Chronopol Inc., a subsidiary of Golden Technologies Co. Inc., is building a plant in Johnstown, Colo., to manufacture degradable plastic. The $5 million facility is the company's first step in commercializing the lactide monomer and polylactic acid process.
The semiworks facility will make lactide monomer, which will be reacted to form polylactic acid. As a semiworks - or semicommercial - facility, the company may or may not sell the product.
The plant will produce large qualities of lactide that then will be used in process development and product qualification.
The plant is to be operational by the end of the year and is being built on the site of GTC Nutrition Co., a corn wet mill.
The degradable plastic production process begins with corn, the least-expensive source of sugar.
Sugars are extracted from the corn and then fermented into lactic acid. The lactic acid is processed into polylactic acid, which is used in plastic production.
Chronopol expects to process 2 million pounds a year.
PLA is a compostable thermoplastic that can be altered by copolymerization and compounded for a variety of applications. PLA can be converted into such products as flexible or stiff film, fibers, woven and unwoven products, injection molded parts, coatings and adhesives.
PLA resin does not need special equipment, but is designed to work in customers' current machinery to make products, the company said.
As the plastic degrades, it turns into lactic acid. It then is metabolized by microbes into water, carbon dioxide and biomass.
Last year, Chronopol combined lactic acid polymer patents with EcoChem, a joint venture be-tween ConAgra and DuPont Co. The resulting portfolio has more than 50 issued and allowed patents.
The companies boast of having the most comprehensive polylactic acid patent portfolio in the world.
Chronopol employs 30-40. As a subsidiary of Golden Techno-logies, an incubator subsidiary to ACX Technologies Inc., Chrono-pol eventually would like to become its own commercial subsidiary of ACX.
ACX in Golden, Colo., is owned by the Adolph Coors Co. and has other businesses, including a high-performance packaging unit. ACX's sales were $900 million last year.