NatureWorks expands bioplastics footprint by securing $150m investment

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Leading bioplastics provider NatureWorks has secured a $150m investment from Thailand-based chemicals giant PTT Chemical to help it expand its footprint in the market for plastics and films used in personal care packaging.

The investment, which has been backed by the Thai government as part of its initiative to become a regional hub for green technologies, will lead to an advanced biopolymer plant being built in Thailand that will primarily supply the Asian regional market

Although the exact location of the new plant has not been revealed, the two companies say that it should come online in 2015, while further details on the investment will be made clear later on in the year.

The plant will be NatureWork’s second global production facility, and feeds into the fact that its annual production has been increasing at a steady rate of between 25 and 30 percent over the course of the past few years, while production of its Ingeo line has doubled over the last two years.

Big step towards global expansion

“This is a significant step by a leading chemical company, which will allow NatureWorks to continue its aggressive growth while expanding its capacity to meet global demand for bio-based products,”​ said Marc Verbruggen, president and CEO of NatureWorks.

“PTT Chemical’s investment demonstrates a significant milestone in moving Ingeo bio-based plastics and fibres to the polymer mainstream,”​ he added.

NatureWorks already supplies its family of renewable Ingeo biopolymers, which are made from a plant base, to markets worldwide, but the new investment will help the company to expand its distribution further into the fast-growing Asian market.

Laminate coatings and plastic bottles

The Ingeo biopolymer line is used in a number of packaging applications, including a variety of clear and coloured bottles as well laminated coatings and multi-layered performance packaging.

The major selling point of bioplastics is that they are derived from renewable resources, unlike regular plastics which are invariably derived from non-renewable petrochemical sources.

The Ingeo line is marketed on the fact that it is produced using a fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions and lower non-renewable energy requirements.

Bioplastics set to boom

According to the European Bioplastics Association, the market for bioplastics is set to top one million tons in 2011 and will grow rapidly to double in size by 2015.

The findings form part of a study which was presented by the association with the co-operation of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts at the recent Interpack trade show in Dusseldorf, Germany.

According to its figures, the market produced around 700,000 tonnes of bioplastics in 2011, and this figure is set to explode in the run up to 2015, in line with manufacturers demands for more sustainable plastics.

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