(El Segundo, CA) has been listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange and started up a new manufacturing facility in Indiana. And now, as commercial adoption of its materials broadens and a second production shift is added, the company is reorienting its products around two primary "families": compostables and sustainable. Speaking with PlasticsToday at Pira's Biopolymers Symposium held in Denver, CO in mid-October, Frederic Scheer, Cereplast's chairman and CEO, said that the compostables line would be focused on end-of-life biodegradation, pairing starches with bioplastics, while sustainables would be built around its hybrid material that targets more durable goods.
Within the compostables platform, which has traditionally utilized polylactic acid (PLA), Scheer said his company will be adding additional bioresins for product development, including polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), polyhydroxybutyrate-valerates (PHBV), and succinic acid, partnering with manufacturers of those materials, just as it has collaborated with PLA manufacturer NatureWorks.
The sustainables platform, which currently includes hybrid polypropylene (PP) and biomaterial compounds, will be expanded to include polyethylene (PE), and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). In this platform, biobased content will range from 35% to virtually 100%, according to Scheer.
At the end of October, Scheer said the company's Seymour, IN production facility, which began manufacturing resin in March, would transition from one shift to two shifts, with a further increase to three shifts anticipated before the end of the year. The increase in production follows from an increase in sales, according to Scheer, with forecast revenue of $8 to $10 million in 2010 roughly four times what was generated last year. In terms of material produced, Scheer said the run rate for 2010, including the dip that production experienced in the first quarter when the Indiana site was ramping up, will come in at 16 million lb, and next year that figure is forecast to nearly double to 30 million lb.
"If I talk to my colleagues in the bioplastics world, all of them are doing well, frankly," Scheer said. "All of them are telling us that they grew, that there are a lot of success stories, a lot of things going on." Scheer did say that the company struggled along with many others through the depths of the downturn in 2009, hitting a nadir in July, when total employees fell to 20.
"We did come out of the financial meltdown and we came out, in fact, stronger," Scheer said, "but it was not an easy task, I can guarantee you that. It was a painful, painful process." In a little over a year's time, the company has doubled staff, with 40 employees at this time, and more to be added in the near term, according to Scheer.
At this point in time, about 60% of the company's business will be done in Europe, with 60% going into flexible packaging applications and 40% into rigid packaging. In terms of the two platforms, Scheer said compostables accounts for 65% of its business, with 35% in sustainables.
On April 13, the company transitioned from over-the-counter trading on the so-called bulletin board to a listing on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Now public, Scheer acknowledges there are new issues to contend with, not the least of which being regulatory compliance in areas like Sarbanes Oxley, but he says his company has no regrets. "If I had to do it again, would I," Scheer asks. "The answer is yes, I would, and I'll tell you why. It gave us two things where were critical: access to capital and credibility." —Tony Deligio