be 100% biobased (ISO-16620-2;2015). It is a soluble polymer, even in cold water. But also, its biodegradability has been tested:

  • In fresh water according to OK BIODEGRADABLE WATER conformity mark by TÜV Austria.
  • In Home composting environment according to OK COMPOST HOME by TÜV Austria.
  • In marine environment, CareTips 300B was tested with a biodegradation test based on ASTM D6691 (2017). Also, its disintegration was tested (95 μm) and after an incubation period in natural seawater 100% complete disintegration was obtained. Finally, CareTips 300B fulfilled all requirements on heavy metals and fluorine as stipulated by EN 13432 (2000). Moreover, also the requirement on cobalt according to table II of the Trade Memorandum T-4-93 was met.

Lactips itself is a great solution for applications where biodegradability or compostability is needed. But also, Lactips can be blended with other materials to accelerate biodegradability in different environments.

[1] SAPEA. Biodegradability of plastics in the open environment

[2] European Bioplastics Association

[3] European Commission

Lactips joins the UN Global Compact

As a signatory member of the United Nations Global Compact, Lactips joins the world’s largest voluntary corporate citizenship and sustainability initiative, which was established in 2000 and now has over 14,000 participants and stakeholders from more than 161 countries.

Why Lactips is involved in ?

This approach reflects the vision developed since the Lactips’ inception and reinforces the idea that responsible operation of the economy is part of the DNA of Lactips, which strives to develop new ecological packaging solutions and to support the transformation of industries with manufacturing processes adapted to their production lines.

Marie-Hélène Gramatikoff, CEO and co-founder of Lactips said : This supports our vision, built around a vision of an economy that is more respectful of the environment and human health. Our goal is to develop the planet’s greenest plastic.  More than ever, our industries need new solutions to reduce the environmental impact of plastics. Since our company’s inception, we believe that operating responsibly is part of our identity. We want to go further, demonstrating that our disruptive material can be part of the solution, acting responsibly, with our people, and with a sustainable product portfolio management.”

 

What is the UN Global Compact ?

The United Nations Global Compact is leading global-local impact initiatives to embed SDG-aligned practices deep into business operations and across the value chain to accelerate progress and impact for the 2030 Agenda.

Available to participating companies of the UN Global Compact, Global Impact Initiatives are run in close collaboration with Global Compact Local Networks and are designed with a view to generating behavior change across a large number of companies at the local level – achieving maximum impact and scale.

Learn more about the UN Global Compact

Lactips is member of European Plastics Pact

Lactips, as part of its sustainable strategy, has become member of The European Plastics Pact. The Pact is a frontrunner initiative, bringing together leading countries and private organisations from the entire plastics value chain and from across the European Economic Area.

What is the European Plastics Pact?

The European Plastics Pact has set ambitious common targets and aims to encourage cross border connection, cooperation, innovation and harmonisation at the European level, in order to bring a circular economy for plastic in Europe.

The Plastics Pact network was created as part of the New Plastics Economy, an Ellen MacArthur Foundation initiative. It is a unique platform that brings together businesses, governments, innovators, NGOs, and citizens on a national or regional level to work towards ambitious targets and build a plastics system that works.

What are the ambitions of the European Plastics Pact?

To tackle plastics waste and pollution at the source, we need to fundamentally rethink the way we produce, use and reuse plastics. No single organisation or individual can do this on its own. It requires a systemic shift, involving collective action by businesses from across the plastics value chain, governments, and civil society.

For plastic packaging, the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), has united more than 400 organisations from across the global plastics packaging value chain behind a common vision of a circular economy for plastics.

Participants of the European Plastics Pact commit themselves by 2025 to:

  • Reusability and recyclability: Design all plastic packaging and single-use plastic products placed on the market to be reusable where possible and in any case recyclable by 2025;
  • Responsible use of plastics: Move towards a more responsible use of plastic packaging and single-use plastic products, aiming to reduce virgin plastic products and packaging by at least 20% (by weight) by 2025, with half of this reduction coming from an absolute reduction in plastics;
  • Collection, sorting and recycling: Increase the collection, sorting and recycling capacity by at least 25 percentage points by 2025 and reach a level that corresponds to market demand for recycled plastics;
  • Use of recycled plastics: Increase the use of recycled plastics in new products and packaging by 2025, with plastics using companies achieving an average of at least 30% recycled plastics (by weight) in their product and packaging range.

How Lactips is involved in?

Lactips develops, produces, and sells the only plastic-free polymer. As a leading provider of bioplastic industrial solutions, Lactips can genuinely contribute to the achievement of the European Plastics Pacts goals. Lactips innovative, high-quality, 100% bio-based, compostable and biodegradable material is an effective and eco-friendly alternative to many traditional plastics. Lactips solutions also improve the recyclability of numerous packaging.

Lactips will participate in the working groups and help improve solutions to quickly progress with the use of responsible packaging and recyclability of plastics to support the transformation of the European market and to provide an answer to present and future environmental challenges faced by industries.

Learn more about the European Plastics Pact

Laundry bags for sanitary prevention : how Lactips’ efficient solution fights COVID-19 ?

COVID-19 is changing significantly the way we behave, the way we interact and the way we protect ourselves, especially at work. Occupational risk prevention measures are right now in the spotlight, even more if we talk about hospital, nursing homes and other health institutions where COVID-19 is highly present or where its consequences can be devastating.

