Bioplastics makers NatureWorks LLC and Solegear Bioplastics Inc. each have received new funding for their renewable products.
The U.S. Energy Department has awarded a $2.5 million grant to a joint program between Minnetonka, Minn.-based NatureWorks and Calysta Inc., a sustainable products maker based in Menlo Park, Calif. The two firms are working on a process to turn natural methane biogas into lactic acid, which then can be used to make NatureWorks' Ingeo-brand polylactic acid resin.
The ongoing project would use Calysta's gas-to-chemicals technology. For NatureWorks, methane “could be an additional feedstock several generations removed from the simple plant sugars used today” at the firm's Ingeo production plant in Blair, Neb., officials said in a news release.
Calysta in June made lab-scale quantities of lactic acid from methane. Officials said this was “a major milestone” in the process.
“If proven through this collaboration, methane to lactic acid conversion technology could be revolutionary, providing sustainable alternative feedstocks for Ingeo,” NatureWorks executive Ken Williams said in the release. Williams is program leader for the Calysta-NatureWorks collaboration.
Solegear — based in Vancouver, B.C. — has secured debt financing from Comerica Bank. The financing will support sales growth and deliveries of the firm's bio-based and compostable plastics, officials said in a news release.
In July, Solegear won $1.6 million in funding from the government-sponsored Western Innovation Initiative (WINN). The initiative is part of the Western Economic Diversification Canada federal program.
Solegear is ramping up production of its Polysole-brand bioplastic, which officials said is 100 percent bio-based, non-toxic and compostable. The material can be based on corn or other plants. Solegear also produces Traverse-brand biocomposites, which can be made by mixing conventional plastic with natural fibers.