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Metabolix set to develop bio-based plastics with sugarcane

Cambridge, Mass. bioscience firm Metabolix Inc., a company that produces bio-based and biodegradable polyhydroxyalk...


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May 18, 2007 by Canadian Plastics

Cambridge, Mass. bioscience firm Metabolix Inc., a company that produces bio-based and biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) resins, has signed a collaborative agreement to research and develop natural plastics directly in sugarcane.

“Sugarcane is currently the premier biomass crop for biofuels, and we believe it can be developed to produce an advanced biorefinery feedstock for the production of natural plastics, fuels and chemicals, significantly expanding Metabolix’s global reach,” said the company’s chief scientific officer Oliver Peoples in a press release. “While switchgrass is well suited for the North American climate, sugarcane will be ideal for more tropical climate zones.”

The company formalized the collaborative agreement with Australia’s Cooperative Research Centre for Sugar Industry Innovation through Biotechnology (CRC SIIB) earlier this month.

“This new sugarcane natural plastics program could well pave the way for the sugar industry’s involvement in future bioplastics industries and other sought after bio-based products,” said Queensland Minister for State Development John Mickel. “I believe demand for these types of products will increase as more environmentally-conscious companies and consumers look for ways to lessen negative impacts on the environment.”

Metabolix also recently announced its plans to commercialize its PHA-based Mirel Natural Plastics, and is now building its first commercial scale plant in Clinton, Iowa through a joint venture with Archer Daniels Midland Company. The plant is expected to start up in 2008, with an annual production rate of 110 million pounds.