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02 | 2010

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Materials PHA Operation

Materials PHA Operation in China Tianjin Green BioScience Co., Ltd. (Green Bio) of China, is a high-tech Sino-foreign joint venture headquartered in the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, also known as TEDA, and was established more than six years ago. As a developer and producer of biodegradable materials and products, Green Bio has successfully developed a new process to produce PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates). This polymer, synthesised by micro-organisms using renewable substrates can also be decomposed by micro-organisms into carbon dioxide and water in three to six months when left in the soil, sewage, river or sea, without causing pollution to the environment. PHA can be used in a vast range of applications in numerous industries, including automotive, biomedical, packaging and electronics. PHA production facility April 2009 marked the opening of the China’s largest PHA production base in the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area. Equipment tuning and trial production started in October, and full production commenced in December 2009. Green Bio will be the first company in China to produce 10,000 tonnes of PHA per year, with its products expected to be available mainly in all markets on mainland China. The present use of these products, meanwhile, is mainly for developing specific grades such as foam and films. On the other hand, strategic partnerships will also be formed with upstream factories in the plastics industry. As for exports, Green Bio will initially focus on Europe, which is the largest consumer of biodegradable materials, followed by the US and Japanese markets. 28 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/10] Vol. 5

Materials Looking ahead, Green Bio’s President Lu Wei-chuan outlined a three-step business plan for the establishment of Green Bio, to which the company is still adhering: Step 1: Invest RMB 20 million (about € 2 million) to establish a technical platform for biotechnology, and conclude PHA interim production and development (already achieved) Step 2: Invest RMB 150 million (about € 15 million) to establish a PHA production facility with an annual production capacity of 10,000 tonnes and develop PHA product ranges (in progress). In 2009 Green Bio already received an investment of US million from several venture capital funds including DSM of the Netherlands and the China Environment Fund of Tsing Capital. Over the past year the fund has been used for the construction of the 10,000-tonne production facility, as well as for the development of PHA blow film grades, foam grades, foil grades and other product ranges. Step 3: To raise RMB 800 million to RMB 1 billion (€ 80 to 100 million) through an IPO (Initial Public Offering) on the stock exchange; establish a PHA production facility with an annual production capacity of 100,000 tonnes; establish an industry chain that includes the development, production and sale of PHA raw materials and downstream products (to be achieved two to three years after the operation of the existing factory) Green Bio‘s PHA Green Bio’s PHA is totally bio-based with all raw materials originating from renewable resources. Apart from glucose, other inexpensive raw materials such as methanol, ethanol, molasses and semi-cellulose can also be used as a carbon source to reduce production costs. Recently, PHA production has been tested with raw materials such as whey, organic acids, hydrolyzed starch sewage, methane and even sewage. As a result, the production of PHA can also serve as an additional beneficial step in sewage treatment. Since the properties of PHA can be changed by adjusting the fermentation process, different PHA grades can be created. The result is a range of products that are widely applicable in various areas, including household, industrial, agricultural and medical use. PHA products for everyday use range from shopping bags, garbage bags, disposable lunch boxes, plastic wraps, toys and diapers to hot melts and adhesives. Chinese legislation To phase out and limit the production and use of traditional plastic products, legislation on environmental protection has been enacted in China. For instance, in 1999 China passed legislation relating to ‘The Discontinuation of the Production and Usage of Disposable Plastic Foam Cutlery‘ which bans the production and use of polystyrene foam lunch boxes. Similarly, a Plastic Bag Restriction Order was issued in 2008 to prohibit the use of ultra thin plastic bags and banning the distribution of free plastic bags. However, with no suitable substitutes for these disposable plastic products, it was difficult to enforce. Green Bio, on the other hand, is able to seize this opportunity by joining hands with other manufacturers to fulfil this market demand, while fully abiding by the new legislation. Because of different market sizes and production capacities, a direct cost comparison of PHA to conventional plastics is difficult. However, when compared to other biodegradable plastics, Green Bio’s technological innovations and improvements have made huge leaps in production efficiency and product quality. Consequently, in terms of price, PHA materials are getting closer to conventional plastic. In addition, its speciality products, such as plastic foam products, will possibly be very competitive in the market. Green Bio’s research and development team was originally a team of experts in fermentation for medical development. Working with local and overseas R&D centres, universities and corporations, the team has obtained breakthroughs in applications development. Many of Green Bio’s projects have received subsidies from the national SME Innovation Fund of China and the Science and Technologies Foundation of the Tianjin Municipal Science and Technology Commission. In addition, its products have successfully obtained Chinese and overseas registered patents, which will pave the way to the global market. MT www.bio-natural.com.hk bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/10] Vol. 5 29

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