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Large-scale PLA plant starts up in Thailand

Article-Large-scale PLA plant starts up in Thailand

Large-scale PLA plant starts up in Thailand
Total Corbion PLA inaugurates its 75,000 tonnes-per-year bioplastics plant.

Total Corbion PLA, a 50/50 joint venture between Total and Corbion, announces the start-up of its 75,000 tonnes/year polylactic acid (PLA) bioplastics plant in Rayong, Thailand. The plant has successfully produced Luminy PLA resins.

The QA lab and team at Total Corbion PLA plant Rayong Thailand.

A plant operator at the Total Corbion PLA plant in Rayong, Thailand.

The new facility will produce a broad range of Luminy PLA resins from renewable, non-GMO sugarcane sourced locally in Thailand: from standard PLA to innovative, high heat PLA based on the L enantiomer and PDLA (poly(d-lactic acid)) with unique properties. The products serve in a wide range of markets notably packaging, consumer goods, 3D printing, fibers and automotive and are specifically optimized for extrusion, thermoforming, injection molding and fiber spinning processes.

At the end of their useful life, PLA products can be mechanically or chemically recycled, or in some cases composted and returned to the soil as fertilizer.

Total Corbion PLA will leverage on the integration with its lactide plant, the monomer required for the production of PLA, that has simultaneously been expanded to 100,000 tonnes/year production capacity. Furthermore, the 1,000 tonnes/year PLA pilot plant, which has been operational since the end of 2017, is located on the same site and will be used for product development. 

The start-up marks a major milestone for both the joint venture and the bioplastics market. With this additional 75,000 facility, the global production of PLA bioplastics will increase by almost 50%, to 240,000 tonnes/year. PLA is a fast-growing polymer market with an estimated annual growth rate of 10% to 15%.

“The start-up of this state-of-the-art plant establishes Total Corbion PLA as a world-scale PLA bioplastic producer, ideally located to serve growing markets from Asia Pacific to Europe and the Americas” says Stephane Dion, CEO of the company. “The subsequent increase in global PLA capacity will enable manufacturers and brand owners to move into the circular economy and produce bio-based products with lower carbon footprints and multiple end of life options.”

“I’m very pleased that the joint venture has started-up the second-largest PLA bioplastics plant in the world. This achievement is fully in line with our strategy, to expand in petrochemicals and, at the same time, innovate in low-carbon solutions. Bioplastics are a great complement to our more traditional petrochemicals products to meet the rising demand for polymers while contributing towards reducing end-of-life concerns” says Bernard Pinatel, President Refining & Chemicals at Total.

Recent PLA application developments include a thermoformed black platter for presentation of foods such as cheese, sushi and hors d’oeuvres developed by Pack & Proper. It is made from Luminy PLA and has been designed to exhibit a ‘stone-look’, slate appearance thanks to its surface shape - giving a more exclusive appearance to a disposable application.

Other examples of innovative PLA applications include PLA injection-molded speaker housings by Os-Tech and Usher, PLA toys by Grabio, DJ Toys and Genius Toy Taiwan, PLA-lined paper cups from Totempak, single-use PLA aprons from Gaia, PLA coffee cup lids from WinGram, PLA tea bags from Nonwoven Network, PLA coffee capsules from Guanghe, thermoformed PLA packaging from Bio4Pack, foamed PLA ice cream packaging from Synbra, PLA injection stretch blow molded bottles from Gaojieli, PLA non-woven applications from Yangtze, injection-molded PLA tableware from COFCO, serviceware from Heersi and PLA toothbrushes from PolyAlloy.

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