Polylactic acid producer NatureWorks LLC has launched a number of projects at its production facility in Blair, Neb., aimed at boosting the supply of its Ingeo PLA materials by 10 percent.
The projects include increasing the efficiency of NatureWorks’ lactide purification process. Lactide is the monomer used to synthesize PLA. Ingeo polylactic acid is made in a multi-step process in which dextrose, derived from plant sugar molecules, is fermented into lactic acid. Installation is currently underway at the facility. The projects will be completed by the end of 2021.
With demand for the company’s Ingeo PLA products continuing to rise, the additional capacity is urgently needed in order to be able to adequately supply the markets in which the materials have successfully become established, the company said in a news release. These markets include 3D printing and nonwoven hygiene masks as well as compostable coffee capsules, teabags and coated-paper foodservice items.
“The market continues to rapidly evolve due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the undiminished demand for sustainable, bio-based alternatives to petrochemical-based plastics,” Rich Altice, president and CEO, said.
“For NatureWorks to satisfy this unprecedented demand, this purification technology is one of many additional capital improvements we are actively working on at our facility in Blair."
Expansion elsewhere is also not ruled out. “We continue to pursue a potential future second manufacturing site outside the U.S. to serve our growing international markets, ” Altice added.
The additional annually renewable feedstock sourced to supply the new manufacturing projects will become certified by the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification System (ISCC) to the ISCC PLUS standard of best practices in agricultural production by 2025.
In 2019, NatureWorks committed to ensuring that by 2020, 100 percent of the agricultural feedstock used for Ingeo made at their Blair site will be certified as environmentally and socially sustainable by the ISCC. The company also said that by 2025, 100 percent of new feedstocks for additional manufacturing capacity will be certified as sustainably and responsibly managed via an independent third-party administered program.