A longstanding partnership between a Belgian and a Chinese company is now aiming to considerably expand the availability of PLA on the world market.
Futerro, a subsidiary of the Belgian Galactic group, and BBCA Biochemical, a Chinese biotech company and PLA producer have jointly started up the first integrated PLA production unit in China.
PLA is an increasingly popular bioplastic made of lactic acid, which is itself produced by the fermentation of corn sugar or any other form of carbohydrate from biomass. Current supplies of PLA are very tight.
“Today, we see that the PLA is beginning to find its place in the world of plastics not only due to its natural origin but also to its intrinsic properties,” said Frédéric van Gansberghe, CEO of Futerro.
A mixed Belgian-Chinese team have now built - in the record time of 24 months - three new factories in Bengbu (Anhui). One is a PLA unit with a capacity of 30,000 tons/year, which is being supplied by a lactic acid unit with a capacity of 80,000 tons. The lactic acid serves both as feedstock for the production of PLA and is supplied to a Galactic group company that produces food ingredients based on lactic acid for the Asian market.
For Futerro and the Galactic group, the project is the result of 30 years of work dedicated to the development of novel technology for the production, use and recycling of PLA.
Both the lactic acid and the PLA unit incorporate newly patented technologies that allow for the production of high-quality products at competitive cost.
The two companies are already planning to increase the production of lactic acid to 180,000 tons/year, making it one of the largest units in the world. The PLA production capacity will be boosted to 100,000 tons/year, as a result of which it will be Asia's leading unit in terms of capacity.
“This first plant is an important step in Futerro’s evolution. We believe that after 30 years of development, the PLA will experience a strong acceleration in the upcoming years,” said Van Gansberghe
He pointed to the numerous applications in China alone anticipated for the PLA produced by the new factory by the local industry, which range from injection moulded food packaging, films, foams, and insulation products, to textile fibers, 3D filaments, furniture, construction joineries, and much more.