BANGKOK — Taiwanese bioplastics compounder and equipment supplier Minima Technology Co. Ltd. is making a push into Thailand, setting up a joint venture with one of the country's largest plastic film manufacturers, Thai Plastic Bag Industries Co. Ltd.
The companies say they see opportunities to both export bioplastic products and develop the local market in Southeast Asia, and they believe plans for new biopolymer resin plants in Thailand could provide them with a longer-term advantage.
Nakornpathom, Thailand-based TPBI is majority shareholder in the joint venture, called Minima (Thailand) Co. Ltd., and is providing a blown film line in one of its factories, said Huang Chien-Ming, founder and director of Minima Technology.
TBPI also has bought a small ownership stake in Taichung, Taiwan-based Minima Technology, according to Somsak Borrisuttanakal, managing director of TBPI. He made the remarks in a speech at the Inno Bioplast 2013 conference, held Jan. 24-26 in Bangkok.
Borrisuttanakal also is managing director of the joint venture.
In an interview at Inno Bioplast, Huang said initially Minima will supply the joint venture with polylactic acid resin and other bioplastics from its compounding factory in Taiwan, but he said the companies could in the future establish a compounding line in Thailand.
Based on its abundant agricultural resources, Thailand is beginning to attract attention as a site for bio-resin manufacturing.
For example, Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. and Thailand's PTT Chemical Public Co. Ltd. plan to open a bioplastic polybutylene succinate plant in Thailand, and the country seems to be the front-runner for the site of the second manufacturing plant for American PLA resin maker NatureWorks LLC of Minnetonka, Minn., which is 50 percent owned by PTT.
"We think it will be a very good business here because in the near future, after 2015, we can have all the materials derived from the local producers, and at that time we will make some compounds here," Huang said. "We will set up the compounding system before they start to supply the resin here."
The first product the company is making is a paper coffee cup using a liner of biodegradable plastic film, but it plans to launch other bio-based plastic products. Those could include thermoformed meat trays or injection molded cutlery, Huang said.
Borrisuttanakal said Minima's long background in the bioplastics industry also will help identify and develop opportunities in the local market, and help to improve the properties and lower the price of bioplastic resin, a key requirement in the Thai market.
Minima started operations in Taiwan in 2000. Huang is also currently president of Taiwan's Environmentally Biodegradable Polymer Association.
The joint venture also can help Minima access the free-trade zone planned for the 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, because Thailand is a member but Taiwan is not, said Esmy Huang, Minima's vice president.