BIOPOLYMER Innovation Award als Türöffner

Die BIOPOLYMER Innovation Awards werden in diesem Jahr zum fünften Mal vergeben. Wir nahmen das Jubiläum zum Anlass, bei bisherigen Preisträgern nachzufragen, was aus den prämierten Innovationen geworden ist. Die spontane Umfrage förderte neben bemerkenswerten Erfolgsgeschichten auch eine nicht ganz neue Erkenntnis zutage: Hersteller, Verarbeiter und Anwender von Biokunststoffen müssen noch einige Hürden aus dem Weg räumen, bevor die Materialien zu Selbstverständlichkeiten werden. Auch bei diesen Mühen der Ebene hat sich der Award, der bislang an 12 Preisträger aus fünf Ländern ging, als segensreich erwiesen.

UD-Tapes aus natürlichen Fasern und Biopolymeren der FUSE (SachsenLeinen) GmbH geben Skiern Stabilität und ein interessantes Finish.

Dieser Artikel erschien im Fachmagazin PLASTVERARBEITER, Ausgabe März 2024. Plastverarbeiter ist Medienpartner des BIOPOLYMER Innovation Awards. Wir publizieren auf unserer Website die englische Version des Beitrags.

Since Kay Kölzig received the 2nd prize at the BIOPOLYMER Innovation Awards in June 2022, the winning “FUSE HMBP-Thermo UD-Tapes” from SachsenLeinen (SaxoniaLinen) GmbH have caused a stir. “Together with the German snowboard manufacturer Silbaerg, we won the ‘Natural Fibrenamics Award’ a year later and the ‘JEC World 2024 Innovation Award’ in Paris a few days ago,” says the company CEO from Markkleeberg near Leipzig. The UD tapes – tapes made of unidirectionally aligned natural fibers in a matrix of bioplastics – will replace the usual glass fiber layer in Silbaerg snowboards in the future. The same aim is to be achieved with hemp-based UD tapes in another research project for skis in which several manufacturers are involved.
The success even resulted in a new name: “Since February we are no longer called SachsenLeinen, but rather FUSE GmbH,” explains Kölzig. Series production of the eponymous FUSE UD tapes is scheduled to begin this year. According to the managing director, the BIOPOLYMER Innovation Award is not entirely innocent in this development: “The award helped us to become visible with our new products. We received a lot of inquiries.”


An experience that Isabel Thoma from traceless materials GmbH can confirm. The Hamburg start-up was awarded the second prize a year before SachsenLeinen. With its decision, the jury honored the courage of the company, which was just a year old at this time, to de facto introduce a new product class with natural biopolymers that are literally copied from nature and are obtained from plant residues from the agricultural industry. “The award was a great confirmation from our industry. He showed customers and partners that our idea actually had technical potential,” marketing manager Thoma sums up.
While the Traceless founders Anne Lamp and Johanna Baare had just put their pilot system into operation in the year they won the award in 2021, “we are now working on our first large-scale production system,” adds Thoma. “Our team has grown to 50 people, we have launched the first pilot products, optimized products and technologies and completed a 36.6 million euro financing round in 2023.” The award winners mainly work with brands such as C&A, Otto, Lufthansa and Das Futterhaus on packaging solutions in which the completely bio-based and biodegradable traceless materials can demonstrate their advantages.


