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Raw material sources

Today, Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) bioplastics are made from a renewable, biobased material like sugarcane, corn, sugar beet and cassava. For tomorrow, we’re working on a new generation of feedstocks…

We’re closely involved in a range of research and development programs to help develop cellulose-based feedstocks. 

Download the whitepaper: Sustainable sourcing of feedstocks for bioplastics

Sustainable agriculture
Doing business in a sustainable way is embedded within our culture at Total Corbion PLA. For this reason, we also care about the sustainability of our feedstocks. For example, our key supplier of lactic acid, Corbion, is a member of both SEDEX- ensuring an ethical supply chain, and Bonsucro - a global non-profit initiative dedicated to reducing the environmental and social impacts of sugar cane production.

At Corbion, efforts are made to source the sugar needed to make lactic acid in a sustainable way. Corbion uses European sugar beet and Thai sugarcane as feedstock for the production of lactic acid, that is in turn used to make PLA bioplastics. These are always GMO-free crops, which is why Total Corbion PLA can offer our customers PLA produced from GMO-free feedstocks.

Second generation feedstocks
On lab scale, following an intense research project, Corbion has successfully made PLA resin from alternative, second generation feedstocks. The second generation feedstock was fermented into lactic acid and converted into a PLA resin boasting the exact same properties as current commercially available PLA resins. Second generation feedstocks are those which are not suitable for human consumption, and include plant based materials like bagasse, corn stover, wheat straw and wood chips.

Today, first generation feedstocks such as industrial cane sugar, sugar beet, corn and cassava are used for producing lactic acid and PLA. They are grown following principles of sustainable agriculture and these feedstocks have a high yield per hectare of land.

Bioplastics biomass: food v fuel
So how much arable land is used for bioplastics production?  According to the European Bioplastics Association and the IfBB (see graph below), in 2019, 0.02% of our planet's farmable land will be used for the production of bioplastics biomass: The equivalent of a cherry tomato next to the Eiffel tower...

 

Did you know: To make 1kg of PLA requires just 1.6kg of carbohydrate biomass. Other types of bioplastics can require significantly more natural resources to produce the same amount of end-product.