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PLA Bioplastic Boosted by ADM, LG Chem Joint Ventures

Image courtesy of David Stuckel/Alamy Stock Photo Alamy-Corn-Fields-IL-David Stuckel-HM40WK-1540x800.png
US, South Korea JVs will annually produce 150,000 tons of lactic acid from corn and 75,000 tons of polylactic acid (PLA) to meet demand for plant-based solutions.

LG Chem of South Korea and ADM launched two joint ventures for US production of lactic acid and polylactic acid (PLA) to meet growing demand for a wide variety of plant-based products, including bioplastics. Pending final investment decisions, the joint ventures have chosen ADM’s headquarters city of Decatur, IL, as the location of their intended production facilities.

The two JVs will produce 150,000 tons of lactic acid and 75,000 tons of PLA annually. 

The first joint venture, GreenWise Lactic, would produce up to 150,000 tons of high-purity corn-based lactic acid annually. ADM would be the majority owner of GreenWise and would contribute fermentation capacity from its Decatur bioproducts facility to the venture.

The second joint venture, LG Chem Illinois Biochem, would be majority-owned by LG Chem. It would build upon LG Chem’s expertise in bioplastics to build a facility that will use product from GreenWise Lactic to produce approximately 75,000 tons of PLA yearly.

Image courtesy of ADMADM-NAHQ_Decatur_IL_071220_DSC_0168-1_700w.png

ADM CEO Juan R. Luciano stated, “Sustainability is one of the enduring global trends that is powering ADM’s strategy and growth. Our BioSolutions platform is helping us meet that demand by redeploying Carbohydrate Solutions production capacity to fast-growing, higher-margin segments – including pharmaceuticals and personal care, textiles and paper products. BioSolutions is already growing rapidly, with $136 million in year-over-year revenue growth in the first half of 2022, and with these two new joint ventures, we’re planning to take the next growth step, greatly expanding our ability to meet growing demand for plant-based solutions. We’re pleased to expand our collaboration with LG Chem, and we’re excited at the opportunity to bring this new intended production and all of its economic benefits to Decatur, our North American headquarters.”

LG Chem Chief Executive Officer Hak Cheol Shin commented, “The establishment of this joint venture is a sustainable growth strategy that can directly contribute in solving environmental issues such as climate change and waste plastics. LG Chem is the first Korean company to build a PLA plant with integrated production capacities ranging from raw materials to the final product. With the establishment of this JV, LG Chem will not only procure production capacities for highly pure lactic acid needed for commercial-scale PLA production but will also be able to apply biomaterials in the development of various high-value-added products. Based on eco-friendly materials, which is an axis for new growth engines, we will respond to the rapidly changing market and customers while becoming a market leader.”

Global demand for bioplastics and biopolymers is projected to grow  22.7 % annually.

The press release cited an unsourced report that global demand for lactic acid — which is used broadly in food, feed, and cosmetics in addition to industrials like bioplastics — was valued at approximately $2.9 billion in 2021, with an expected annual growth rate of 8%. Global demand for bioplastics and biopolymers is projected to grow from $10.7 billion in 2021 to $29.7 billion by 2026, representing annual growth of 22.7%.

The JVs, which are subject to required regulatory approvals, hope to make final investment decisions around the Decatur projects in 2023. Pending final investment decisions and approvals, construction would be targeted to begin in 2023, and production in late 2025 or early 2026, with the two joint ventures supporting more than 125 jobs in the Decatur area.

Both ventures are participating in the State of Illinois’ Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) program, which provides incentives to job creators who plan to make investments in Illinois.

“I am thrilled that LG Chem and ADM have chosen Decatur as home for their joint ventures,” says Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. “Our state’s talented workforce coupled with our mission of sustainability make Illinois the best place for these lactic and polylactic acid production facilities. To LG Chem and ADM: thank you for your commitment to our state. It is innovative, plant-based solutions like these that will help us tackle the climate crisis head on.”

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