With their compostable cling film “Nature Fresh”, the Italian Gruppo Fabbri Vignola snatched the main prize from the Hamburg-based start-up in 2021. With its remarkably good performance properties and high breathability rate – an unvaluable feature for films that aim to preserve food – this biodegradable film not only impressed the jury. Independent authorities such as TÜV Austria certified it as both home compostable and industrially compostable in accordance with standard 13432. „The resulting compost is also suitable for plant growth,” emphasizes Fabbri CEO Stefano Pellegatta.
Nature Fresh nowadays is available in a variety of forms, for example as rolls for manual and automatic food packaging, as cutter boxes for hotels, restaurants and caterers or as jumbo rolls for converters to produce hand-wrapping applications for consumers as well“.
According to Pellegatta, the 1st prize of the BIOPOLYMER Innovation Award gave the Fabbri team, which produces different kinds of films, plain or printed according to the application, special motivation: „Our staff is proud on it and encouraged to further work on innovation and sustainability. We keep communicating it through our communication and special gadgets to customers.“
After developing and launching Nature Fresh, the Fabbri team started working on a similar compostable film for traysealing packaging. The result was just launched onto market during the international trade show Fruit Logistica in Berlin: “Nature Lid” is the new Fabbri “lid” film certified for the industrial compostability by TÜV Austria according to Standard EN 13432.


When we finally reach Andreas Krypczyk from the Thuringian Institute for Textile and Plastics Research (TITK) by phone, he has just returned from “very successful experiments in a large book bindery”. An international company is considering soon producing books with Caremelt®. The CO2-neutral, biodegredable hot glue from TITK, which won the main prize of the BIOPOLYMER Innovation Awards in 2023, is intended not only to further improve the ecological balance of the printed matter, but also to demonstrate its advantages, especially at the end of the book's life: when the glue is washed out during paper recycling and despite technical protective measures at least some of it inevitably ends up in the wastewater. While the remains of previously used adhesives, such as polyurethane compounds, end up wandering around in the environment as microplastics, “Caremelt degrades naturally,” assures project manager Krypczyk. That is not the only good news. The TITK innovation made from plant-based raw materials will soon be available as glue sticks to everyone.

SoBiCo GmbH, which was awarded third prize in the same year, is also reporting further developments just a few months after the winning. With their family of copolymers called Plactid®, the German company can give new, desirable properties to the world's most popular bioplastic, polylactic acid (PLA). The possibilities range from significantly improved elongation at break to higher impact strength and a clearer appearance. “The first materials that we developed together with customers are currently in the test phase,” says Managing Director Johannes Fuchs, lifting the curtain of mystery a little. Not without asking for understanding that “we cannot reveal any further information about the products”. Since winning, the award has been “clearly visible to everyone in the meeting room” of the company, which continues to deal “exclusively with biopolymers”, as Fuchs points out.

The greatest possible proximity to customers is also the working principle of Nölle Kunststofftechnik GmbH, even in the development phase of their re+casts®. With the innovation, the familiy company secured second prize in 2019. The splints for immobilizing bone fractures developed with the Fraunhofer IAP in Potsdam and the St. Walburga Hospital in Nölle’s hometown Meschede offered several advantages over common systems: While conventional casts have to be replaced and disposed of when changes occur in the treated limbs (e.g. after swelling has reduced), the re+casts® could be readjusted several times under infrared light. The rails made from the bio-based plastic PLA could also be industrially composted at the end of their useful life. The aim was to avoid a significant proportion of the up to 150 tonnes of cast waste per year in Germany and to make unavoidable waste part of natural cycles again.
“But in September 2023 we discontinued the product line,” says managing director Heike Ohle-Röth soberly. Because as much as managers in the healthcare system like to talk about sustainability, “in the end, with (too) few exceptions, clinic operators and doctors like to stick with what they know.” In other words it means: disposable use. “The clinics usually have fixed disposal routes,” says Heike Ohle-Röth, referring to what is probably the biggest, systemic hurdle: “Composting plastics is not included in this.” Perhaps, the managing director speculates, “we were simple with our product too early.”

Miika Lehtola from the Finnish company ABMcomposite comes to a similar conclusion. The start-up, which was just five years old at the time, won the third prize at the premiere of the BIOPOLYMER Awards for the ArcBioxTM-MFA plastic series, which was reinforced with biodegradable glass fiber (a small sensation!). ArcBioxTM materials are a biodegradable alternative to common mass-produced plastics such as ABS, polystyrene (PS) and polypropylene (PP). But according to Lehtola, they are currently “on hold because we are confident that the time for this will come“. The company from Tampere currently makes money from, among other things, resorbable implants for the medical sector. The biodegradable glass fibers are also used as reinforcement in them.

