Bioplastics for daily living

According to the UN’s World Population Prospects 2022, the world’s population will grow to 9.7 billion in 2050, up from 8 billion in 2022, a 21% rise. At the same time, life expectancy at birth is expected to rise to 77.2 years in 2050 from 72.8 years in 2019. Over half of this population growth will take place in developing countries. (Source: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. World Population Prospects 2022: Summary of Results) 

Take lactic acid. It is not a product that most of us think about. Yet, this organic compound – naturally produced by organisms when they break down carbohydrates for energy – is a key raw material for biodegradable products. It is also needed in bulk to manufacture our everyday products – from medication to food, textiles, and biodegradable packaging and labeling. Biodegradable plastics – used, for example, in bags, cutlery, utensils or packaging materials – are expected to replace petroleum-based plastics and reduce the impact of these common products on the environment. 

In China, earlier this year, authorities issued a three-year plan to speed up the development of the country’s non-food bio-based materials industry, and strengthen its innovation capabilities, scale up production, and meet sustainability goals, namely, strengthening the “bioeconomy” or bio-based economy while reducing carbon footprint. 

For GF, this is an important opportunity to pursue its strategic objectives while supporting customers on their own sustainability journeys.

GF: A partner for sustainable innovation

A long-standing partnership with Tianjin-based Oumingzhuang Biological Technology (OMZ), a major producer of process equipment also used for lactic acid, is a testament to that. 

For over 10 years, GF has supported OMZ in implementing technologies central to the processes needed to convert starch into bioplastics, utilizing ion exchange technology. From the outset of their partnership, GF Piping Systems in China worked closely with OMZ to identify technical solutions to increase the capacity, efficiency and reliability of its highly automated systems, which in turn are used by producers of lactic acid. This included deploying more than 100’000 GF valves within the production facilities of OMZ’s customers. 

In 2020, OMZ saw the opportunity to significantly expand the volume and efficiency of the fifth generation of its innovative ion exchange system, seeking to enable its customers to reduce water usage and halve sewage discharge. To do so, OMZ needed a partner with comprehensive experience and the ability to deploy technologies quickly and at the scale required. GF Piping Systems’ long collaboration with OMZ made it the clear choice. Moreover, the unique characteristics of GF’s products, such as their reliability in acidic environments, enabled OMZ to meet its customer’s objective of increasing both volume and efficiency.

“OMZ has enjoyed a decade-long partnership with GF, whose products and services have been instrumental in our success,” said Zhang Tianti, OMZ General Manager. “GF is a trusted and reliable partner, and we eagerly anticipate continuing our collaboration in areas such as biotechnology fermentation and lithium extraction from salt lakes to further advance sustainable industrial development.” 

By using GF’s DN50 valves, OMZ was able to work with smaller valve sizes while maintaining equivalent flow capacity, making it possible to downsize equipment and reduce the raw materials needed as well as the overall weight of the system. The deployment of 5’000 valves across seven parallel ion exchangers has elevated the customer’s production to a smarter, more dependable and highly efficient level. Additionally, the valves are fully plastic, ensuring leak-free performance and reliability. 

“GF valves offer advantages such as lightweight construction, reliability and the ability to operate under a variety of environmental conditions,” said Wang Yingjie, Senior Sales Manager, Energy Key Account Sales Department, GF Piping Systems China. “Our partnership with OMZ is successful as we see OMZ not just as a customer but as a partner for life.” 

A mix of high-quality products, sustainability know-how and operational excellence make GF an ideal partner to help increase access to biodegradable plastics on an industrial scale as the world players continue to invest in the circular economy to reduce their environmental footprint. 

“At GF Piping Systems, we are committed to strengthening our business impact without forgetting to do so in a sustainable way and contribute to societal and technological progress,” Wang said.

Q&A with Wang Yingjie 

Senior Sales Manager, Energy Key Account Sales, GF Piping Systems China 

How does GF Piping Systems help its customers contribute to greater sustainability? 

The results are so impressive that they speak for themselves. Our valves help increase efficiency, reduce wastewater discharge by over 40% and improve resin utilization efficiency by 30% – not only aligning with national energy-saving and emission-reduction policies but also substantially reducing costs for our customers. They are a key component of the chain to produce bioplastics on the required industrial scale. 

How has GF contributed to a successful relationship with OMZ? 

GF has been working closely with OMZ for over 10 years to help them serve their customers with the right equipment, systems and tools. We worked together on several configuration adjustments and process optimizations. Our teams enjoy our collaboration, and we are happy to bring tangible benefits to the table. 

What makes you proud to work at GF and on this project? 

Knowing that a GF product stands for safety and reliability in the long term. We play a key role in a process that impacts people’s lives, and working with motivated and knowledgeable colleagues is exceptionally rewarding. 

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