Compostable twine breaks new ground

Compostable twine breaks new ground
The compostable twine is made from bio-based materials and used for tying crops such as tomatoes, peppers, hops and kiwifruit.

Northland-based Extrutec is clear its future is in eco products. The plastic extrusion company has just released Earthtwine to the market, after several years of field trials and small product releases. The compostable twine is made from bio-based materials and used for tying crops such as tomatoes, peppers, hops and kiwifruit.
Extrutec director Joe Wiid says that the product has been developed to suit greenhouse conditions for undercover crops and New Zealand weather conditions for hops and kiwifruit, so it can easily be substituted for petro-chemically based plastic twines. The product won the Northland Inc Innovate Northland award in 2018 and is generating interest from overseas.
“Derived from natural starches Earthtwine offers the same mechanical properties as petro-chemically derived polypropylene twines but it is fully compostable without needing to be separated from green waste. It’s made from natural and renewable raw materials and doesn’t leave toxic residues behind in the environment,” he says.
Earthtwine breaks down into compost in as little 90 days depending on the composting environment. The twine is UV stable, flexible and has been tested by local commercial growers to ensure its suitability.
Joe says that Earthtwine has an advantage over biodegradable twines made from natural fibres such as jute, cotton and sisal, which are not UV stable and can be susceptible to mould and fungae, which not only reduces their tensile strength, but also potentially endangers the health of the crop.
Because Earthtwine has a low moisture absorption it doesn’t encourage the growth of disease-causing pathogens.Joe, who originally hails from South Africa and has 30 years of experience in plastic extrusion, started Extrutec in New Zealand in 2003.
The company’s first product was trimmer line for grass cutting before diversifying into other product lines such as filament for the medical industry.

Compostable twine breaks new ground
Earthtwine won the Northland Inc Innovate Northland award in 2018 and is generating interest from overseas.

 
A factory was established in Auckland but when Extrutec outgrew this, the company was shifted to Northland. Joe says it has been a very positive move setting up base in Ruakaka. There is room to grow and being located near a port sets the company up well for exporting in the future.
The 1000sqm factory is 50 metres long and offers five extrusion lines for medical product, trimmer line, fishing line, eco products such as Earthtwine and a new product called Ecotwisty, a soil degradable tie suitable for use in vineyards and nurseries.
To give an idea of the extensive research and development necessary for any new product Joe says that around 100 recipes were trialled for Earthtwine over three years. Joe sees possibilities for new eco friendly products for many industries.
For example trials are currently in progress with the Department of Conservation for a biodegradable filament suitable for the fishing industry to cut down plastic waste ending up in the ocean.
Extrutec is also seeking to develop a product using recycled plastic bottles to help re-purpose this waste product.Due to the newness of the products remaining price competitive with plastic alternatives has been a challenge as the eco materials are more costly.
Joe sees that as there is more industry uptake that the price will reduce significantly. “Extrutec is the first company in the Southern Hemisphere to produce these type of products so we are quite early. But we are happy to be at the forefront.”
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