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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Braskem, Sealed Air, Naturepedic Unveil Renewable, Carbon-Negative Polyethylene Foam

A new partnership between Braskem, the largest thermoplastics resins producer in the Americas and a leading biopolymers producer, Sealed Air Corporation, a packaging, cleaning and hygiene solutions company, and Naturepedic, a manufacturer of certified organic mattresses and bedding, is aiming to help consumers lead a more sustainable lifestyle even in their sleep. Together, the partners have developed a first-of-its-kind formula for renewable polyethylene foam.

Braskem’s I’m Green Polyethylene (PE) is a bio-based resin made from sustainably produced ethanol derived from Brazilian sugarcane and a drop-in substitute for conventional oil-based polyethylene. Cultivation of sugarcane utilizes CO2 and releases O2, resulting in a material with a negative carbon footprint. The use of Braskem’s I’m Green PE in the production of one ton of Sealed Air’s foam equates to 3.09 tons of CO2 captured from the atmosphere from a cradle-to-gate life cycle perspective.

“We have been watching the industry moving more and more toward renewable materials and noticed a great deal of energy being dedicated specifically to bioplastics,” said Chad Stephens, VP of Research and Development for Sealed Air. “For Sealed Air, the next logical strategic step was to progress the advancement of renewable polyethylene foams in our product offerings, enabling our clients to further reduce their packaging footprint with more sustainable and enviro-friendly solutions while still providing superior protection against damage.”

“Sealed Air’s vision perfectly aligns with our purpose at Braskem, which is to improve people’s lives by creating sustainable solutions in chemicals and plastics. The renewable polyethylene foam is a phenomenal achievement and we are proud to partner with Sealed Air and be involved with this innovation,” said Gustavo Sergi, Director of Renewable Chemicals at Braksem.

The first application of the polyethylene foam will be Naturepedic’s crib mattresses. According to Barry Cik, an environmental engineer and Naturepedic’s Founder and Technical Director, the use of renewable, bio-based polyethylene foam technology could set a new precedent for the crib mattress industry, whose products require moisture and water barriers. “The use of renewable, non-petroleum sugarcane polyethylene is one more step in Naturepedic’s super safe, healthy and environmentally focused design for our baby mattresses,” said Cik. “Using renewable materials decouples us from fossil-based plastics and this is a key tenant of our company’s purpose for being.”

This is the second time polyethylene has made headlines in recent months. Back in March, researchers at Tisch University and the University of Michigan unveiled a new multi-block polymer that when added to a mix of PE and polypropylene — two widely used materials that typically cannot be repurposed together — created a new and mechanically tough polymer.

Sealed Air and Braskem presented the breakthrough product at Braskem’s booth in the Good Materials section in the Activation Hub at SB’17 Detroit.