PROJECT ACTIONS

Below we have listed the project actions:

Evolution and development of the action

Research and technological innovation in the injection moulding scope for its application in the market intends, among others, to achieve the sustainable development of plastic products that will improve and optimise the management and sustainable use of natural resources and waste, thus promoting the prevention, recovering and recycling of waste that, in this case, comes from the agricultural sector, what becomes a strategy for the future. Furthermore, this strategy contributes to the own 2020 European strategy, circular economy and directives guides referred to waste.

Moreover, the masterbatches being developed in this project are made on biodegradable plastic matrices, which contribute to the minimisation of the environmental impact at the end of their lifespan.

In order to ease the implementation of these products within companies and boost the implementation of this kind of materials in the market, the masterbatches developed are conceived for two traditional industrial, the toys and auxiliary furniture, although they could be implemented in other sectors.

Another point of view in the project is to achieve the outmost energy efficiency in both the materials used and their processing, in order to contribute to the reduction of energetic consumption of some countries, as well as the reduction of processing costs.

To ensure these objectives are met, three main lines of action are defined:

  1. Development of New biodegradable almond shell based masterbatches
  2. Determination of specifications of the industries aimed
  3. Environmental Minimisation

 

New biodegradable almond shell based masterbatches

8-10 biodegradable almond shell-based formulations of masterbatches were obtained at pre-industrial scale, which served as a basis to determine the most suitable final formulations to be applied in demonstrators for parts of toys and furniture. For that purpose, the following actions were carried out:

1) Characterisation of the different almond shell varieties and suppliers as well as the analysis of their influence in final mechanical properties of parts injected with almond shell-based masterbatches depending on the type/supplier and the size of particles or grade of sieving of almond shell.

2) Obtaining 33 initial formulations of masterbatches, with different percentages and sizes of almond shell, colouring and matrixes, two of them on polylactide matrix (PLA) and PLA matrix containing a starch derivate. Different tasks were performed to improve the distribution of the almond shell in the plastic matrix, aiming to get an homogeneous dispersion. A physical-chemical treatment was carried out to improve the adhesion of fibre-plastic matrix. Compatible pigments with biodegradable plastics were added to get innovative tones and textures. Injection of test specimens with those formulations for their physical-chemical characterisation.

3) Optimisation of the extrusion parameters and development of the extrusion prototype to obtain the most appropriate masterbatches to be used in the industries aimed and scale up in enough quantity to develop the new demonstrating products.

4) Determining, obtaining and optimising the appropriate formulations at pre-industrial scale. Establishment of the starting points for the use of these kinds of masterbatches in other industries of the plastic injection sector.

 

Specifications of the aimed industries

This development action of MASTALMOND project entails the definition of the requirements to be achieved by the new masterbatches, the related specifications to their processing (both in their manufacturing by extrusion as well as to add them to the polymers by injection) and the characteristics and requirements of final demonstrators (toy and auxiliary furniture).

In consequence, all these features were checked: regulations and requirements applicable to each aimed sector, the drawing and development or modification of pieces and moulds, selection of the biodegradable formulations to inject, incorporation of masterbatches in different percentages and the optimisation of the injection process.

The injection process was optimised for biodegradable materials (PLA and PLA with starch derivates) when the new masterbatches were added to small pieces at laboratory scale and for the injection of larger demonstrating objects.

Finally, auxiliary furniture demonstrators were obtained by adding a 4 or 8 wt.% of masterbatches of PLA matrix or PLA with starch derivates incorporating almond shell in green, brown, white and beige. Additionally, toy demonstrators were obtained with 4 or 8 wt.% of masterbatches based on PLA and PLA with starch derivates in shades of pink and brown.

 

Environmental minimisation

In the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) carried out, demonstrators injected with PLA-based masterbatch with almond shell and with PLA containing those masterbatches were compared with demonstrators fabricated in a traditional way. For that, in situ measuring tests have been carried out in the facilities of the companies manufacturing these masterbatches (IQAP), toys (INJUSA) and auxiliary furniture (PEREZ CERDA PLASTICS).

Two impact categories have been selected, One is carbon footprint, for which methodology IPCC 2013 with global warming potential (GWP) for a period of 100 years was used; the other impact category is the depletion of fossil fuels, for which methodology Cumulative Energy Demand v1.08 was used.

In the LCA carried out, a relative positive balance is appreciated with the new biopolymer masterbatch in reference to the conventional PE masterbatch, observing a reduction on fossil fuels depletion of 50 %, although during the masterbatch manufacturing a higher consumption of electricity is noticed, which consequently increases the necessary energy and carbon footprint values.

The manufacturing processes of biodegradable toy pieces and furniture also require a higher energetic consumption when PLA is employed, mainly due to the lower material fluidity compared with the conventional polypropylene used. That is why the value of the carbon footprint and the depletion of fossil fuels in the toy and the container have increased, as a higher quantity of electricity in the injection process of these materials compared to convention polymers is consumed.

Nevertheless, the use of more fluid biodegradable matrixes results in 25 % shorter injection cycles and would provide more positive environmental data than those achieved with the masterbatch with PLA matrix, as checked by measuring the injection cycles of the formulation of the injected pieces with PLA+starch+4 % masterbatch of PLA+starch with almond shell.

As stated before, previous results could be notably improved (up to 80 %) with the application of some energetic saving measures.

 

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