CHICAGO — Cargill Inc., in a joint venture with CSM NV of the Netherlands, is constructing a $350 million lactic acid manufacturing complex. The lactic acid will be used to make degradable plastics. The facilities, adjacent to Cargill's corn wet-milling complex in Blair, Neb., will employ 50-75 when they open next year. Lactic acid derived from corn is the precursor to polylactic acid polymers, sold by Cargill under the EcoPla name.
EcoPla resins have properties like conventional thermoplastics, but the company claims they completely biodegrade when composted in municipal and commercial facilities. EcoPla resins are made at Cargill's plant in Minneapolis using a patented, solvent-free polymerization process.
Cargill's EcoPla business unit is exhibiting at Booth E10135 at NPE 1997 in Chicago.
``Products such as EcoPla polymers were once characterized as being only biodegradable,'' Chris Ryan, North American marketing manager for EcoPla, said in a news release. ``However, these new resins possess many highly desirable performance characteristics, which are valuable in several thermoplastic processes, including cast and blown films, fibers, coated products, thermoforming and other rigid applications.''
EcoPla biopolymers feature moisture and grease resistance, stiffness and high gloss. They can be engineered to a broad range of mechanical properties and can be clear or opaque, flexible or rigid, the company said. They can be converted readily into biaxial films with good clarity, low sealing temperatures and memory properties.
``We've received significant interest from key converters,'' said Steven Mojo, Cargill market development consultant. ``Our current inventories are sold out.''
End markets include thermoformed vegetable and berry containers with stiff walls with living hinges, injection molded cutlery, disposable plates and horticultural applications such as weed-control and mulch fabrics. Initial commercial applications included high-strength bags for the collection of yard trimmings, grass, leaves and other compostable materials.
Cargill has 15 patents on the polymerization and end-use application for EcoPla.
CSM is an international group of companies headquartered in Amsterdam that develops, produces, sells and distributes food products and ingredients. CSM has units in the Netherlands and other European countries, the United States, Canada and Singapore, with 5,300 employees.
Cargill, based in Minneapolis, is an international marketer, processor and distributor of agricultural, food, financial and industrial products with 76,000 employees at 1,000 locations in 66 countries. The firm's EcoPla business unit was established within its North American Corn Milling Division in 1989 to commercialize a cost-effective approach to produce polylactic acid.