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.
Doing business in a sustainable way is embedded within our culture at Corbion. For this reason, we also care about the sustainability of our feedstocks. For example, through our sustainable sourcing initiative, we are 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, we use European sugar beet and Thai sugarcane as feedstock for the production of PLA bioplastics. These are always GMO-free crops, which is why we 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…
Executive summary: Nova Institut paper
Food or non-food: which agricultural feedstocks are best for industrial uses?
This positioning paper uses scientific evidence to take a dispassionate and realistic view of how food crops are used in biobased industries.
Says the Nova Institute: "Our position is that all kinds of biomass should be accepted for industrial uses; the choice should be dependent on how sustainably and efficiently these biomass resources can be produced.
Of course, with a growing world population, the first priority of biomass allocation is food security. The public debate mostly focuses on the obvious direct competition for food crops between different uses: food, feed, industrial materials and energy. However, we argue that the crucial issue is land availability, since the cultivation of non-food crops on arable land would reduce the potential availability of food just as much or even more, as will be discussed..." 1
Download the paper
1 nova paper #2 on bio-based economy 2013-07: Food or non-food - which agricultural feedstocks are best for industrial uses? Authors: Michael Carus (Dipl.-Physicist) and Lara Dammer (M.A. Pol. Sci.), nova-Institut GmbH.
Facts & figures
European Bioplastics Association: Biomass for bioplastics
"A glance at the global agricultural area makes it abundantly clear: The area used to grow crops for bioplastics is nowhere near being in competition to food and feed." 2
The European Bioplastics Association has spoken. Find out more by reading its report on the topic: Biomass for bioplastics: Efficient use of feedstock & good agricultural practice
Download the document
2 European Bioplastics Association 'Bioplastics Facts & Figures', 2013. Page 5: 'Biomass for bioplastics - efficient use of feedstock & good agricultural practice'.
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.
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