The two companies have formed a 50/50 joint venture to produce polylatic (PLA) polymers, for which Corbion will be providing the latic acid necessary for the production process.
The venture was announced at the end of last year, and the operation was up and running by the end of March this year, the companies have confirmed.
Targeting North American market
France-based petroleum giant Total and Netherlands-based fine chemicals provider Corbion have formed a joint venture based in the Netherlands, but will be manufacturing in Thailand and will be targeting global markets, particularly North America.
To that end, the Jamie Ginn, Total-Corbion Business Development Manager for North America, gave a presentation at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, held in New York last week.
During the presentation, Ginn explained how the material can be manufactured to have a high heat resistance and strength, while also having a significantly lower carbon footprint, even when compared to other bio plastic materials used in consumer packaging.
Manufactured in Thailand
The project is tapping into the Corbion’s existing production facility in Rayong, in Southern Thailand, which, following a significant investment by both companies, now has a PLA production capacity of 75,000 tons per year.
“This investment is consistent with our One Total ambition of expanding in biofuels and bioplastics, in addition to our more traditional oil- and gas-based products," said Bernard Pinatel, president of Total Refining & Chemicals.
"Corbion's unique position in the lactic acid and biopolymers value chain makes it a natural choice for Total. The joint venture will allow us to supply an innovative material that is 100% renewable and biodegradable and that responds to sustainability concerns."
Fastest growing polymer category
PLA is a biobased, biodegradable polymer that is obtained by fermenting renewable resources, which invariably include sugar and starch, to product produce lactic acid.
The material has evolved as a common environmentally friendly alternative to food packaging, but is increasingly gaining traction as a packaging material for cosmetic and personal care products, particularly natural and organic ranges that want to promote sustainability.
According to Total-Corbion PLA is one of the fastest growing polymers in this important market segment, with an estimated average annual growth rate of 10 to 15% to 2025.