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Bio refineries and Mater-Bi®: Novamont’s recipe for sustainable development

Novamont’s presentation at the European Bioplastics Conference will discuss the merits and role played by local bio refineries in creating a new model of sustainable development in Europe. The excellent results from the increasingly widespread use of biodegradable, compostable Mater-Bi® shopping bags have validated this method as a way of creating alternative models of green consumption.

Novara, 22 November 2011

Novamont, a leading Italian manufacturer of bioplastics made from renewable agricultural materials will be among the contributors attending the 6th European Bioplastics Conference, to be held at the MARITIM proArte Hotel in Berlin on 22-23 November.

The two-day event in Berlin will be attended by experts, researchers and entrepreneurs who will discuss the latest innovations in the development of eco-friendly materials, applications and processes, in Europe and beyond. Novamont's contribution will focus on the use of bio refineries in manufacturing bioplastics. This innovative industrial model is based on the idea that the entire production chain should be sustainable and locally-based.

In line with this philosophy, Novamont's plant at Terni (Italy) produces Mater-Bi®, a biopolymer containing vegetable starches and oils, from local agricultural resources. Local farmers are directly involved in the production chain and make a sustainable contribution to logistics: all these elements are essential in order to make a significant difference to a product's environmental impact. Not only that, thanks to a systemic approach, the waste and by-products generated by the bio refinery can be recovered to produce energy for local use.

This type of economically sustainable eco-friendly model, covering the entire production chain, is the philosophy behind the new Green Centre at Porto Torres (Sardinia). The new complex is the result of a joint venture between Novamont and ENI, involving the redevelopment of a large chemical plant once used to refine secondary products of petroleum.

While on the one hand bioplastics and bio refineries have shown that it is possible to create an alternative industrial model with innovative products and processes, there is still a need to continue promoting new, eco-sustainable lifestyles. Where should we start? With simple, everyday gestures and habits which might be small, but can make a difference in terms of reducing CO2 emissions and protecting the environment.

Examples of these habits include bags made from biodegradable plastics which, unlike conventional plastic bags, have the advantage that they can be transformed into compost after they have been disposed of with food waste.
Plastic bags made from petroleum are generally used for a very short time, and do not degrade easily. Although they can be recycled, only a tiny percentage is collected and processed.
On the other hand, biodegradable compostable shopping bags can be used in food waste collection to create a homogenous, fully biodegradable waste product. This increases the efficiency of composting plants and significantly reduces the amount of plastic waste dropped as litter or sent to incinerators.
In 2007, Italy introduced a new law implementing a programme intended to phase out the sale of non-biodegradable shopping bags. The new law has changed the habits of consumers, who have now started using reusable or single-use, biodegradable shopping bags, gradually reducing the presence of traditional plastic bags which were often used to collect food waste.
Surveys carried out by several industry associations in the province of Milan have shown that people started changing their habits just a few weeks after the law came into force, by using biodegradable and reusable bags for their shopping, but in much smaller quantities (up to 50% less). The figures provided by several major supermarket chains indicate that there has been a significant reduction in the use of disposable plastic shopping bags since 2008, and that there is now a move towards a more eco-sustainable model. Overall, there has been a 55% reduction in consumption compared to 2010, and it is estimated that every customer who opts for reusable bags reduces his or her personal consumption of plastic by 5 kg per year, thus reducing the amount of CO2 released into the environment by 12 kg.
This is encouraging news, and is proof that cooperation between the public and private sectors can create incentives for alternative, “greener” consumption models.

Novamont SpA, a subsidiary of Banca Intesa ed Investitori Associati, is a leading manufacturer of bio plastics made from renewable agricultural materials. With a workforce of 170 (30% of whom are dedicated to R&D), the company ended 2010 with a turnover of €90 million, allocating more than 7% of its sales to research and development. Its industrial property portfolio includes 90 series of patents and 800 international registrations. Novamont has its head office in Novara, and a production plant at Terni. The company has a presence, either directly or through distributors, in Germany, France, Benelux, Scandinavia, Denmark, the UK, the USA, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Press contact info:
Carl Byoir & Associates/Hill & Knowlton – 02.319141
Anna Bellini
Alessandra Tomasi

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