Italy-based Bio-on, a biotechnology company specialized in the production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), and French sugar producer Cristal Union, a grower-owned cooperative that produces a variety of products from sugar beets, have announced plans to establish France's first facility for the production of PHA bioplastics from sugar beet co-products. The companies have signed an agreement to build a production site with a projected initial capacity of 5,000 tons/year that can be increased up to 10,000 tons/year.
Construction of the new facility, which, according to the two companies will be the most advanced biopolymers production site in the world, will involve an investment of 70 million Euros investment. The new facility will be located at a Cristal Union site. Some 50 new jobs will be created as a result of this project, for specialists in the fermentation technology used to produce this innovative bioplastic.
It’s a first in a number of respects according to Bio-on S.p.A. Chairman Marco Astorri. “We will create Europe's first PHAs production facility with France's leading sugar production and trading company,” he declared.
“We have granted the first technological license in line with our expectations and will also be creating a cutting-edge collaboration for management and development of the promising high-performing biopolymers business developed by Bio-on S.p.A. and produced in France by Cristal Union,” he added.
PHAs, or polyhydroxyalkanoates, are linear biopolyesters produced by the bacterial fermentation of sugars or fats. They can replace a number of traditional polymers currently made with petrochemical processes using hydrocarbons. The PHAs produced by Bio-on are guaranteed, say the company, to offer the same thermo-mechanical properties as conventional fossil-based polymers, with the added advantage of biodegradability in virtually every environment (composting containers, soil and sea).
“We are investing in purchasing the license for this new technology developed by Bio-on,” said Cristal Union CEO Alain Commisaire, “because this all-natural bioplastic is an extraordinary tool that can contribute towards the growth of the French sugar industry, but with a modern, eco-compatible and eco-sustainable approach.”
The collaboration agreement signed between Bio-on and Cristal Union is a milestone on the road towards a stable and affordable supply of sugar beet based- PHAs. It adds another building block in the construction of the platform for bioplastics production in the future.