The manufacturing upgrades increase NatureWorks’s responsiveness to rapidly evolving market dynamics and high demand for Ingeo™️ (PLA) biomaterials.

MINNETONKA, Minn., September 22, 2020 – NatureWorks, the world’s leading manufacturer of low-carbon PLA biomaterials, today announced a slate of manufacturing technology projects, including lactide monomer purification efficiency, that will increase the availability of the full Ingeo™️ (PLA) biomaterials portfolio by 10 percent. Installation is currently underway at NatureWorks’s facility in Blair, Nebraska, the world’s first and largest commercial-scale PLA manufacturing plant. The projects will be completed by the end of 2021.

The expanded availability will support growth in markets that demand sustainable, low-carbon materials and require the high-performance attributes that Ingeo is uniquely suited to deliver. These markets include 3D printing and nonwoven hygiene masks as well as compostable coffee capsules, teabags, and coated-paper food serviceware.

“The market continues to rapidly evolve due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the undiminished demand for sustainable, bio-based alternatives to petrochemical-based plastics,” said Rich Altice, President & CEO of NatureWorks. “For NatureWorks to satisfy this unprecedented demand, this purification technology is one of many additional capital improvements we are actively working on at our facility in Blair. At the same time, we continue to pursue a potential future second manufacturing site outside the U.S. to serve our growing international markets.”

Ingeo polylactic acid is made in a multi-step process that begins with using annually renewable plants to turn greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into long-chain sugar molecules. Dextrose derived from the plant sugar molecules, is fermented into lactic acid that then undergoes a proprietary two-step process to transform it into lactide, the monomer for Ingeo polylactic acid polymer.

Commitment to Sustainable Agriculture

The additional annually renewable feedstock sourced to supply the new manufacturing projects will become certified by the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification System (ISCC) to the ISCC PLUS standard of best practices in agricultural production by 2025.

As part of NatureWorks’s participation in the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment and commitment to sustainable agriculture, they announced a new initiative in 2019 to ensure that by 2020 100 percent of the agricultural feedstock used for Ingeo made at their Blair, Nebraska production site will be certified as environmentally and socially sustainable by the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification System (ISCC). By 2025, NatureWorks also committed that 100 percent of new feedstocks for additional manufacturing capacity will be certified as sustainably and responsibly managed via an independent third-party administered program.

NatureWorks was the first biopolymer manufacturer to become certified to the new ISCC PLUS standard in 2012, and currently has more than 60 percent of its agricultural feedstock certified.

For more information about NatureWorks and Ingeo, visit www.natureworksllc.com. Follow NatureWorks on Twitter (@natureworks) for the latest updates.

About NatureWorks

NatureWorks is an advanced materials company offering a broad portfolio of renewably sourced polymers and chemicals. With performance and economics that compete with oil-based materials, naturally advanced Ingeo™ biomaterials are valued for their unique functional properties and used in products from coffee capsules and appliances to tea bags and 3D printing filament. NatureWorks is jointly owned by Thailand’s largest ASEAN leading integrated petrochemical and refining company, PTT Global Chemical, and Cargill, which provides food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services to the world. For more information visit natureworksllc.com or follow NatureWorks on Twitter at @natureworks.

On 10th September, Packaging Europe, the leading intelligence resource for European packaging professionals, presented the webinar: What’s the role of bioplastics in a sustainable packaging future?

Tim Sykes, Brand Director at Packaging Europe, moderated a panel of three experts comprising Hasso Von Pogrell, Managing Director at EUBP, Gary Tee, UK Sales Director at TIPA, and Andy Sweetman, Sales & Marketing Manager at Futamura.

The panelists discussed the environmental implications of bioplastics, along with opportunities and roadblocks around further adoptions of bioplastic packaging applications, and answered some questions from the audience.

On 9th September 2020, the South Australian Parliament enacted the Single-use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Bill 2020 which aims to restrict and prohibit the manufacture, production, distribution, sale and supply of certain single-use and other plastic products in South Australia.

