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Bio-plastics Become a Reality/Plastic Packaging Made from Corn and Soy, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

A few plastics manufacturers are pioneering the use of corn sugar, sugarcane or soybeans as opposed to petrochemicals, to make packaging that is biodegradable.  One example may be PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates), a class of natural polyesters derived from bacterial fermentation produced from biowaste such as rancid olive oil.  The hope is also that bio-plastics may be cheaper to produce than their traditional petrochemical-based counterparts, as well as more environmentally acceptable.  Products utilizing bioplastics include automotive seat cushions, plastic cutlery, electronics cases, shoes and diapers, to name only a few.
Bio-refiner Cargill, Inc. has increased its production of soybeans and corn derivatives to make plastics for use in carpets, disposable plates and cups, candles, lipsticks and body panels for automobiles and construction equipment.  Metabolix, a Massachusetts-based bioscience company, made a polyester called polyhydroxy-alkanoate (PHA) that was among the first 100% bioplastics.  It is durable, can withstand extreme heat and is biodegradable.  Metabolix produced and marketed “Mirel” branded PHA pellets from its corn mill in Clinton, Iowa that generated 110 million pounds of PHA each year.  Mirel is used by Newell Rubbermaid to make a biodegradable Paper Mate brand pen that sells for only slightly more than non-biodegradable plastic pens.  Metabolix also produced the Mvera brand of compostable bags (the Mvera compostable film resin business was acquired by AKRO-PLASTIC GmbH in late 2014).  Metabolix sold its bioplastics business in late 2016 to Korean firm CJ CheilJedang (  The former Metabolix is now Yield10 Bioscience ( which focuses on gene editing targets in crops including canola, soybean and corn to increase yields.
Plastic packaging made from corn sugars is gaining some favor or testing over oil-based plastics with retailers such as Walmart, Whole Foods and food suppliers including Del Monte and Newman’s Own.  The corn-based plastics are manufactured by NatureWorks, a subsidiary of Cargill, Inc., which has doubled its production capacity to 150,000 metric tons a year of Ingeo, a bioplastic used in fresh food containers and textiles.  This can be considered a part of a broader movement towards the use of renewables by major corporations.  Industry analysts see these developments as part of the growth of an environmental technology sector.
BASF offers Ecovio and Ecoflex biodegradable and compostable plastics used for coating paper and manufacturing shrink films.  Both products contain higher percentages (75% and 66% respectively) of bio-based materials such as corn, making them faster to break down in landfills.

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