Livestock pans go green with bio-composite

SweetPro, a manufacturer of feed supplement blocks for livestock is looking to use Laurel BioComposite's Bio-Res PE in its plastic holding pans.

SweetPro (Walhall, N.D., USA), a manufacturer and distributor of premium feed supplement blocks for livestock, announced on April 2 that it is taking steps to go green with one of its core products. The company is looking to raise the renewable content of the plastic holding pans it sources for its 250-lb/113-kg feed blocks with Laurel BioComposite’s (Laurel, Neb., USA) Bio-Res PE, a USDA-certified biomaterial. 

As part of a pilot program, Laurel BioComposite supplied BioRes PE to Terhorst Manufacturingn (Minot, N.D., USA) for small-run production of test pans. Submitted to SweetPro for evaluation, the test pans successfully demonstrated the ability to replace up to 33 percent of the container’s petroleum-based plastic with Bio-Res while maintaining durability. Laurel BioComposite is scaling up in order to provide production quantities of BioRes PE for commercial fabrication.

“We’ve always been a forward-thinking company,” says Bob Thornberg, president of SweetPro. “Since we started in 1991, we have been issued six patents for our non-molasses, free-choice block supplements and our ProBiotein process. Our goal is to improve animal health naturally by using science to optimize organic nutrients, minerals and prebiotics. Leveraging the green chemistry of Laurel BioComposite’s bio-material for our pans, is a good fit for us and a natural, next step that gives us entry into a growing bioeconomy.”

Laurel BioComposite combines a proprietary process with distillers grains, a renewable feedstock from Husker Ag LLC (Plainview, Neb., USA), to produce Bio-Res pellets and powder. The bio-material’s capability to economically raise the renewable content of plastic products 20 to 40 percent helps sustain a positive environmental impact by reducing manufacturers’ and molders’ reliance on crude oil. Bio-Res also improves performance properties for a variety of plastics that use traditional petroleum-based resins.

“We have a saying,” says Tim Bearnes, CEO for Laurel BioComposite, “we don’t make plastics, we make the plastics greener. The growing trend toward sustainability is driving companies to consider ways to incorporate bio-material into their products and processes. Our goal is to foster innovation for customers like SweetPro that are looking for green alternatives.”

The advanced materials company will work with SweetPro’s suppliers to mold the first commercial batch of pans. SweetPro’s distributors will introduce the Bio-Res pans to customers for field testing and customer feedback. The project has the potential to lead to more ambitious applications for the green material says Chris Vaisvil, independent consultant for Laurel BioComposite.

“The data we collect from this initial production run could ultimately help us develop a Bio-Res pan that is completely edible,” he explains. “The ability to mold a pan that can either dissolve in the pasture or be eaten would eliminate the labor involved with someone picking up the pans once the supplements are consumed and the need to dispose of the empty pans in a landfill.”

Laurel BioComposite Bio-Res products are available in pellet formulations which blend easily with polyethylene, polypropylene, polylactic acid and polyhydroxyalkanoates matrices.