Palsgaard powers up plant-based polymer additives production as fossil reduction demands peak
04 Feb 2021 --- Palsgaard is expanding its Einar plant-based polymer additives capacity with a new 10,000-ton pellet line.
The Danish food emulsifiers pioneer is experiencing a fast-growing demand among consumers, brand owners, packaging designers and plastics manufacturers for more natural materials to reduce fossil depletion and waste.
The expanded production capacity meets these requirements by boosting the availability of food-grade, plant-based surfactants and modifiers for polymer manufacturers and compounders.
“The drive for more natural materials is coming from consumers and their increased concern about food safety,” Ulrik Aunskjær, global industry director non-food business development, polymer additives for Palsgaard, tells PackagingInsights.
“The benefit from using Palsgaard’s polymer additives lies in the fact they are dual-use – meaning they can be used in food packaging as well as in the food itself.”
Additives are chemicals used to polymerize, process or modify plastics’ end-use properties. Palsgaard offers its Einar plant-based anti-fog and anti-static additives in several grades, tailored to film, injection molding, foam and coating processes, for a wide range of different polymers, from polyolefins and PVC to PET and engineering plastics.
Moreover, the Einar portfolio also includes slip additives, aging modifiers, mold release agents and dispersing aids. All products have full FDA and EU food-contact approvals.
Carbon neutral plant power
Palsgaard’s plant-based additives are based on renewable raw materials and produced in CO2-neutral facilities. The Einar polymer additives, like the company’s food ingredients, are based on vegetable oils – mainly sunflower, rapeseed and palm.
“These raw materials are crucial in ensuring high quality, functionality and food safety. We recognize the problems surrounding palm oil and have therefore changed our palm oil from conventional to RSPO-certified oil, which ensures environmental and socially responsible sourcing,” explains Aunskjær.
“Every part of the polymer industry, like other industries, is looking to and expected to reduce their carbon footprint. With an intense energy use and a polymer raw material that is still predominantly fossil-based, every contribution makes a difference. Here, our plant-based additives produced in CO2-neutral facilities can help while also ensuring food safety.”
Aunskjær adds that many fossil-based additives are restricted in their application uses as they are hazardous in higher concentrations. However, Palsgaard’s polymer additives are safe to eat. Due to this inherent food safety, Einar additives do not have specific migration limits like their fossil counterparts.
“This means that in a packaged ice cream, you can find Palsgaard’s products in the polymer where it serves as an anti-stat or mold release additive, and in the ice cream where it ensures a creamy mouthfeel, prevention of heat-shock, and good meltdown properties,” he says.
Additionally, the Einar polymer additives can be added in low concentrations, creating minimum interference in the recycling process. The polymers also have no known hazardous decomposition effects, ensuring a high quality of recyclate.
The pellet line expansion addresses compounders and processors’ needs to add specific Einar products to polymers directly rather than as part of a more complex masterbatch formulation.
The offering applies in particular to the use of Einar anti-static additives for food and other packaging applications, where the availability of pelletized products enables a clean and straightforward process.
“The anti-static effect is essential in food packaging manufacturing but also when displayed in, for example, supermarkets, as the anti-static additive ensures dust is not attracted to the packed item,” describes Aunskjær.
“The anti-fog additive is mainly used in food packaging films. Again, think of a meat pack or lettuce bag in a cold supermarket environment. The anti-fog ensures the food is visible and also prevents the formation of water droplets on the inside of the packaging.”
Water droplets encourage bacterial growth. Preventing droplet formation contributes to product shelf life and food safety.
Although plant-based additives are mainly used in polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) – demonstrating reliable performance often better than their fossil-based counterparts, Aunskjær says – there is also “a strong desire” to develop similar additives for more crystalline polymers like PET.
“Producing efficient additives for more crystalline polymers is also a challenge for producers of fossil-based additives, but as we have a century worth of expertise in plant-based chemistry, advanced R&D facilities and experienced scientists at our disposal, we hope to be able to push the boundaries on this too,” he tells PackagingInsights.
Spray cooling investment
In addition to the new pellet line, Palsgaard is investing in an advanced spray cooling tower that will raise its spray capacity by at least 30,000 tons. The tower is scheduled for commissioning in early 2023 and will be supported by multiple new reaction, distillation and esterification plants – all set to double the production capacity at the manufacturer’s Danish facility in Juelsminde by 2024.
In total, Palsgaard expects to invest 750 million Danish Kroner (US$121 million) in the expanded capacities, which, in line with the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability, will not compromise its carbon-neutral status.
“We have several new initiatives, including establishing a solar park and a biogas facility, which will provide the necessary power and waste management infrastructure to enable the new production capacity also to be carbon neutral. This aspect was a crucial consideration in the planning process for the new investment,” concludes Aunskjær.
By Joshua Poole
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