Futerro, a 50/50 joint venture between Galactic and Total Petrochemicals, has inaugurated its bioplastics production unit in Escanaffles, Belgium. The unit will develop state-of-the-art technology for the production of PolyLactic Acid (PLA) bioplastics from renewable vegetable sources developed by the two partners. With this, Futerro has become the first producer of this type of bioplastics in Europe.
The technology comprises two main steps: The first is the preparation and purification of the monomer lactide from lactic acid, which is obtained by fermenting sugar, mainly from beet*. The second step is the polymerisation of the monomer to obtain biodegradable vegetable plastic granules- PLA. The pilot unit has a 1,500 tpa capacity and an investment outlay of €15 mln will be used to test and improve the successive steps in this technology. Futerro is now able to produce a complete range of products from lactic acid including lactide and PLA oligomers and polymers. They will be used by the packaging industry, primarily food packaging and in sustainable applications.
"This project is perfectly aligned to the Total Group's research and investment policy for renewable resources," says François Cornélis, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee and President of Chemicals, Total. "Futerro will allow us to diversify to an even greater degree with regard to the raw materials used in the production of our plastics. This technology could then be used in international projects."