Many infectious diseases have the capacity to spread within care establishments, where large numbers of people, many of whom may be susceptible to infection, share eating and living accommodation. More than 19.000 elderly people have died in nursing homes only in Spain due to COVID-19. The provision of clean linen is a fundamental requirement of care. Incorrect handling, laundering and storage of linen can pose an infection hazard. All reasonable steps should be taken to protect residents and staff from acquiring infections in care homes. Infected linen from patients with or suspected of suffering from infections specified by the infection control officer as hazardous to staff should be treated according to guidelines of Disease Control and Prevention. Several guidelines were already published and some more are being published with specific focus on COVID-19.

According to these guidelines, linen should be separated into categories ready for decontamination, negating the need for additional handling within the laundry. Linen should be divided into different categories ready for decontamination; many care homes currently use water-soluble/alginate bag liners within cotton sacks in a wheeled trolley to aid this separation, keeping linen off the floor before taking the bags to the laundry[1].

Three categories should be used, these can be colour coded[1].

  • Used linen and clothing – white cotton sack. Soiled linen should be placed into a clear, water-soluble/alginate bag, clothing into a separate water-soluble bag, within a white cotton sack.
  • Heavily soiled/infected linen – red cotton sack. Heavily soiled items should have any solids removed prior to being placed into a red, water-soluble/alginate bag within a red cotton sack. Infected linen includes linen with blood or other body fluids present that could contain pathogenic organisms.
  • Clothing and heat-labile linen – off white cotton sack. This should be placed into a clear, water-soluble/alginate bag within a cotton sack. Heavily soiled clothing should be placed into a red, water-soluble/alginate bag. Manual soaking/sluicing must never be carried out. The pre-wash/sluice cycle in the washing machine should be used after removing any solids.

According to NHS Executive guidelines, HSG (95) 18 – Hospital Laundry Arrangements for Used and Infected Linen, it is recommended that infected linen should be washed in designated washer extractors. It is most important that linen likely to infect staff should be put immediately into a water-soluble bag or bag with a water-soluble stitched seam or membrane which will release its load in the wash process and which is sealed with an appropriate soluble tie and labelled as to its origin[2].

The washing process should have a disinfection cycle in which the temperature in the load is maintained at 65°C (150°F) for not less than 10 minutes or preferably at 71°C (160°F) for not less than 3 minutes. With both options, “mixing time” must be added to ensure heat penetration and assured disinfection. There must be a physical barrier between clean and used or infected linen, when carried on a vehicle at the same time. No bag of linen that is not securely fastened should be placed in a vehicle[2].

According to the Health Technical Memorandum 01-04: Decontamination of linen for health and social care, infectious linen should be sealed in a water-soluble bag, which should then be placed in an impermeable bag immediately on removal from the bed or before leaving a clinical department[3].

  • Water-soluble bags are also recommended for heavily fouled linen if capable of being processed by the washer and if agreed with the linen processor.
  • Water-soluble bags should be transferred to the designated washer without opening, followed by any washable, reusable laundry outer bag, which should be washed in a similar fashion.
  • In future, easy-emptying bags or automatic bag opening equipment may offer an alternative to water-soluble bags. If easy-emptying bags or an automated procedure is adopted, a bag handling procedure should be used that :
    • Minimises manipulation of the bag and prevents exposure of staff to the infectious linen prior to decontamination ;
    • Is fully automated for washer loading ;
    • Incorporates equipment that is capable of being adequately disinfected ; and
    • Requires any outer bag to be decontaminated before disposal or reuse.
  • It is not acceptable for staff to manually open bags containing infectious linen.
  • All linen identified as infectious should be placed in a red water-soluble bag.

March 27th AFNOR published the “Masques barrières. Guide d’exigences minimales, de méthodes d’essais, de confection et d’usage” in this guideline, recommendations for the use of masks, including usage and washing are published[4]:

  • It is recommended before washing the masks to clean your washing machine, by carrying out a cold rinse with bleach or to run it empty at 60° C or 95° C without spinning.
  • The complete washing cycle (wetting, washing, rinsing) must be at least 30 minutes with a washing temperature of 60° C.
  • It is recommended that the barrier mask is completely dried within less than two hours after leaving the wash. Masks must not dry in the open air.
  • The masks should be discarded in a bin with a plastic bag (preferably with cover and not manually operated). Double packaging is recommended to preserve the contents of the first bag in case of tearing of the outer bag, during collection.
  • A water-soluble bag can be used in order to limit the contact of people with dirty masks during the washing phase if the mask allows it.

In this sense, water soluble bags or soluble liners that allow the bag to release the laundry without manipulating it, can be indeed an efficient solution to minimize risks in laundry operations. Lactips’ material offers the solution to stop pandemic and adopt the unique anti-infectious laundry bags adapted to the sanitary needs of users.

Validated by hospitals, Lactips designed a preventive bag to secure the handling of infected linens and limit the risk of contamination in the laundry processing channel. Push by authorities and stakeholders of the sector, Lactips sells today the unique laundry bags with soluble opening available in Europe. Put directly in the machine, the soluble opening disappears totally on contact with cold and hot water releasing the linen from the bag during the washing cycle and without leaving any sticky residues. Based on 100% natural ingredients, Lactips material addresses sanitary and ecological challenges reducing the use of single use linen and prefering biobased and fully biodegradable solution to protect humans and save environment.

Video “Good practice guide for hospital laundries to prevent contamination risks”

For more information, contact our team.

 

[1] Infection control guidance for care homes

[2] NHS Executive guidelines, HSG (95) 18 – Hospital Laundry Arrangements for Used and Infected Linen

[3] Health Technical Memorandum 01-04: Decontamination of linen for health and social care

[4] AFNOR SPEC S76 001

Lactips