Novomer Inc., a sustainable materials company that features high-performance polymers and other chemicals from renewable feedstocks, announced the successful demonstration of the lowest-cost polymerization process to make compostable polymers that satisfy brand owner requirements for circular economy solutions. The compostable polymer, Rinnovo, will use Novomer’s catalyst technology to manufacture world-scale production quantities. 

The compostable material is manufactured in sample quantities at Novomer’s Innovation Center in Rochester, N.Y. The demonstration of the technology will enable Novomer to begin the design and engineering of a 80,000-tonne commercial facility set to be built in 2022. 

“As a company focused on scalable materials for the circular economy, Novomer has committed significant resources towards its mission to cost effectively address the plastic waste challenge,” says Novomer CEO Jeff Uhrig. “Further, the seemingly unstoppable rise in ocean plastic waste and microplastics will require a portfolio of solutions to confront a wide variety of regional, techno-economic and socio-economic challenges. We are beyond excited that our technology can lower the cost barrier to implement changes needed in the plastic waste management infrastructure.” 

Rinnovo is a polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) polymer that is synthesized using proprietary and highly selective catalysts, reportedly enabling scale and cost advantages over incumbent routes to compostable polymers. It is produced via Novomer’s patented COEth technology, which is designed to convert ethylene oxide and carbon monoxide to produce lactones. The demonstration plant utilizes a low-cost initiator to facilitate ring opening polymerization. Under the conditions of chain propagation, Novomer has achieved molecular weights required for commercial applications. 

“Brand owners need assurances that compostable solutions can be cost effective and scaled,” says Uhrig. “This is an exciting first step to begin the process of product performance validation and application development.” 

Rinnovo meets the requirements of ASTM D6400, the U.S. standard specification for compostable plastics, along with the European Union’s EN13432 directive for compostable and biodegradable packaging. Rinnovo is flexible and provides over 500% elongation for the production of blown film while also offering higher tensile strength than polyethylene (PE). According to Novomer, it sees broad use for Rinnovo compostable polymers in a range of applications including bags, labeling, agricultural films and waste packaging. 

“Ultimately, the mission of Rinnovo materials is not only to provide sustainable end-of- life outcomes for polymers but support even broader initiatives to enhance collection and composting of food and agricultural waste, improve soil quality and reduce global emissions,” says Uhrig.  

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