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Sugar-based plastic enters industrial production

By Katie Bird , 01-Feb-2010
Last updated on 01-Feb-2010 at 17:19 GMT

Brazil-based petrochemical giant Braskem will be opening industrial production for its bio-based polyethylene later this year.

The plastic is identical to traditional polyethylene except that it is made from sugar cane rather than being petrochemical-based.

In 2007 the company opened a pilot plant producing approximately 12 tons a year; and, following an investment of over US $240m the company will be opening an industrial plant in 2010 that can produce approximately 200,000 tons a year.

According to account manager at Braskem, Leonora Maria Novaes, customers will be able to switch to the bio-resin without changing their production machinery or processes.

“Chemically this is the same product and the only way to tell the difference is to carbon date it,” she said at the packaging show PCD Congress held in Paris last week.

“We are offering the market a product they know they can use which is easy and fast to market,” she added.

Braskem claims that, rather than being a producer of carbon dioxide, its sugarcane based resin actually helps capture and fix carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, at approximately 2-2.5kg of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of polyethylene.

In addition, the company argues sugar cane is significantly more efficient than other raw materials such as beet and corn.

Polypropylene development

Polyethylene is not the only bio-resin Braskem is involved with, and the company recently signed a deal with industrial enzyme producer Novozymes in an attempt to develop commercial scale production of polypropylene from sugar cane.

The deal, which was signed late last year, will see the company develop its polypropylene production process with the help of Novozyme’s core fermentation technology.

According to Braskem, the initial development phase between the two companies will last for at least five years.

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