China is ramping up production capacity for biodegradable polybutylene succinate and its copolymers. Leading producers at NPE2012 said they hope to export a larger share of their production to North America.
China New Materials Holdings Ltd. of Zibo claims to be the only company in China that integrates upstream and downstream production of PBS materials. The firm is looking to sell its PBS copolymers, including PBS co-adipate, PBS co-terephthalate and polybutylene adipate co-terephthalate — directly to U.S. processors. It has been selling through agents, said Wei Lu, executive director.
The company is launching 55 million pounds of PBS capacity, he said at NPE2012, held April 1-5 in Orlando. China New Materials also makes 1,4 butanediol, one of the building blocks for PBS, and it said vertical integration ensures quality and cost control.
PBS can be made from biosources and petroleum. But bio-based PBS is costly for the market, Lu said. He visited waste sorting and composting facilities in San Francisco in February, part of a business tour organized by the Beijing-based China Plastics Processing Industry Association.
“I'm convinced that there is tremendous market potential here in the U.S.,” he said.
Guangzhou-based Kingfa Science & Technology Co. Ltd. just launched 66 million pounds of PBSA capacity in Zhuhai, China, in August and is already planning a second-phase project, which will add 132 million pounds of capacity.
Kin Wong, Kingfa's marketing director for biodegradable polymers, said about 90 percent of the PBSA exported goes to Europe and is used to make shopping bags, trash bags, toys and food-service products.
While the U.S. market is still underdeveloped, he said he's optimistic. “Many local customers [from North and South America] stopped by our booth and asked about biodegradable materials,” he said.
Another leading supplier, Xinfu Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. of Hangzhou, said some U.S. customers might believe petro-based biodegradable materials are not as “green” as bio-based materials. U.S. sales are less than 220 million pounds, said sales manager Grace Jin.
The first-time NPE exhibitor is looking to establish direct sales. “We think this model [will sell], since the material is highly technical and value-added,” Jin said.
Xinfu has annual capacity of 28.7 million pounds of PBS; it exports about half of that to Europe.
Industry leader BASF SE of Ludwigshafen, Germany, has 163 million pounds of annual PBAT capacity, sources said.
While Chinese suppliers are eager to increase their exports to the U.S., they said they are seeing great opportunities inside China. The Chinese government is expected to issue new policies to support the growth of 100 percent biodegradable materials, and other sustainable materials, through government procurement, tax relief and value-added tax refunds.