BPN Innovation Award

October 2013

Fish boxThe Biopolymer Network Ltd (BPN) has received national recognition for its revolutionary bioplastic foam, ZealaFoamTM at this year’s New Zealand Innovators Awards announced last week.

Biopolymer Network was winner of the 2013 Innovation Excellence in Research category. The award celebrates ‘those that have started on the research and commercialisation journey and who have completed a research project that has excellent potential and impact’.

ZealaFoamTM is a low density moulded bioplastic foam that is cost-effective, made from renewable resources and is an eco-friendly alternative to expanded polystyrene (EPS) foams that can be manufactured on existing EPS production lines with little modification.

Made from polylactic acid (PLA), ZealaFoamTM is a sustainable ‘green plastic’ derived from corn or other renewable resources. Biopolymer Network’s unique patented processing technology involves impregnation and pre-expansion of the PLA beads using carbon dioxide.

According to Sarah Heine, Chief Executive of BPN, the award is an industry stamp of approval for ZealaFoamTM and will likely accelerate the uptake of the bioplastic as a substitute for EPS.

“We are really thrilled to receive this award,” says Ms Heine. “Our process to manufacture PLA foam is world leading in its use of liquid CO2 – which gives short processing times and efficient and cost-effective production throughout and produces high performance products.

“The raw materials are all renewable and readily available. Even the CO2 blowing agent can easily be recovered during the process and reused.

“It’s a truly green process, using genuinely renewable and compostable material, and adapting to existing manufacturing plants with minimal investment – it’s win-win all round.

“What’s more it’s a great opportunity for BPN and New Zealand to have international impact in a market where there are few, if any, truly environmentally friendly alternatives.”

Biopolymer Network, supported by Scion, built an industrial scale ZealaFoamTM pilot plant in Nelson earlier this year to mould fish boxes and other products for use in packaging, sporting goods, furniture and insulation. Initial sales of products have been made, and companies from New Zealand, Australia, USA, Europe and Asia have signed agreements to facilitate further evaluation of the product.

“ZealaFoamTM not only protects the market share of New Zealand exporters using EPS, it also enables access to new markets where sustainability is key and the use of traditional EPS is frowned upon,” says Ms Heine.

Ms Heine went on to say that the Biopolymer Network is now recognised as a world leader in biopolymer foam technologies, with many new opportunities for New Zealand and international collaborations opening up.

Biopolymer Network Ltd is a company jointly owned by Scion, AgResearch and Plant and Food Research.  The biofoams project was invested in by MBIE (BPLY 0801).

Sarah Heine
Chief Executive Biopolymer Network Ltd
Phone 07 3435573