Home Eos SA from Farciennes, Belgium, had to manage a strategic turnaround since winning the 2022 first prize. The company received the award for its sound and heat insulating foam called stop sound. The material consists of bio-based, biodegradable and non-toxic substances commonly found in food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products, but from which no known polymer has yet been made.
“At the time of the award ceremony, we produced three models of noise barriers with the Stop Sound membranes,” says CEO Pierre de Kettenis, looking back: “Stop Wall against airborne noise, Stop Floor against impact noise, Stop Pipe against flow noise. Our main customers were building contractors, carpenters, heating and plumbing companies, drywall builders and floor installers.”
However, the almost complete blockage of the market due to the Corona pandemic forced a complete overhaul of Home Eos' sales and marketing strategy, as de Kettenis reports: “Our core target groups today are OEM companies who want to integrate the stop sound technology into their products in order to improve acoustic parameters and minimize undesirable effects on health and the environment.”
The company, which has six employees, contacted 140 well-known OEMs worldwide. Around 20 companies showed serious interest. “We are currently in product development with around ten of them,” reveals de Kettenis. If necessary, Home Eos can increase the capacity of its own facilities from the current 120,000 square meters of stop sound products per year to up to 300,000 by introducing a multi-shift system. “However, our ultimate goal is to license our technology.”
De Kettenis confirms that the award played an important role in attracting new customers: “The award helped to arouse the interest of OEMs and strengthened their trust in our technology,” says the entrepreneur. Even though the award is “unfortunately not general knowledge across all sectors,” he believes, it will continue to play an important role in the future: “We present it in our lobby and use its logo in all of our printed matter,” says the company founder. “And as soon as we have a new marketable product, we will apply again.”

We also received encouraging feedback from Brazil and Bavaria. The innovations awarded third prizes in 2022 and 2021 are still holding their ground on the market. “Our award-winning short fiber-reinforced PLA is mainly used for 3D applications,” reports a spokeswoman for Earth Renewable Technologies (ERT) in Curitiba, Brazil. “Thanks to the award-winning PLA short fibers in PLA matrix, we can optimize the properties of the 3D printing material without any chemical additives. The resulting products and waste are fully compostable. This is what we mean by a fully functional and highly effective biopolymer.”
The company Genisys from Hahnbach, Bavaria, continues to sell millions of its biodegradable pegs for robotic lawnmower cables, which won the BIOPOLYMER Innovation Award in 2021. “However, the numbers fell by around 20 percent last year,” says company owner Richard Götz. He sees the reason for the decline primarily in the price of the material: “There have even been price reductions for conventional plastic, but the bioplastic we use has become more expensive.”

The very first main prize winner of the BIOPOLYMER Innovation Awards cannot complain about a lack of demand: Biofibre GmbH from Straubing in Bavaria. Their award-winning BPB Eco Spacer®, a 97% bio-based and biodegradable scattering granulate that is used as a buffer for the transport and storage of patio and paving slabs, led to a rethink in the industry. “There are hardly any litter granules made from LDPE or other fossil plastics anymore,” says Biofibre managing director Jörg Dörrstein. A large part of the buffers, which are approximately the size of a grain of rice to a pea, are carelessly swept aside by workers after the panels have been laid. But the leaders in the concrete products industry no longer wanted to accept the use of petroleum as a raw material source for LDPE. The industry was looking for alternatives that Biofibre could offer in 2019. The Bavarians also took the award as a commitment: “We are now at recipe version 21,” reveals Dörrstein. “We use recyclates, especially from compostable packaging waste, as raw materials and sometimes incorporate wood chips from sawmill waste into the Eco Spacers in order to further improve the ecological balance.” The story of innovations is never ending …