High polymer prices make PLA an attractive alternative - NatureWorks

Author: Bee Lin Chow

2011/05/20

GUANGZHOU (ICIS)--High prices for conventional polymers have made polylactic acid (PLA) a more attractive alternative in North America, a senior executive of NatureWorks said on Friday.

PLA is a bioplastic made from renewable resources such as corn and cassava.

Plastics end-users had been slow to adopt PLA because of the price premium over conventional polymers such as polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS).

But a shrinking price gap between PLA and conventional polymers gives plastics end-users more incentives to use PLA as an alternative, NatureWorks marketing director Steve Davies said.

Davies was speaking on the sidelines of the four-day ChinaPlas exhibition in Guangzhou, China, which runs through 20 May.

The PLA marketed under NatureWorks’ Ingeo brand name is currently priced at $0.90-1.00/lb delivered in bulk in the US, close to the prices of conventional polymers such as PP and PS in that market, said Davies.

Prices for the benchmark PP injection and general purpose PS resin grades were assessed by ICIS at $0.99-1.01/lb and $1.00-1.03/lb respectively on a delivered basis for the week ended 13 May.

A growing awareness among plastics end-users to reduce their carbon footprint was also driving the demand for PLA, Davies said.

PLA production at NatureWorks’ 140,000 tonnes/year plant in Blair, Nebraska, releases 60% less greenhouse gases and uses 50% less non-renewable energy than traditional plastics like PS and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), he added.

NatureWorks is owned by Cargill.