• Divyesh Dadhaniya

PLA(Polylactic acid) manufacturing in India

All the bioplastic industries in India are eagerly waiting for a biopolymer material manufacturing plant in India. It includes PLA (Polylactic acid), PHAs (Polyhydroxyalkanoates), Bio-PBS (Bio-Polybutylene succinate) and PBAT (Polybutylene adipate terephthalate) materials. In which, PLA is the most commercially viable bio-based and biodegradable polymer. Moreover, PBAT is the most commercially viable petroleum-based and biodegradable polymer. Currently, most of the bioplastic business is filled with these two polymers.

PLA has received good market responses over the years due to its inherent properties and scalable technology. Moreover, significant production has also been started all over the world. The market has also seen shortages of PLA for a few years due to the rapid growth of the market. Hence, many new companies have been involved in PLA production worldwide and still, new companies are coming.

The basic requirements to start PLA production are raw material availability and technology. India has no problem in terms of raw material availability, as sugarcane and corn are available abundantly. Moreover, good scope in contract farming too. Technology is the main concern, which also involves technology cost. As all the technology providers are based in Europe and the technology comes at a very high cost. The cost of technology impacts the project's financials and ROI, which brings investors to a bitter taste.

The process to manufacture PLA involves three stages.

1. Natural feedstock to Lactic acid

2. Lactic acid to Lactide

3. Lactide to PLA

Various processes involved in each phase are given in the image.

These PLA granules can be used to manufacture various single-use plastic products given in the following image.

As per the research statistics, India has imported 30,000 tones of PLA in 2019 and it was used by bioplastic product manufacturers. As the single-use plastic ban is being spread all over India and becoming strict, the use of these products will be increased.

After the study of technology availability and cost, we have started our own research to develop the technology in-house in 2017. Our dedicated team has developed lab-scale technology in the IIT laboratory and currently, the technology is being further scaled up.