Monday, April 16th, 2012
The Biopolymers and Biocomposites Research Team at Iowa State University (Ames, IA) will launch an online software tool on June 1, 2012 that will let users determine the economic viability of biobased plastics by comparing processing costs, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions of products made from oil/gas-refined and biobased products.
Users of the Polymers Environmental Calculator will be able to select for comparison among 12 common oil/gas-based plastics and biopolymers, including PET, PP, PE, PS, PLA, and PHA, and optionally can enter additional plastic materials or specific information from suppliers into the comparison. Users also will be able to define processing costs and final end treatment, such as recycling, incineration, or landfill.
David Grewell, who chairs the ISU Biopolymers and Biocomposites Research Team, and has led development of the application, said, “The Polymers Environmental Calculator will allow resin producers, manufacturers and end-users to compare the environmental footprint and costs of their products. This comparison will give designers, manufacturers and consumers the information they need to determine which plastics minimize environmental impacts as well as costs.”
This tool comes at an opportune time. Recent research has shown that, increasingly, consumers want a green solution and will compare products to find the greenest one. However, the research also reveals that consumers do not want to pay a premium for the more sustainable choice. The cost of greening is bound to be a decision point for the entire supply chain going forward.
To develop the PEC software, the ISU Biopolymers Research Team partnered with well-known industry suppliers Nypro and M-Base Engineering + Software. M-Base, which supplies plastics material and design information, including a biopolymers database, provided information on plastic products and manufacturing and software design such as the online graphic user interface. Nypro, a vertically integrated global manufacturer of precision plastic products that provides virtually all aspects of the plastics production process from design to supply chain management, supported the development with manufacturing specs, material selection, and financing.
The Polymers Environmental Calculator joins other recently released tools directed at the rapidly emerging bioplastics sector. This past February, the Bioplastics Council of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association released two guides as free downloads. “Understanding Biobased Carbon Content” shows how to determine and present biobased content. “Life Cycle Analysis Primer – What, Why and How” helps business leaders understand and successfully sponsor a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).
The Polymers Environmental Calculator will be available at no cost on June 1st, and until then more information can be found here.