In an attempt to speed up commercial acceptance of bioresins, Cereplast Inc. is introducing a line of products that can be blended with standard grades of polypropylene and polyethylene.
Cereplast's Hybrid-brand line is set to go commercial later this month with Biopropylene, a resin that will combine 50-70 percent organic starch - from corn, tapioca, wheat or potatoes - with a traditional homopolymer PP, officials with Hawthorne, Calif.-based Cereplast said.
``We see this as a tremendous opportunity,'' said Chief Executive Officer Frederic Scheer. ``This is the way the market is going. It's just like with cars. Everyone would like to drive an electric car, but hybrids are the ones that are selling in the U.S.''
As a result of the combination of resins, the new materials are not compostable, although they are made from renewable resources. Cereplast officials said they believe the new entries will allow companies across the plastic supply chain to ``reduce the industry's reliance on oil.''
Initial commercial uses for Biopropylene include toys and brushes, but the material also has sparked interest in automotive - specifically door interiors - consumer goods, consumer electronics and food service.
Hybrid-brand products based on high density and low density PE are expected to reach the market in 2008. The line will be complementary to Cereplast's existing Compostables-brand lineup of eight materials based on polylactic acid resin supplied by NatureWorks LLC and six based on the firm's own technology.
Cereplast will produce the new materials at its plant in Hawthorne, where it added a seventh production line in August. Scheer said in a recent telephone interview the firm almost is out of room in Hawthorne. As a result, he expects to announce the location of a second U.S. site - most likely in the agricultural Midwest - by the end of the year.
``A new [Midwest] location will get us closer to our supply of raw materials and give us the best environmental footprint possible,'' Scheer said.
Rising agricultural prices have not affected Cereplast much, according to Scheer, because the firm sources its starch from several different crops. One of its starch crops - tapioca - can be harvested four times a year, which Scheer said ``spreads out the risk.''
Publicly held Cereplast posted sales of $810,000 in the first half of 2007 - almost triple the firm's level in the first half of the prior year. But its first-half loss also widened from less than $1 million to $3.3 million.
Cereplast has had a busy year so far in 2007. In June, the firm received a $14.5 million investment from a group of four institutional funds that focus on ``green'' products. Cereplast also was included in ``Going, Going Green,'' a one-hour TV special that aired on the Fine Living TV Network cable channel in September. The firm opened its first non-U.S. sales office in Hong Kong that same month.
In July, Cereplast announced that its material would be used in a new line of environmentally friendly toys made by Green Toys Inc. of San Francisco. Green Toys' offerings include a tea set, indoor gardening kit, cookware, dining set and a sand play set.