Mandates help Taiwan PLA processors

By Steve Toloken
Staff Reporter / Asia Bureau Chief

Published: January 30, 2013 3:16 pm ET
Updated: January 30, 2013 3:27 pm ET

Image By: Steve Toloken Huang Chien-Ming

Related to this story

Topics End Markets, Materials, Regions, Asia, Consumer Products, Packaging, Polylactic Acid

BANGKOK — While many places struggle to get bioplastics into the mainstream, strong government action has helped Taiwan quietly become one of the top spots worldwide for manufacturing products from polylactic acid resin.

At least that was the word at the recent Inno Bioplast 2013 conference, held Jan. 24-26 in Bangkok, where executives, government officials and academics from around the world gathered to assess the future of the bioplastics industry.

Amid projections of long-term growth globally, bioplastics executives also confronted the reality that, by and large, their products today remain a niche market.

But Taiwan was held out as something of an exception for PLA bio-based polymers, because government mandates of bio-based content in plastic packaging have led to wider use there than elsewhere.

In a speech at the conference, Mark Verbruggen, president and CEO of Minnetonka, Minn.-based NatureWorks LLC, the world's largest PLA resin maker, said Taiwan has a "well-working system" requiring a percentage of some plastic packaging at fast-food and larger retailers to be bioplastic.

"It's interesting that the most cost-competitive convertors of PLA in the world are all Taiwanese," he said in a follow-up interview. "Why? The government early on decided first 15, than 20, then 25 percent of all plastic in retail and all plastic in quick-service restaurants had to be bioplastics."

"You create demand and convertors optimize their equipment," he said. "The only place on Earth where you have large pieces of equipment solely running on PLA is in Taiwan."

Taiwanese processors meet domestic demand, and then export more than half of their production, Verbruggen said: "The world today is flooded with PLA parts made in Taiwan. … The government did a fantastic job and got that organized."

The head of a Taiwanese trade association for biodegradable-plastics manufacturers agreed that government requirements helped to jump-start the market.

Taiwanese government regulations specify percentages of bio-based content for products like disposable tableware and egg, bakery, fruit and vegetable containers. They also prohibit oxo-biodegradable grades of resin. Chain restaurants and retailers are covered, but fresh-produce and meat markets generally are not.

Manufacturers chose PLA because it was the cheapest of the bioplastics available to them, said Huang Chien-Ming, chairman of Taiwan's Environmentally Biodegradable Polymer Association and founder of PLA compounder Minima Technology Co. Ltd. in Taichung, Taiwan.

"All the container suppliers like to use a lot of PLA," Huang told the conference. "That's why we can use about 8,000 tons per year in Taiwan, especially for extrusion sheeting and thermoforming products."

Taiwan's bioplastics industry has been growing 20 percent a year since 2006, and in addition to the 18 million pounds of PLA, it processes about 2.2 million pounds a year of polybutadiene styrene and polybutylene adipate/terephthalate resins, he said.

Domestic sales for Taiwan's 23 million people are about US$20 million a year, while exports are about US$50 million, he said.

Taiwan's actions have attracted the attention of other bioplastics industry executives in Asia.

Apiphop Phungchanchaikul, secretary general of the Bangkok-based Thai Bioplastics Industry Association, said Taiwan has done a good job of using government requirements to boost demand for bioplastics.

Phungchanchaikul, who is also deputy manager director of Bangkok injection molder Reangwa Standard Industry Co. Ltd., said Thailand should follow Taiwan's lead and have stronger government mandates, rather than relying on voluntary activities.

"Everything is voluntary [in Thailand]," he said in an interview at Inno Bioplast. "For a high school or a small village it's OK, but it's not sustainable."


Comments

Mandates help Taiwan PLA processors

By Steve Toloken
Staff Reporter / Asia Bureau Chief

Published: January 30, 2013 3:16 pm ET
Updated: January 30, 2013 3:27 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Molder goes to auction block

October 17, 2014 12:17 pm ET

An Illinois custom injection molding operation will be auctioned off after its owner decided to close the business.    More

Image

Humanoid robot provides inspection service with a smile

October 17, 2014 6:00 am ET

Everyone knows robots can improve production and quality. But no one says they can't show a little personality while they're working.    More

Image

Little sports figures get big backing

October 17, 2014 11:55 am ET

OYO Sportstoys Inc. is gearing up to produce and sell more plastic mini-figures after gaining $11 million in equity financing from a group led by...    More

Image

Hasco gets into augmented reality

October 17, 2014 6:00 am ET

Mold makers may be used to seeing cores and pins on the exhibition stand of a supplier — but not augmented reality that looks like it comes...    More

Image

Plastikon expanding in Kentucky

October 17, 2014 11:24 am ET

Automotive supplier Plastikon Industries Inc. plans to more than double the size of its production facility in Leitchfield, Ky.    More

Market Reports

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 million dollar plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events