• Divyesh Dadhaniya

A significant increment in PLA production

PLA (polylactic acid), the commercially most viable biopolymer is witnessing remarkable production growth worldwide. As moderate and tangible single-use plastic policies are being applied by governments of various countries. The notable growth of the biopolymer industry has been witnessed in 2020-21. Existing biopolymer manufacturers are expanding their production capacity by multifold. In addition, new companies are coming forward to set up a new production plant.

The very first commercial plant of lactic acid to PLA manufacturing in Europe is being constructed by Total-Corbion at Grandpuits, France. The plant will produce 1,00,000 Tons of PLA per annum. It will be operational somewhere in 2024. It will make Total-Corbion and Luminy (PLA), one of the biggest market leaders of PLA in the world.

A pioneer company in the establishment of the first-ever commercial plant for PLA, Natureworks is also expanding its production capacity globally. Their first global expansion is announced and it will be in Thailand with a production capacity of 75,000 Tons per annum. Moreover, Natureworks is continuously developing and expanding the Ingeo portfolio with new and improved PLA applications.

Russia is set to have the first commercial PLA manufacturing plant of 10,000 Tons per annum capacity with an approx investment of 20 million Euros. It will be operational in 2023. A new Russian company Natural materials LLC is partnering with Sulzer for PLA technology and engineering solution. At first, the plant will produce PLA from Lactide and lactide will be sourced from Asia. afterward, the company will plan for bigger and full-cycle production in the next step.

A Chinese company, Zhejiang Depei New Material Co. is also establishing a large-scale production plant of PLA. The production capacity is not disclosed and it is located at Ningbo, Zhejiang province, China. The most complex part of the process is the purification of Lactide by separation methods, the equipment of separation technology will be supplied by Sulzer. The process is a combination of distillation and crystallization to achieves the highest purity without thermal degradation.

Here, noteworthy growth of biopolymer production can be seen, especially PLA material, which will continue to grow till the single-use plastics are replaced completely with sustainable materials.