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Issue 05/2018

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bioplasticsMAGAZINE_1805

Top-Talk The first 100

Top-Talk The first 100 days bioplastics MAGAZINE talked to Rich Altice, CEO of NatureWorks on the sidelines of the Innovation Takes Root conference in San Diego in Sept. 2018 bM: As I indicated during our last interview right after your start earlier this year, my first question is: What is your impression after your first 100 days – in terms of successes but also challenges? Rich Altice: After having spent much time in the first 60 days focused internally, my first impression is the incredibly passionate and committed team. I haven’t seen anything like this in other places in my career. It’s really impressive, especially the depth of knowledge at our application development side. We are helping our customers not only with day to day challenges and optimizations, but also looking at their next applications. Right now I’m in the phase where I’m doing a lot of external listening, meeting customers, attending conferences like ITR, the Green Sports Summit etc. to get an external view of the market. It’s exciting for me to see the enormous breadth of opportunities. The other significant learning for me is the performance characteristics that our products are bringing that go beyond sustainability. Just look at applications where we bring value on top of sustainability, such as the tea bags where we replace polypropylene with Ingeo creating a renewably-sourced, compostable structure and in addition bringing some organoleptic benefits. The tea just tastes better. How we partner to create applications that deliver performance without sacrificing sustainability, all that is really exciting for me – a real eye-opener. bM: Are there any particular challenges that you found which you would like to address in the near future? Rich Altice: Our organization is focusing on the applications and opportunities where we can have the biggest impact and approaching sustainability through a holistic approach. We had Mats Linder representing the Ellen MacArthur foundation here at ITR presenting on the circular economy and that there is no “one-sizefits all” solution to designing out waste . We are going to play a meaningful role in engineering and delivering those solutions. Another challenge for us is matching our ability to expand with the rapid growth of the market. We’re seeing very strong growth right now, and we intend to be a part of that growth to remain a leader in both technology and capacity. It’s an exciting challenge for us that we’re ready to meet. bM: So what are your current plans for another production plant – maybe outside the US? Rich Altice: We have an acute focus on building a second plant. We’ve learned a great deal since we brought Blair online in 2002, and have invested in developing new manufacturing and product technology that we are eager to implement in our second plant design. There are still a couple of milestones we need to pass, but the reason I joined this company was to be a part of something exciting and do meaningful work on next generation biomaterials. We as a company are passionate about growth and can’t wait to share what’s in store. bM: With view to a second plant (and its potential location), do you also have other feedstocks in mind? Other than the cornstarch you are using today? Rich Altice: That’s part of the work we’re doing now. We are making sure that we have the technology to use diverse feedstocks, be it sugar beets, sugar cane, etc. We are committed to using locally abundant, renewable, sustainable feedstocks no matter the geography where our plant will be built. That’s why we invest in developing new feedstock technologies. Being able to make Ingeo from multiple feedstocks creates geographic flexibility in building additional manufacturing facilities. bM: Looking back to the last ITR when Mark Verbruggen introduced the pathway from CO 2 or C 2 H 4 to PLA, what is the status today? Rich Altice: Over the last five years we put real investment into developing a direct conversion of a greenhouse gas, methane, into lactic acid. And we have proven that the technology works, so we know we can do it. However, we also now understand the likely operating costs and capital requirements of this technology. With today’s market conditions, the low cost of oil, the low cost of sugars, a capital outlay to build a facility for this technology doesn’t make sense at this time. However, this is a process we have rights to in perpetuity and we can draw on it if and when the economics support such an investment. We absolutely continue to evaluate and invest in new feedstock technologies. In Europe, we are part of the “BioRECO2VER Consortium” looking at CO2 to lactic acid as we continue to engage with other partners who are also working on new sources of lactic acid through direct greenhouse gas conversion. 18 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/18] Vol. 13

Top-Talk Join us at the bM: Are there any products other than PLA that you are looking at? I see the Vercet lactide products… anything else? Rich Altice: There is a lot of functionality for coatings and adhesives in our Vercet lactide portfolio that we’re just getting started on, so we absolutely will be focused on developing those products. Before we look into other polymers, there are new products under development within our Ingeo portfolio making it a multi-dimensional offering that includes not just neat resin, but also compounds, alloys, and engineered system solutions. The leading business forum for the bioplastics industry. bM: Where do you want to be in five years from now? Rich Altice: Number one clearly is to maintain our leadership in biomaterials as we continue to grow the market for Ingeo polymers and Vercet performance chemicals. This is what this ITR conference is all about. We brought together people to facilitate collaboration and accelerate the inventions that will grow this market over the next five years. By the time we get to 2025 or ITR 2026 I hope we’re still facilitating these discussions and that we see a slate of new, improved applications that continue to solve both performance and circular economy challenges. bM: Anything else you’d like to tell our readers? Rich Altice: As we continue to develop the market for functional, sustainable materials, we are focused on three things: invention, passion and partnership. We want to invent the future of renewably-sourced performance materials. We see the entire lifecycle of plastics – feedstocks, manufacturing, applications, endof-life, as areas where we can create solutions. And we’re going to do this with passion. We are passionate about this industry as I think we demonstrated that during this inspiring event. From our partnership standpoint, we want to continue working with our customers, but maybe work with them in a different way. We are going to be bringing new insights and solutions that enable them to succeed and grow. And we want feedback from our customers. What can we do to collaboratively resolve your needs in the market? bM: Thanks a lot. MT SAVE 15% * 4/5 December 2018, Titanic Chaussee Hotel, Berlin, Germany Program highlights of the networking event include: Michiel de Smet I European Commission (DG Research and Innovation), Philippe Mengal I Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), Rana Pant I European Commission Joint Research Centre Miriam Weber I HYDRA Marine Sciences, and many more... Register now and save 15% with promotion code*: bpmag15 @EUBioplastics #eubpconf www.european-bioplastics.org/events For more information email: conference@european-bioplastics.org * valid for EUBP asscosiation non-member tickets only. bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/18] Vol. 13 19

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