Leading polylactic acid (PLA) resin manufacturer NatureWorks LLC (Minnetonka, MN) has contracted with Ashland Distribution to broaden the supply of its Ingeo biopolymer material in North America. Describing the move as proof of its commitment to broaden supply, as well as the growing interest in biobased plastics, NatureWorks says utilizing the distribution arm of Ashland Inc. (Covington, KY) will provide its customers with local inventory and stocking programs, technical service, and a broad product line, while giving it a professional sales staff to promote Ingeo. Since last September, NatureWorks has signed distribution deals as far a field as Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.
NatureWorks' corn-derived PLA resin is seeing increasing usage in a number of applications, including gift cards.
A week before the Ashland announcement, NatureWorks said it was assessing locations for a second manufacturing plant in anticipation of rising global demand. Marc Verbruggen, president and CEO of NatureWorks, said the company was starting its assessment now, understanding that design and construction of such facilities can come three years after a decision is made. Ingeo is currently produced at a facility in Blair, NE that has a designed capacity of 140,000 tonnes (approximately 300 million lb).
The company has already recently secured distribution agreements in Latin America, including a Jan. 15 deal with Columbia’s Quimicoplasticos and QP Inc. to market/deliver the resin in that country, as well as a contract at the end of 2008 with PromaPlast Resinas to distribute NatureWorks products in Mexico. The company has an agreement with Resinex covering Europe, as well as distribution contracts in Israel, South Africa, and elsewhere. Back in 2001, NatureWorks estimated the global, annual market for PLA would be 4 million tonnes by 2010. BCC Research forecasts the broader market for biodegradable plastics is expected to reach 1.2 billion lb by 2012. While interest has been high, market participants have complained in the past about PLA’s relative scarcity. Originally a partnership between Cargill and Dow Chemical, today NatureWorks is a joint venture between Cargill and Teijin Limited of Japan. —[email protected]