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Green polymer chemistry | conference report The fi rst Green Polymer Chemistry conference provided


a fascinating insight into efforts to develop renewable and sustainable polymers. AMI’s Dr Sally Humphreys reports


Inside the green revolution


Opinions may differ on whether the world has yet reached the point of peak oil production, but most agree oil prices will continue to rise and alternatives will have to be found in the future to fossil-based fuels and chemical feedstocks. Renewable and sustainable sourcing for plastics is one key area of development and AMI’s Green Polymer Chemistry conference, which took place in Cologne earlier this year, brought experts from agriculture, chemical engineering, biotechnology and the polymer industry together with sustainability managers from major consumer brand owners and the automotive industry to discuss all aspects of this challenging sector. LMC International’s senior research economist Dr


Sarah Hickingbottom presented an analysis of the global agricultural feedstocks market at the event. Her data showed that worldwide, corn wheat and cassava production amounted to 1.7bn metric tonnes in 2010/11, and sugarcane and sugar beet totalled 160m tonnes (the leading sugar producer is Brazil). On the vegetable oil side, palm predominates at 48m tonnes (85% grown in Malaysia and Indonesia). Palm oil is unique in being


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harvested from trees rather than from seeds, which is the case for other vegetable oils.


Hickingbottom said the agricultural industry is


already seeing a “battle for acres” emerging on a global scale. This began in 2002 along with the drive to use bioethanol/biofuel, which has increased demand on arable land to grow the required feedstocks. By 2010, the area of land under cultivation had expanded worldwide by 70m hectares. But biofuels are not the only demand driver. The rise in per capita income across Asia means that consumers are eating more meat, creating a corresponding increase in demand for animal feed.


Bio-based plastics and other fi ne chemicals are now also being produced from agricultural feedstocks and the challenge is to fi nd sources that are sustainable in this global marketplace both fi nancially and environmentally. Hickingbottom said more land is


certainly available for cultivation in areas December 2012 | COMPOUNDING WORLD 49


Ford is using 12% soy-based polyols in its US seating foams


PHOTO: UNICA


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