The strong growth in consumer demand for biobased plastics and bio-degradable plastics over recent years has been accompanied by increasing interest among producers and users of plastic products. Family business Rodenburg Biopolymers has been investing in the development of materials based on starch-rich residual streams from the potato processing industry since the turn of the century. Partly due to many years of successful cooperation with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, Rodenburg produces a variety of biobased and bio-degradable plastic compounds which are used for a wide range of products; from packaging materials to plant pots, twist caps and sweet wrappers.
Plastics from potato starch have favourable functional properties that can be combined well with features such as bio-degradability in water and soil and compostability. Rodenburg Biopolymers mainly uses cutting starch – which is released when potatoes are cut into chips – as a high-quality raw material for its compounds.
Developing formulations and recipes
Wageningen Food & Biobased Research supports Rodenburg Biopolymers in developing knowledge related to starch processing and properties. For example, its scientists help the company develop and optimise formulations of specific compounds for specific processing technologies or products. Based on this knowledge, recipes are developed, initially at the Biobased Products Innovation Plant of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, and later at Rodenburg’s facilities. These recipes are then tested by Wageningen scientists, looking at processing properties such as melting temperature and flow behaviour, and properties like strength, impact toughness and water sensitivity.
In addition to being a knowledge partner, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research also plays an important networking role for Rodenburg Biopolymers. “We enjoy debating possible end products, from idea to prototype,” says Thijs Rodenburg from the Oosterhout company. “We often do this in joint projects with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research as knowledge partners and companies as end users.” A recent example of an innovation that resulted from such cooperation is the development of a screw cap for food packaging in which starch and bio-succinic acid are major components. Other good product examples of starch plastics are sweet wrappers and flower pots. According to Thijs Rodenburg, these types of initiatives are the result of good cooperation within the chain: “I don’t think we would be so successful if we were not aware of the demands of end users. These are the preconditions for designing our compounds.”
Benefits of long-term partnership
Biobased packaging materials are a growth market in which Rodenburg Biopolymers aims to maintain its leading position as a player at the start of the chain. In doing so, the company is pleased to benefit from the research expertise of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. Thijs Rodenburg: “There are plenty of reasons to continue our partnership. Wageningen scientists contribute new knowledge and ongoing development, which enables us to move forward. Another benefit of a long-term partnership is that you get to know one another very well. There’s no need for us to explain what we want. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research understands our requirements and helps us find the right solutions.”