Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
BASF's Ultramid Joins Revolution of Renewable Packaging Solutions

BASF has developed a versatile, high-performance polyamide called Ultramid®, which is derived from renewable raw materials — the company says it replaces up to 100 percent of the fossil-based resources used at the beginning of the integrated production process with certified biomass.

“Consumer demand for products made of renewable raw materials continues to rise,” says Joachim Queisser, SVP of the Polyamides and Precursors Europe regional business unit. “This offering opens excellent possibilities for packaging film manufacturers to market their products accordingly.”

The company says the resulting polymer, which is produced according to the so-called mass balance approach, is identical to traditional fossil-based polyamides in terms of formulation and quality but results in lower greenhouse gas emissions. Also, existing plants and technologies along the value chain can continue to be used without changes.

BASF says the versatile polyamide is well-suited for an array of applications including film, textile and carpet fiber, as well as for engineering plastics, but especially for the packaging sector — due to its strength, outstanding thermoformability, high thermal stability, including resistance to sterilizing temperatures, and very good barrier properties towards gases, especially oxygen, flavors and aromas.

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In multilayer constructions with polyethylenes (LDPE, LLDPE, EVA), the flexible film is also ideal for vacuum packaging of oxygen-sensitive foods such as ham, cheese, processed food and sausage, which is one of Ultramid® polyamide’s main applications today. Other uses include the production of stretched monofilaments such as industrial wires, fishing lines, tennis racket strings, weed trimmer lines, bristles and dolls’ hair.

BASF is one of several chemical giants making strides toward a future free of fossil-based materials, thanks in part to a handful of strategic partnerships. In May 2013, the company announced it was partnering with and licensing chemical technology company Genomatica’s patented manufacturing process for a renewable form of the organic compound 1,4-butanediol (more commonly known as BDO), which is used for the production of plastics, solvents, electronic chemicals and elastic fibers.

And in October, BASF announced a manufacturing partnership with Heritage Plastics, Inc. to bring production of its ecovio® compostable bioplastic products to North America. Another versatile polymer, ecovio — which was previously only produced in Europe — offers a range of compounded solutions that contain renewable, biobased materials; offer excellent processability and physical properties; and are certified compostable worldwide. Thus far applications have included plastic films such as organic waste bags, dual-use bags (first for shopping, then for organic waste) and agricultural films, as well as compostable packaging solutions such as paper-lamination, shrink films, foam packaging and injection-molding products.

In other bio-based materials news, earlier this month Genomatica announced it is developing bio-based production technologies for major nylon intermediates — including hexamethylenediamine, caprolactam and adipic acid (HMD, CPL and ADA) — to license to major firms in the nylon value chain. These three chemicals, with a total market of over $18 billion per year, are used primarily in the production of nylon 6 and nylon 6,6, also referred to as the polyamides PA 6 and PA 6,6.

And in June, UK-based Biome Bioplastics demonstrated the feasibility of extracting organic chemicals from lignin — a complex hydrocarbon that helps to provide structural support in plants and trees — for the manufacture of bioplastics. Biome says several crucial organic chemicals have been produced in promising yields that have potential use in bioplastic manufacture. Initial trials on several of these target chemicals have demonstrated the potential for them to be produced at industrial scale, suggesting the commercial feasibility of using lignin-derived chemicals as an alternative for their petrochemical counterparts.

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