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Dow and UPM partner to produce plastics made with renewable feedstock

Global chemicals major Dow Chemical Company (Dow), in partnership with UPM Biofuels, a producer of advanced biofuels and a subsidiary of Finland-headed forest industry major UPM, have jointly announced the commercialization of a plastics offering for the packaging industry made from a bio-based renewable feedstock.

For years crude tall oil (CTO), a residue from the pulp industry, has been used in Sweden and Finland as feedstock (left) to produce renewable diesel fuel for transportation, with a recognised high climate benefit.

According to a statement, Dow is integrating wood-based UPM BioVerno renewable naphtha – a key raw material used to develop plastics – into its slate of raw materials, creating an alternative source for plastics production.

Dow is using this feedstock to produce bio-based polyethylene (PE) at its production facility in Terneuzen, the Netherlands, for use in packaging applications such as food packaging to reduce food waste.

Following a successful year-long trial programme, Dow is now planning to scale production and address the increasing global demand for renewable plastics.

The partnership between UPM and Dow illustrates our ambition to ensure the products we sell support the shift from a traditional linear economy towards a circular economy. At the end of their useful life, products and materials are recovered as efficiently as possible so they can be used again. We are focusing on the sustainability properties of every polymer we bring to market by working with partners like UPM to source alternative feedstocks to minimize the amount of fossil resources required for production, said Carsten Larsen, Dow’s recycling commercial director for Europe.

A biorefinery by-product

UPM BioVerno naphtha is produced at UPM’s biorefinery in Lappeenranta, Finland, from crude tall oil (CTO), which is a residue of paper pulp production. Unlike many other alternative renewable feedstocks, no extra land is required for the feedstock production. The feedstock originates from sustainably managed forests.

UPM Biofuels Lappeenranta Biorefinery (photo courtesy UPM Biofuels).

UPM Biofuels Lappeenranta Biorefinery (photo courtesy UPM Biofuels).

This process also significantly reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, especially by carbon sequestration, compared to standard fossil-derived PE resins up to to 57 percent based on cradle-to-grave (C2G) analysis for bio-LDPE completed with UPM, Elopak, and Anthesis, and the plastics produced can help brand owners meet their sustainable packaging goals.

The entire supply chain is International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) certified, based on the mass balance approach, meaning all steps meet traceability criteria and reduce negative environmental impacts.

100 percent biobased beverage packaging

Packaging made from this renewable feedstock can be fully recyclable as demonstrated through a collaboration with brand owner Elopak, an international supplier of paperboard-based packaging for food and beverage.

Dow’s bio-based low-density polyethylene (LDPE) resins are used to coat Elopak’s liquid carton containers and in the production of carton caps, resulting in a 100 percent renewable beverage carton.

This was achieved without compromising the benefits of the original form of plastic-coated packaging in addition to reducing the CO2 footprint of the packaging during production and use.

Panu Routasalo, Vice President, UPM Biofuels.

It’s exciting to work with Dow and Elopak in the production of a truly sustainable consumer product. We are pleased to help meet value chain demand for increased sustainability in packaging by providing high-quality renewable naphtha for the market, said Panu Routasalo, Vice President for UPM Biofuels, here seen discussing commercial scale-up of the advanced biofuels industry during the 2019 Advanced Biofuels Conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

According to Dow, this agreement with UPM is the latest example of Dow’s strategy to enable a shift to a circular economy for plastics by focusing on resource efficiency and integrating recycled content and renewable feedstocks into its production processes.

Dow also recently partnered with the Fuenix Ecogy Group, based in Weert, the Netherlands, for the supply of pyrolysis oil feedstock, which is made from recycled plastic waste.

Through these efforts, post-consumer plastics will continue to have value through an extended lifespan. These agreements also contribute to Dow’s commitment to incorporate at least 100 000 tonnes of recycled plastics in its product offerings sold in the European Union (EU) by 2025.

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