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May 2004

Toyota Targets 66% of Global Bioplastics Supply by 2020

Houston, TX— Toyota, the world’s second largest car maker, is targeting to hold first position in the production of biodegradable plastics by 2020, by which time it aims to have control of 66% of the world’s supply of the product category. With a value of $38 billion in 2020, the business would represent 25% of Toyota’s total revenues in the business year to March.

Toyota said at the end of 2003 that it expected an operating profit of $1.6 million on sales of $5.2 million in 2007 for its biotechnology division. These figures do not include its bioplastics business, which is still at an experimental stage. The company set up its biotech division in 1998 as a part of a $48 million venture fund set aside in 1996 by Hiroshi Okuda who was then president and is now chairman of Toyota.

In 2003, Toyota began using bioplastics in some new model autos, including the Raum and Prius models. But in addition to its traditional internal auto market, the company also supplies material to Japanese cosmetics maker Shiseido and other manufacturers. Bioplastics burn at low temperatures, require less fuel for disposal, and emit no harmful gases when incinerated.

Currently, Toyota produces a small amount of bioplastics at a domestic factory purchased from precision machinery maker, Shimadzu, and is planning a 1,000 ton per annum experimental plant in Toyota City in the third quarter of 2004.

Japanese annual plastics consumption, at about fourteen million tons, represents nearly 10% of the 150 million tons produced globally. At present only 10,000 tons of the Japanese total is believed to be bioplastics. But by 2010, the bioplastics figure is expected to jump to 560,000 tons, and by 2020 20% of the world’s plastic would be biodegradable, equivalent to 30 million tons.

At current production volumes, bioplastic now costs between $4.47 and $9.50 per kilogram. This is about five times the price of conventional petroleum derived plastics.


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