A Brazilian petrochemical company declares it has made a plastic commonly used in flexible packaging that is based on ethanol derived from sugar cane. RedHerring reports that São Paulo, Brazil-based Braskem, a large maker of conventional plastics, said the ethanol-based, high density polyethylene plastic is made up entirely of materials that are renewable. The company has invested $5 million to develop the product and aims to begin commercial production of up to 200,000 tons a year by the end of 2009.

Braskem claims its sugar cane-derived polyethylene material is the first “certified green” bioplastic in the world, based on lab results from Beta Analytic.

RedHerring obeserves that it is hard to know what that really means. Experts note that there are two sides to “green” plastics – what they‘‘re made of and whether or not they are biodegradable. Polyethylene – a series of carbon atoms – may not biodegrade, even if originally made from renewable raw materials. Bioplastics are made either from starches or from fermentation, in which micro-organisms are fed sugar-based feedstocks like hydrolyzed corn syrup. However it is made, bioplastics are a growing market, and both giant multinational corporations and technology-focused startups are working to advance and commercialize all manner of new technologies.

Last year, Archer Daniels Midland and Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Metabolix formed a joint venture to commercialize plastics made from microbial fermentation. Segetis, a Minneapolis-based startup, raised $15 million in funding from Khosla Ventures in April to develop chemical and plastic products from agricultural and forestry feedstocks. Cargill is also getting into the act.

Ano da Publicação:
WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #26-2007-June 29, 2006
Kit Strange/Warmer Bulletin
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