Our Biobased Christmas List

Posted in: biobased

Here are some biobased products we're hoping we get under the tree this Christmas.

Christmas is just around the corner, and our stockings will soon be filled up with presents. As the used of biobased materials continues to spread, this results in ever more biobased products on the consumer market, and thus potentially wrapped up under our trees.

Here we have compiled our list of the biobased presents we’re hoping to get this year. Don’t worry: we’re not getting socks this year – we've kept clothes to a minimum on this list, as we’ve already discussed our Top 10 Biobased Clothes (which doesn’t actually include socks…).

Okay, so maybe we’re a bit old for these, but these toy vehicles demonstrate important properties that bioplastics have, allowing them to compete with fossil-based plastics. Toys need to both be durable and safe, and also need to be easily moulded and coloured: as these toys demonstrate, all of this is now achievable with bioplastics. The plastic in question is Braskem’s I’m green plastic, which is derived from sugar, and is fast becoming one of the most ubiquitous bioplastics on the market. Toys remain a massive market for plastics, and present a fantastic opportunity for bioplastics to increase their presence in the public eye.

But one kind of toy that you’re never too old for is building blocks. They remain a massive individual toy market, and also demonstrate another property that plastics need to have in this market: consistency. By their nature, building blocks need to come in a wide variety of shapes and colours but retain consistent properties. The LEGO group have invested a large amount of money in attempting to make their bricks biobased, but have not yet released any. They have been beaten to the punch by BanBao, a Chinese toy company, whose building blocks are 100% biobased – they highlight that no petroleum based plastics are used as additives – as are all of the stickers, packaging and adhesives. This is a fantastic achievement for the biobased toys sector to have a product that is completely biobased in all its aspects, and as a bonus, the blocks are manufactured in the Netherlands, thus providing a boost for the European bioeconomy also.

Through the cold of the winter months, it is important to keep oneself warm, and thus stylish knitwear can make ideal gifts. We like these hats in particular because of the innovative biobased material they are made from. The hats are knitted from a mixture of luxury wool and Bolt Threads' Microsilk, which mimics natural spider silk in its properties. We've previously featured Bolt Threads on our top 10 biobased clothes, as their materials are truly unique, possessing no petroleum-based analogues, and thus a host of novel properties, demonstrating the full potential of biobased materials. Unfortunately, these hats have all now sold out across all 10 styles, which is encouraging, as it shows consumer backing for innovative biobased products.

As smartphones’ popularity has spread, to the point where many of us now own one, the only thing as seemingly ubiquitous as the phones themselves are their cases. It is important that these cases are both good-looking and durable for them to sell, but they also need to be disposable: once we shift to the newest smartphone model, our old cases become obsolete. Pela have now developed a phone case made from a mixture of bioplastic and flax fibres, that is not only biobased, but is also completely compostable. This is an important step for this sector, as awareness is high of phone recycling (to prevent harmful metals entering the environment) but necessarily of their accessories – perhaps a product such as Pela’s could see a mutual boost for these recycling efforts. The company recommends the cases be sent for industrial composting, but the cases will also degrade in domestic composters, albeit on a longer time-scale (as long as three years).

This was featured in our top 10 biobased clothes, but we like it so much it is here as well. The jacket is groundbreaking as it is the first 100% biobased jacket. The jacket shows a high performance in its weatherproofing, as well as being stylish and comfortable, and has already received awards for its environmental contributions.

In the aftermath of eating far too much over the Christmas period, many of us will take up New Year’s resolutions to keep fit and exercise more. One product that helps with that is the LUDAVI drinks bottle, manufactured by Sungo in Taiwan using Evonik’s bioplastic. The properties of such a product are self-evident: it needs to be waterproof, weatherproof, and durable. The LUDAVI bottle is certainly all of these things, with Evonik claiming the bottle is “virtually indestructible”, as well as having the thermal insulation and resistance properties to allow it to store hot drinks. The plastic is not 100% biobased, so there is still room for improvement, but the bottle remains a good choice for those who want to look after the environment as well as themselves.

But it's not just those of us wanting to keep fit who might want to carry drinks with us. After a long day's hiking in the countryside, nothing is better than a cold beer, and so this remarkably specific product is ideal for those of us who love the outdoors. Specifically designed with the intention of keeping beer cold on hikes, Ullr's growler bags feature DuPont Tate & Lyle's CORDURA biobased fabric, and membranes made with Susterra propanediol. But the biobased impact of these materials is found more than just on the shelves: they are inspired by DuPont Tate & Lyle's involvement in the brewing industry, for which they produce biobased heat transfer fluids, thus demonstrating that the biobased products we buy as consumers may be utilised elsewhere too.

Those of us with very young family members won’t be wanting to risk our good crockery during Christmas dinner, and so eKoala’s baby dining set offers a biobased solution to this. The set is made from bioplastic, and is 100% biodegradable (although it is not said under what conditions). For such an application, the plastic needs to be completely non-toxic to avoid food contamination, and must also be heat-resistant due to its interaction with hot food.

In 2018, the football world cup will take place in Russia, sure to be one of the greatest sporting spectacles on the calendar. This competition will also have its own subtle biobased feature: the match ball. The synthetic rubber used in the official 2018 match balls is up to 70% biobased and manufactured by ARLANXEO. This is a big win for the bioeconomy, as football’s premier tournament is (understandably) very particular about the performance of its balls, and ARLANXEO’s rubber has been chosen specifically for its high performance in Russia’s cold climate. Naturally, alongside the tournament, the balls are rolling out across the world as official merchandise, meaning biobased footballs will be kicked around in back gardens and parks, as well as Russia’s stadia.

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This article was written by Bob Horton, Research Analyst at NNFCC.

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