Sustainability is a cultural question, infiltrating an organisation and giving rise to the final product. This is the philosophy at the heart of API – a company originally from Vicenza, which was acquired in 2017 by Trinseo – that has positioned itself among the world’s leaders in bioplastics.
“The pathway that led to this point was demanding, yet exciting. – comments Giancarlo Busa, Global Market Leader for footwear at Trinseo. “Starting in 2006, under the guidance of then product developer manager Marco Meneghetti – now Global TPE T&I Leader, we began developing biodegradable and bio-based materials: an experience matured over the years, also through trial and error, which today has led us to become one of the worldwide leaders in biopolymer TPE”.
The first milestone in this journey came in 2006, when, in the API research laboratories, a new degradable compound formula was developed for soles, APINATTM BIO. “The new material created much interest – declares Giancarlo Busa – as the only one if its kind on the market, while an independent laboratory certified its degradability at 90% in 180 days. We patented it and among the early adopters was the sports brand Puma, which chose APINATTM BIO for the soles of its InCycle Basket lifestyle sneaker”.
APINATTM BIOwas ahead of its time: since sustainability had not yet become mandatory, pricing was a problem, since it cost more than the raw materials derived from fossil fuels. The company accordingly oriented itself towards luxury brands, but soon realized the demands of such brands were more radical.
Thus, API decided to undertake a new pathway that would become a momentous turning point: it decided to orient its research towards bio-based, non-food, and non-GMO products. This conversion required great organisational efforts, a more in-depth evaluation of suppliers, and the decision to adopt raw materials closer to the company, resulting in fewer CO2 emissions for a lower environmental impact. Exceptional efforts in research along the supply chain once again led to the creation of something that was unique: API in fact developed a range of bioplastics that brought creativity into synergy with sustainability. “When compared to degradable products, bio-based ones have fewer limits when it comes to choices in style, colour, and treatments. – explains Giancarlo Busa – We have come out with a fairly extensive range of long-lasting colours, from those that are concealing with grained effects to transparent one, adopting a master colour card for the products we create. The LCA of each material is also analysed, ensuring a holistic assessment of the material’s impact”.
By pre-empting market trends, API today finds itself situated on the market in an advantageous position, with the right products at the right time: “Sustainability is a theme that has quickly accelerated as a result of the Coronavirus – concludes Giancarlo Busa – and today, we are working with significant volumes for important brands that have chosen this theme as their guideline”.
Trinseo’s efforts in this sector are strenghtened by its membership in the European Bioplastic Association since 2009, which promotes the introduction of bioplastics onto the market and contributes to the research, innovation, and evolution of sector standards; in 2012, it became a member of Assobioplastiche, the Italian Association of Bioplastics and Biodegradable and Compostable Materials.