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Strategic Partnership to Develop Bio-Materials for Footwear, Automotive

Image courtesy of Dongsung Chemical bio-based mono-ethylene glycol
Partnership between Germany’s UPM and Korea’s Dongsung Chemical seeks to accelerate introduction of sustainable forest-sourced materials into the Asian market.

South Korea’s Dongsung Chemical and UPM Biochemicals, headquartered in Germany, will form a strategic partnership to develop renewable products using bio-based raw materials. The materials initially will be developed for footwear but other areas such as automotive are also on the radar.

Dongsung Chemical has signed a letter of intent to develop a renewable polyurethane product based on UPM Biochemicals’ bio-based mono-ethylene glycol (MEG), known as UPM BioPura, as part of this strategic partnership

UPM is investing €750 million to build the world’s first industrial-scale biorefinery at Leuna in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, to convert sustainably sourced, certified woody biomass into next-generation biochemicals. The facility aims to produce 220,000 tonnes annually in total, with bio-MEG being one of the outputs. Startup is targeted for the end of 2023.

Through this partnership, the two companies will actively cooperate in the development of eco-friendly products using bio-MEG, targeting the Asian market and its vast textile and footwear industries. Dongsung Chemical plans to diversify its portfolio by advancing eco-friendly product lines, integrating UPM’s bio-MEG into its production. The aim is to apply it first to footwear materials and then expand applications into automotive interiors and adhesives.

UPM's Bio-MEG is produced from sustainably sourced, certified hardwood obtained from forests in the regions around Leuna in Germany. The biomass does not compete with food resources and has a carbon reduction effect of at least 70% compared with fossil fuel–based MEG. UPM is actively working on further optimizing processes to enable carbon neutrality, or even negativity, of the product.

ManWoo Lee, CEO of Dongsung Chemical, said, "Through the partnership with UPM, we are able to access a stable supply of innovative, next-generation bio-materials and apply them to our major products. As Dongsung Chemical is focusing on carbon reduction projects according to its ESG management stance, we will continue cooperating with UPM to increase the proportion of bio-materials."

Michael Duetsch, Vice President, Biochemicals Operations, said: “We are delighted to partner with Dongsung Chemical as it pursues its strategy to replace petrochemical-based raw materials with bio-based raw materials and reduce the carbon footprint of its products. UPM is building a world beyond fossils, and we will work with our partners at Dongsung to deliver outstanding solutions for their customers, who are also eager to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Dongsung Chemical continues to develop eco-friendly products and technologies with the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 10% by 2030. In June, it launched a biodegradable packaging material brand — Ecoviva — and is planning to build pilot facilities for the development of biodegradable functional films, adhesives, foams, and related products.

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