A lightbulb moment involving materials and machinery suppliers and a film converter led to the development of a new material that is helping companies improve their sustainability.
The project to create high density-biaxially oriented polyethylene involved three companies coming together to show the value of collaboration in the value chain.
"It's truly a team accomplishment," said Owen Lightbody, who leads the performance films technical service team in Nova Chemicals Corp.'s innovation department. So what is so special about HD-BOPE?
Quite a lot, apparently. As Nova Chemicals describes it, though, it is primarily an important building block to help brand owners reach their packaging sustainability goals.
A lot of application development done at Nova focuses on the development of new packaging solutions, Lightbody said. It is why, several years ago, the company became interested in oriented films and specifically, in BOPE in the first place.
"There is a huge emphasis on recycling, and with BOPE, we saw we could help the industry transition to a circular economy," Lightbody said. First, however, the company had to learn more about the oriented films and the processes used to produce these.
"It began with machine directional orientation and then we started learning about the tenter frame process and biaxial films — how the process dramatically improves the performance of polyethylene. Extremely impressive," he said.
"Then, during one of our first trials, we found that with [linear low density] PE, we could make film the first day. But with HDPE, well, everything was failing, it wasn't running through the machine and that's when the lightbulb went on in our heads: This is what the market needs, this is where innovation needs to happen."
However, it was clear that this was a project requiring more know-how than the company had. It needed to find a partner able to provide the technical expertise that Nova was lacking.
"And when you look at the biax film market, there's really one dominant player, and that's Brückner," Lightbody concluded. Nova reached out to Brückner Group GmbH and explained what it was trying to do. Its contact at Brückner, Senior Sales Manager Sebastian Ruhland, immediately realized the potential for collaboration.
"We also saw HD-BOPE as the key to monomaterial packaging and therefore to recyclable packaging design," he said. The companies have worked closely together ever since.