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Issue 01/2018

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bioplasticsMAGAZINE_1801

Thailand Bioplastics

Thailand Bioplastics compounds Key player in Thailand’s Bioplastics Hub Thailand’s ambition is clear: it aims to become the Bioplastics Hub of Asia. This country produces 6 million tonnes of plastic products annually. There are over 4,000 plastic converters who manufacture consumer and industrial plastic products, both for the domestic and for export markets. The main applications are consumer packaging, agriculture and various industries. Thailand, where supply and demand are completely integrated, is well-situated for the development of bioplastics activities. Thailand supplies the world with agricultural products such as starch, sugar, plant oils and cellulosic plants. These are also the raw materials for bioplastics production. As a country with more than 40 million farmers, agricultural feedstocks are abundantly available at low cost. With these comparative advantages, Thailand has developed a national road map with as aim to become the Bioplastics Hub of Asia. The bioplastics industry is being promoted by the Thai government as a “New Wave Industry” that fits into the bioeconomy policy. That policy calls for establishing a complete supply chain of bioplastics, from feedstock to finished product. To that end, the Thai government provides incentives to the private sector to contribute to the development of the bioplastics industry. The private sector is encouraged to seek out and engage in upstream, midstream and downstream opportunities in the bioplastics industry. That includes fermentation, polymerization, compounding, converting and R&D. Thailand has also designated a special economic zone - the Eastern Economic Corridor, or EEC, comprised of the three provinces Rayong, Cholburi, Chachoengsoa – where bioplastics initiatives receive promotional privileges from the Government. Among the incentives are corporate income tax shelters, import duty exemptions, exemptions from tax on dividend and the granting of work permits for foreigners. For foreign experts, personal income taxes will be capped at maximum of 17 %. Foreigners from countries with double taxation treaties will only pay taxes in Thailand. These incentives are aimed at making Thailand the Bioplastics Hub of Asia. As the results of the bioplastics hub policy, two bioplastics resin manufacturing companies have constructed factories in Rayong, Thailand. PTT MCC Biochem, a joint venture of PTT and Mitsubishi Chemicals Corporation, has built and operates a PBS plant that produces 20,000 tonnes per annum. The second company is Total Corbion PLA BV, who is building a new PLA production plant with an annual capacity of 75,000 tonnes. The new plant is being constructed adjacent to Corbion’s existing lactic acid factory. The feedstocks for the lactic acid factory are local raw materials, such as starch or sugar. The PLA factory is targeted to start production in 2018. Another important development is the joint venture between the Thai plastics conglomerate, PTT Global Chemicals and NatureWorks, which has announced plans to build a second PLA factory, presumably in Thailand. Upstream, therefore, bioplastics have made considerable progress. Midstream initiatives, i.e. bioplastics compounding, are less visible. As of today, Global Biopolymers Co., Ltd. (GBP), currently located in Bangkok, is the only bioplastics compounder in Thailand. GBP is building a new factory in Rayong, nearby the two resin producers, Total Corbion PLABV and PTT MCC Biochem. The PLA and PBS produced at these plants will be the main raw materials. The factory will have an initial compounding capacity of 6,000 tonnes per annum. GBP has been granted promotional privileges that include a 13-year of tax shelter. Cassava (Maniok) plant. Tapioca starch is extracted from the white meat of the brown roots 36 bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/18] Vol. 13

Report By: Nopadol Suanprasert President Global Biopolymers Bangkok, Thailand At the downstream end, it is estimated that of the 4,000 plastic converters currently producing in Thailand, more than 500 will diversify to bioplastics products, and, given the availability of bioplastic resins, new bioplastics converters will also likely be starting up. The initial combined demand for bioplastics from converters is estimated at 50,000 tonnes per annum. For Thailand to truly become the Bioplastics Hub of Asia, it is necessary to substantially increase the available bioplastics compounding capacity. Bioplastics are new materials for most converters. The majority have no experience in processing bioplastics. Their machinery is not designed for bioplastics, and they do not want to reinvest in new. The bioplastics compounding industry can play a key role in bridging the two ends of the industry. Bioplastic compounds will help plastic converters to transition to bioplastics with minimum new investments. Compounding can therefore be considered to be the vital link to make the bioplastics supply chain workable. Without the compounder, conventional plastics converters will be reluctant to diversify into bioplastics. New converters using bioplastics are unlikely to start up until existing converters jump into the business. Global Biopolymers is therefore seen as a key player in Thailand’s Bioplastics Hub policy. Global Biopolymers’ history dates back over ten years, when the parent company began converting bioplastics. The company accumulated experience working with the bioplastics PLA, PBS, PBAT. GBP was established as an independent entity in order to service the vastly different products in the converting industry. The company produces compounds for injection molding, thermoforming, film blowing and blow molding applications. The compounds are converted into consumer packages, food serviceware, shopping bags, garbage bags and agriculture supplies. Agricultural plastics have long been the main market for Global Biopolymers’ compounds. Examples of these products are seed germination bags, root trainers (cones) for rubber nurseries (cf. bM 06/2014, bM 05/2016, bM 02/2017), planting pots and mulch films. Products made from these biodegradable plastics can replace nondegradable conventional plastics products that remain in the soil after use, contaminating the environment. The use of bioplastics in agriculture is not only beneficial to the environment, it can also yield cost savings by reducing both the loss of trees and labor costs. Trees can be planted in biodegradable plastics containers in the soil, after which the containers biodegrade in the soil, eliminating any need for home or industrial composting facilities. Biobased and biodegradable plastics in agriculture are a true case of circular economy. They are made from agricultural produces and processed into plastics. At the end of life, they return to the soil. These applications improve the socioeconomic situation of millions of farmers. In agriculture, bioplastics are often used in high-tech applications, such as in geotextiles, to prevent soil erosion and bioplastics for marine cultivations. These engineering bioplastics are a high tech/high return market. Global Biopolymers seeks strategic partners for both technology and capacity enhancement. Disadvantages that hamper the ability of bioplastics to compete with their conventional plastics counterparts remain to be overcome. The biggest problem is the higher price of bioplastic materials. In spite of their environmental bioplastics MAGAZINE visit to Global Biopolymers in December 2017 From left to right: Nopadol Suanprasert, Michael Thielen, Rath Anudtarangkul Film-equipment at Global Bioplymers bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/18] Vol. 13 37

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