By Charlotte Eyre Posted 8 June 2009 3:17 pm GMT
Italian supermarket Unicoop is teaming up with Novamont to manufacture bags out of the biopolymer producer’s Mater-Bio, a starch-based resin.
Novamont spokesperson Sabina Lenaz told European Plastics News that the Mater-bio bag, which is 100% compostable and takes only one to three months to biodegrade in landfill, will be used to replace all of Unicoop’s 50m carrier bags in shops throughout Florence, one of Italy’s largest cities.
Lenaz says the bags are manufactured by Italian firm IPU and are compostable according to the EN 13432 standard.
“[The material] thus completes a virtuous circle: raw materials of agricultural origin are returned to the soil by way of biodegrading and composting processes without pollutants,” says Novamont.
In addition, Mater-Bio has little impact on land used to grow crops, as the total quantity of land used to grow maize for plastics production was only 0.05% - 540 hectares – of the total land used for maize in Italy in 2007, says Novamont. Therefore the impact of bioplastics in terms of the amount of extra land requiring cultivation is minimal, claims the firm.
Unicoop says it launched the environmentally friendly bags ahead of an Italian finance bill, expected to come into effect in 2010, which stipulates that all polyethylene bags must be replaced by ones made of biodegradable materials. Several other supermarkets in the country have also made the switch, including Sma, U!, and Esselunga.
Unicoop officially launched its Mater-Bio bags in May as part of a project to promote sustainability entitled ‘Diamo una mano all’ambiente’ (Let’s lend a hand to the environment).
Novamont began producing Mater-Bio in 1990 in Terni, Italy, as part of the country’s drive to reduce the country’s high dependence on non-recyclable plastics. According to the firm, Italy consumes as much as a quarter of all the plastic bags in the EU, amounting to 260,000 tonnes per year.
Last month, the company strengthened its bioplastics R&D and production operations in Italy by striking a deal with the Umbria region as well as associations representing agriculture and industry. As part of the deal, Novamont will open up its Terni operations to outside researchers, provide training and collaborate with Coldiretti, the agriculture association, in creating specialist manufacturing operations dedicated to vegetable oils.
Novamont is also building a “biorefinery” that in the next few months will raise the company’s polymer capacity from 40,000 tpa to 60,000 tpa.