InterviewBoost in bioplastics demand from Obama - NatureWorks

07 July 2009 18:33  [Source: ICIS news]

NatureWorks chief executive Marc VerbruggenClick here to listen to an audio clip from the interview with Marc Verbruggen

By Anna Jagger

LONDON (ICIS news)--Plans by US president Barack Obama to cut greenhouse gas emissions are helping to boost biopolymers demand, according to the chief executive of US biopolymers producer NatureWorks on Tuesday.

The president's proposed energy and environmental legislation, which was expected to include either cap-and-trade regulations or carbon taxes, is raising awareness about the importance of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, said Marc Verbruggen in a telephone interview.

“The average consumer, plus retailers and brand owners, are now convinced that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is going to be a very important part of what the US government is trying to do,” he said. “That will put biopolymers in a favourable light compared with traditional plastics.”

In particular, biopolymers’ green image is helping to protect the biopolymers sector against the global economic downturn, he continued.

NatureWorks produces corn-based polylactic acid (PLA), branded Ingeo, in Blair, Nebraska.

The company, which is now fully owned by US agriculture giant Cargill, doubled its production capacity to 140,000 tonnes/year last month.

Ingeo is produced using renewable raw materials, and its manufacturing process results in less greenhouse gas emissions and requires less fossil fuel than traditional plastics, while its end-of-life options include chemical recycling and composting, Verbruggen said.

The US is Ingeo’s largest end-use market, with 60% of production destined for the country, he noted.

Verbruggen said NatureWorks’ sales were affected by the global downturn at the end of last year. But since January, sales have climbed back to the levels witnessed in the summer of 2008, about 5,000-6,000 tonnes/year, he said.

On an annual basis, NatureWorks managed to increase its sales in the fiscal year ending May 2009 compared with a year earlier, he added.

The company’s sales, he said, were hardest hit in December and January. “Our customers had a tough time getting credit, plus demand was collapsing and oil prices were collapsing.”

Cargill announced last week it was taking full ownership of NatureWorks by purchasing the 50% stake held by Japan’s Teijin.

Verbruggen said the ownership transfer would not affect day-to-day operations at NatureWorks.

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By: Anna Jagger
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