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Danimer Scientific to open world's first PHA commercial production plant

Danimer Scientific PHA straw
KY facility to provide biodegradable plastic material for a wide range of commercial applications such as single-use plastic straws and food packaging will start up in Q4 2019.

Danimer Scientific (Bainbridge, GA) is opening a fermentation facility in Winchester, KY, for its Nodax-brand polyhydroxyalkanoate biopolymer that will be the world’s first PHA commercial production plant. Startup is expected in Q4 2019.

The September 25 announcement follows another from earlier this month that the company created the first fully biodegradable plastic straw using Nodax PHA.

It’s a milestone for Danimer and the plastics industry.

“It will be the world’s first PHA commercial production plant,” said Danimer Scientific CEO Stephen Croskrey. “It positions us to provide Nodax PHA biodegradable plastic material for a wide variety of applications, from food packaging to drinking straws and more. Kentucky’s state resources and strong local workforce have provided us with a significant leg up in getting this project off the ground.”

Kentucky provided tax incentives totaling more than $1.5 million.

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Danimer Scientific’s leaders plan to purchase and revitalize the 88,000-square-foot former Alltech algae building on Rolling Hills Lane in Winchester. The fermentation plant will produce the biopolymer that can be used to manufacture an array of biodegradable plastic products including drinking straws, food packaging, cups, bottles, shopping bags, plates, trash bags, labels and more. The material is compostable, 100% bio-based and biodegradable in anaerobic, soil, fresh water and marine environments. Work could begin next month and company leaders aim to start operations in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Straws an environmental flash point

"The environmental impact of straws and other single-use plastic items has become a critical issue for cities and companies across the country," said Scott Tuten, chief marketing officer, Danimer Scientific. "The challenge is that there are few durable, yet eco-friendly alternatives available. Thankfully, research has found that PHA effectively biodegrades in environments ranging from waste treatment facilities to landfills and oceans. With that stamp of approval, we are excited to be bringing truly biodegradable straw resins in the near future to businesses that are looking to replace petrochemical plastic straws in restaurants, amusement parks and more."

A 2018 University of Georgia study compared the biodegradation of Danimer Scientific's Nodax PHA to cellulose powder, food waste, plastic pellets and other materials in aerobic and anaerobic conditions. In a proper waste management setting, Nodax PHA biodegrades at a similar rate to cellulose powder, or wood pulp. The study also found that it could be effectively processed alongside food waste and other organic waste in a landfill. Additionally, researchers determined that Nodax PHA will begin to biodegrade over the course of six months in ocean water, while traditional plastics remain intact and unchanged in the same environment.

Canola oil-based process

The production of Danimer’s Nodax PHA begins with fermentation where canola oil is consumed by soil bacteria and converted into PHA, which is then processed into a powder form. The powder will be transported to the company’s Bainbridge, GA, facility and combined with other biopolymers to manufacture biodegradable plastic resins.

Danimer Scientific develops sustainable, eco-friendly methods to produce plastic products, including biodegradable and compostable materials, with its renewable biopolymers. The company and its subsidiaries currently own more than 125 patents in nearly 20 countries for a range of manufacturing processes and biopolymer formulations.

Nodax PHA holds seven TUV AUSTRIA certifications and statements of industrial and home compostability, is biodegradable in anaerobic, soil, fresh water and marine environments and is 100% bio-based. All of Danimer Scientific's biopolymers are FDA-compliant for food contact.

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