The Act, which is likely to come into force in early 2021, applies to a number of single-use plastic products, including: drinking straw, cutlery, beverage stirrer, as well as expanded polystyrene cup, bowl, plate, and clamshell container.

As outlined in part 3 of the document, the Bill extends to oxo-degradable plastic products which can no longer be produced, distributed, sold and supplied throughout the State.

Recently, the ABA published a fact sheet outlining our position about oxo-degradable plastics which is available here.

Oxo-degradable plastics are conventional non-biodegradable plastics (usually polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), that have additives incorporated at low rates (2-3%) to cause the product to fragment or disintegrate under some conditions, such as in sunlight or in the presence of oxygen or in an anaerobic environment.

None of these products meet the requirements of internationally recognised and consistent Performance Standards covering compostability and biodegradability, including Australian Standards AS4736 -2006 – Biodegradable plastics suitable for composting and other microbial treatment and AS5810 -2010 – Biodegradable Plastics Suitable for Home Composting.

The ABA welcomes the Single-use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Bill 2020 and believes that it should be extended to cover oxo-degradable plastics in other applications such as agricultural mulch films for example.

Copy of the Bill is available here.

PHOTO CREDIT: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Pawarun

 

Report predicts bioplastics growth

With multiple environmental benefits, bioplastics could be vital in helping solve the world’s plastic problem.

About eight million pieces of plastic make their way into the world’s oceans each day, representing a global-scale pollution problem that is not going anywhere without serious intervention.

Bioplastics — plastics produced from biomass feedstocks — could help solve the world’s plastics problem but are struggling to wrestle market share away from conventional plastics. Bioplastics such as polylactic acid, polyhydroxyalkanoates and polybutyl succinate are biodegradable and can have similar, if not identical, functionalities to their fossil-based counterparts. So why aren’t they being widely adopted? An IDTechEx report explores the factors helping and hindering the adoption of bioplastics.

Cost of production

The IDTechEx report — ‘Bioplastics 2020–2025’ — identifies several barriers to more widespread adoption of bioplastics, the major issue being that they are still more expensive to produce than petrochemically derived plastics. Despite a majority of consumers saying they want brands that are sustainable, few are actually willing to pay extra for it, with willingness to pay falling sharply for products with a Green Premium over 5%.

Oil prices fell in 2014 and have stayed low since then, making it even harder for bioplastics to compete on price. As a finite resource, oil prices cannot remain this low forever, but until prices rise bioplastics producers will have to work hard to cut production costs.

The challenge of upscaling

Despite demonstrating proof of concepts in an academic setting, the transition to industrial-scale production is far from straightforward and many companies are reported to have gone bankrupt trying to make the jump. A conservative approach to production methods does not work well with the complexity of high-volume fermentation. Furthermore, there is a lack of capital investment from venture capitalists and governments to help academic innovators and early-stage startups expand production.

Policy change as a facilitator

Despite the barriers to the widespread adoption of bioplastics, governments are increasingly introducing policy changes to help overcome the challenges detailed above. In 2018 the EU updated its Bioeconomy Strategy, making funding available for circular economy projects, and in 2019 the San Francisco Bay Area introduced a range of restrictions on single-use plastics.

Bioplastics companies are also increasingly employing innovative technical approaches to reduce costs, including the use of synthetic biology.

The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) is the peak industry body for manufacturers, converters and distributors of bioplastic products and materials throughout Australia and New Zealand. Dedicated to promoting plastics that are biodegradable, compostable and based on renewable resources, the ABA administers a voluntary verification scheme for biodegradable plastics.

“The growth of the market for sustainable resins derived from renewable resources is driven by recognition that fossil fuel resources are finite and will one day run out,” the ABA said.

“Change is required and this is recognised by business and governments around the world who are encouraging recycling, composting of organic waste, and use of sustainable and renewable materials.”

First posted on Sustainability Matters on 02/04/20 Read more here