French-Dutch joint venture to develop bioplastics

Total Station

The bioplastics industry has a new big player. French oil giant Total and Dutch biochemical company Corbion joined forces to develop bioplastics by creating a 50/50 joint venture to produce and market polylactic (PLA) polymers. The two partners will start up in the second half of 2018 a world-class PLA polymerization plant with a capacity of 75,000 tons per year at Corbion’s site in Thailand that already has a lactide (PLA monomer) production unit that will become part of the joint venture. Corbion will supply the lactic acid necessary for the production of the PLA and the lactide.

The new company, whose name is Total Corbion PLA, is based in the Netherlands and has already launched its operations. “I’m very pleased with this joint venture, which aims to become a major player in the growing bioplastics market. This investment is consistent with our ambition of expanding in biofuels and bioplastics, in addition to our more traditional oil- and gas-based products,” commented Bernard Pinatel, President of Total Refining & Chemicals. “Corbion’s unique position in the lactic acid and biopolymers value chain makes it a natural choice for Total. The joint venture will allow us to supply an innovative material that is 100% renewable and biodegradable and that responds to sustainability concerns.”

“PLA – Tjerk de Ruiter, CEO of Corbion, stated – is one of the first renewable, biodegradable polymers able to compete with existing polymers. The joint venture, which combines Total’s technical and marketing knowledge and leading position in polymers with Corbion’s expertise in lactic acid and biopolymers, will enable us to supply innovative products and will accelerate market acceptance.”

PLA is one of the first renewable, biodegradable polymers able to compete with existing polymers.

“In the fast-growing bioplastics arena – Stéphane Dion, newly appointed CEO of Total Corbion PLA, commented – our new company is committed to supplying a versatile and innovative material that is both biobased and biodegradable, bringing added value to customers and contributing to a more sustainable world for ourselves and future generations.”

PLA is a biobased, biodegradable polymer obtained by fermenting renewable resources (sugar or starch) to produce lactic acid. It is mainly used for food packaging, disposable tableware and textiles, as well as in numerous other industries such as oil and gas, electronics, automotive and 3D printing. It is a fast-growing polymer market segment, with an estimated average annual growth rate of 10 to 15% to 2025.

PLA is a biobased, biodegradable polymer obtained by fermenting renewable resources (sugar or starch) to produce lactic acid.

PLA is already being used in a number of packaging applications today, such as fruit and vegetable packaging in supermarkets, single-use shopping bags and disposable drinking cups at concerts and sports events. For those packaging applications where heat resistance is not required, standard PLA offers a number of benefits. It is biobased, compostable, transparent and recyclable. The shelf life of fresh fruit and vegetables can be extended, thanks to the water permeability of PLA: moisture can more easily pass through the film and isn’t trapped inside the packaging.  This helps to prolong the shelf life of fresh fruit and vegetables. In Europe, approximately 6 billion carrier bags are used each year. These bags are mainly distributed via large food and non-food retail stores. On average, according the EU Commission, EU citizens use 198 plastic bags per year (Croatia was not included in the EU Commission’s assessment).

According to the experts, carrier bags made of bioplastics represent a valuable alternative to conventional fossil-based bag types. PLA based compounds are an excellent material of choice for single use shopping bags. They can replace traditional oil-based shopping bags, and have a lower carbon footprint.

PLA drinking cups are already being used at major sports stadiums, festivals and concert halls. Such densely populated events are ideally suited to PLA cups because their closed-loop collection systems allow for easier collection of a single-material stream, which can then be recycled into new cups.

 

by Will Yi Huang

 

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