January 2006

BASF launches plastic based on renewable raw materials

BASF has added a new product to its range of plastics. Like the well-known Ecoflex®, this material is a completely biodegradable plastic called Ecovio®. Ecovio is made of Ecoflex – which is based on petrochemicals - together with renewable raw materials. The first member of this new product class is Ecovio LBX 8145 and, in addition to Ecoflex, it contains 45% by weight of PLA (polylactic acid). PLA is made of corn, a renewable raw material. The first application will be for flexible films that can be used to produce plastic shopping bags.

“With Ecovio®, we are offering a functional and versatile compound. This product will allow us to keep pace with the demand for biodegradable products made of renewable raw materials,” explains Dietmar Heufel, business manager for Ecoflex® and Ecovio®. In the next five years BASF expects the still small world market for biodegradable plastics to grow by more than 20 percent per year.

The renewable component PLA is being purchased from NatureWorks LLC. Samples of Ecovio® will be available in Europe starting in December of 2005, while commercial quantities are expected to hit the market in March of 2006. Ecovio is scheduled to reach Asia and the NAFTA region in the second half of 2006.

Product development and concept
This special compound is manufactured using a process specially devised for biodegradable products, where Ecoflex® and PLA are chemically bound. “We had to pay close attention to the viscosity of the product during the development so as to achieve the most favorable processing properties for our customers. This is where BASF’s comprehensive know-how in plastic production and processing came to the fore,” elaborates Gabriel Skupin, who developed Ecovio®. The name Ecovio is not going to be used for just a single product, but rather for an entire family of products, all made with Ecoflex and renewable raw materials.

Either as a ready-made or for other compounds
The vital benefit for the customer is that he can process Ecovio® as a ready-made: It can be directly used without further addition, modification or preparation to extrude biodegradable films. On the other hand, Ecovio can also go into customers’ own tailor-made blends. They can mix the basic component Ecovio L with Ecoflex® or PLA so as to obtain softer or harder formulations. Processors can even modify the material so that it is suitable for injection-moulding or deep-drawing applications.

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