Dorel Juvenile Group USA, a division of Dorel Industries Inc., has launched four products - including a bathtub and step stool -that use hybrid resins made with up to 50 percent bioplastic to replace conventional oil-based plastic.
By the end of the year, automotive applications for the hybrid materials are anticipated.
Even though the bioplastic hybrid called Biopropylene carries a 5 percent price premium over hydrocarbon-based polypropylene, Dorel and other users are said to be saving money on the switch.
"The overall cost is substantially lower because processing temperatures are 50 percent lower," says Frederick Scheer, CEO of Cereplast, which supplies Biopropylene from a new manufacturing plant in Seymour, IN. Lower operating temperatures mean savings on utility bills and shorter cycle times, creating large productivity gains.
To make Biopropylene, Cereplast compounds traditional oil-based polypropylene with bio-based materials such as starches from corn, tapioca, wheat and potatoes.
The Dorel Juvenile Group's bioplastic small furniture collection is the first of its kind in the juvenile industry, says Vinnie D'Alleva, executive vice president of Business Development for Dorel Juvenile Group Inc.
The bioplastic version of polypropylene even has some property advantages, according to Scheer. "It is printable and paintable without treatment," he says. "This is opening up a world of potential applications."
Polyolefins have low surface energies, making it difficult to apply ink and coatings. Surfaces of polypropylene must be treated prior to coating. Starches do not have the same problem.
By the end of the year, bioplastics made from algae biomass will also be available for compounding into the hybrid line.
Also on the horizon are auto applications. "We have been working with some very large automotive companies, and I anticipate that by the end of the year we will start to see some applications," says Scheer. Potential applications include dashboards, air conditioning ducts and door components.
Next up will be compounds that combine starch with polyethylene. Hybrids with polystyrene are farther off.