Bioplastics with PLA based on sugar beet and sugarcane residues

12-Sep-07
An Italian biotech start-up called Bio-On is entering the bioplastics market with a process that produces polylactic acid (PLA) based plastics from sugar beet and sugarcane residues with a claimed efficiency of 95% : waste streams become valuable resources that can be converted almost in their entirety in a useful product. Sugar beet pulp, one of the prime feedstocks, is usually used as low value animal feed or disposed of at additional cost. Likewise, bagasse and mollases from sugarcane have a relatively low value and are abundantly available. PLA based bioplastics are currently produced almost exclusively from corn and grain starch. But given that prices for these feedstock keep rising because of their use in the production of ethanol, the utilization of new raw materials becomes an attractive proposal. The production of sugar crops, on the contrary, is outstripping demand. Both Brazil and India delivered record crops, and sugar prices have declined in the EU. The production process would reduce energy costs and as it is based on a multi-feedstock strategy, costs for raw materials would be substantially lower than those for traditional PLA production. A first range of products to be developed by Bio-On are a range of biodegradable plastics with natural flame retardants to be used for automotive applications: The planned location of the production plant is quite significant: 'Plastic Valley' in Bologna, with output of 10,000 tons. Bioplastics face a bright future in Italy. This year a series of laws and policies came into effect that aim to phase out the use of petroleum based plastic bags and other products entirely by 2010.
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