Growth of bioplastics concerns recyclers
While bioplastics, made from plants such as corn, are being
promoted as a green alternative to petroleum-based plastics, recyclers worry
that mixing even the smallest amount with traditional oil-based plastics may
cause severe contamination issues.
Bioplastic sales are growing, said Mary Rosenthal, a corporate
communications leader at NatureWorks LLC, one of the largest producers of bioplastics.
The Minnetonka, Minnesota-headquartered company has a production facility in
“Since commercialization in late 2003, we have seen triple and double-digit
growth rates, year over year,” Rosenthal said. She would not reveal volume
numbers for the 50/50 joint venture between Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc.
and Teijin of Japan. However, she said the current capacity of its Blair facility
is 300 million pounds.
“We are now in a phase of expanding our plant capacity,” Rosenthal
NatureWorks produces a biopolymer made from natural plant
sugars, which are fermented and made into lactic acid. The material is transformed
into a monomer and polymerized into small plastic pellets. By replacing petroleum
with a plant-based feedstock, NatureWorks uses up to 67 percent less fossil
fuels to produce its plastics.
“NatureWorks’ biopolymer provides all the performance characteristics
of traditional polymers, without being made from oil,” Rosenthal said,
noting that it is made from 100 percent renewable resources, acquired through
NatureWorks biopolymer, marketed under the Ingeo brand, is
used to create a variety of different end applications, including bio-based
packaging, fibers, durables, service-wear, apparel, hygiene products, and products
for the home and garden.