Cargill Dow Polymers (CDP) has developed an alternative to hydrocarbon feedstocks for making fibers and polymers. CDP?s process uses abundant, low-cost, annually renewable resources, such as corn. Trademarked NatureWorks, the proprietary process harvests the carbon that plants remove from the air during photosynthesis. It breaks down the carbon stored in plant starches into natural plant sugars, which are used to make a plastic called polylactide (PLA). NatureWorks PLA reportedly can compete head-to-head with traditional plastics on a cost and performance basis in some markets.
CDP has commercialized NatureWorks PLA resins made from corn sugars. It also is working on using other natural starch or sugar sources as feedstocks?including wheat, sugar beets, or agricultural waste?which can be sourced worldwide. NatureWorks PLA uses up to 50 percent less fossil fuel than is used to produce conventional plastic resins.
Company sources say NatureWorks PLA requires drying, like PET. It processes like LDPE. Recyclate can either be repolymerized, or ground and reused. The material also is fully compostable.
First applications will be in extrusion and blow molding. Commercial injection molding grades reportedly are still two years away. However, CDP has already published an injection molding process guide that includes some specifications on developmental molding grades.
The guide says amorphous and crystalline molding resins are for clear applications with an HDT below 130F (55C), like plastic dishware. Experimental parts, like golf tees and cutlery, have been molded by a marquee account in Japan.
Specific price targets have yet to be set, but CDP sources estimate the present pricing, $.50 to $1.00/lb, may be reduced as production volumes increase.?Carl Kirkland
Cargill Dow Polymers LLC
Phone: (612) 742-0471
Fax: (612) 742-0477