Taiwanese, Chinese Companies Join to Produce, Market U.S. Corn-Based Bioplastics
Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
While U.S. corn can already be found in Taiwan in the form of plastic cups, containers and similar products, it now has the opportunity to spread to other parts of Asia as the demand for polylactic acid products grows. Recently, China’s Xiamen Wei Meng Environmental Materials Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Wei Mon Industry Co. Ltd., announced the production and marketing of PLA products.
“We are excited about this new opportunity,” said National Corn Growers Association Joint Trade Policy Action Team Chair Steve Yoder. “Bioplastics production is a great opportunity for corn growers to take advantage of the growing market for ecologically sound alternative materials, and increased exports help us make the most of the abundant crops providing materials that can help consumers around the world.”
Derived from corn, PLA goods are gaining in popularity across Asia due to their biodegradable characteristics. Taiwan is a regional pioneer in the bioplastics industry because of its relationship with NatureWorks LLC, based in Blaire, Neb., which uses corn grown in the United States to create PLA materials under the brand name Ingeo.
According to Clover Chang, U.S. Grains Council director in Taiwan, the increasing trend of sourcing products from China has driven the interest in PLA products within China’s export market.
“Environmental concerns play an important role, and PLA is still the most viable option among all kinds of bioplastics,” he said. “Ingeo PLA, which is made from U.S. corn, is especially popular. It is the most wanted option in Taiwan, China and the surrounding region.”
While PLA is seen as a key product within China’s export industry, Chang said domestically, China has not quite reached the stage where PLA production can really take off.
“Although there are several PLA manufacturers in China, the country is unable to produce quality products in a cost-effective manner the way Wei Meng Xianmen Environmental Materials and Wei Mon Industry can,” he said. “That’s why this partnership is such big news.”
Wei Mon is using Wei Meng Environmental Materials Co. Ltd. as a base for producing corn-based PLA in southeast China. Wei Meng is also the producer of PLA-coated paper materials branded as Pland Paper® and Pland Paper® products such as cups, soup containers, lunch boxes and other items.
Chang said Wei Meng Environmental Materials aims to use up to 2,000 metric tons of PLA resins (the equivalent of 5,000 metric tons or 197,000 bushels of corn) within the first year of its partnership with Wei Mon as marketing efforts are expected reach Hong Kong and Macau’s markets as well.
The road that American corn takes to the Far East was documented in a special episode of America's Heartland, called 'Journey of the Corn." Click here to view the show. NCGA is a proud promotional partner of this important program, now airing its fifth season on public television and RFD-TV.
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