PLA from second generation raw materials

Vegetable produce not suitable for human consumption, including fruit and vegetable peel, maize stalks, grain straw and wood chips - second generation resources - can be used for making the bioplastic resin polylactic acid (PLA).

The Dutch food group Corbion Purac has succeeded in producing high quality lactic acid from alternative raw materials from which PLA resin can be manufactured. First generation raw materials such as industrial cane sugar, sugar beet, maize and cassava are currently used in the production of lactic acid. These highly efficient raw materials make a good choice for the production of lactic acid and PLA, but they require agricultural land that is also needed for food production. This could be done more efficiently in future. Using second generation raw materials has been made possible thanks to modifying the lactic acid fermentation process to match specific characteristics of the biomass. In future these raw materials could have a substantial impact on the biochemical and bioplastics industries.

In order to fully commercialise PLA that is based on second generation raw materials, and to provide the market with commercial quantities, substantially more R&D is still required. The company therefore wants to set up a consortium to speed up market introduction.