Bioplastics manufacturer Cereplast said this week it will start operations at a facility in Seymour, Ind., that will produce half a billion pounds of bio-based plastics a year at full capacity. Founded in 2001, Cereplast is based in Hawthorne, Calif., where it already has a manufacturing facility.
They will start working on the site in January, but won’t go into production until later in the year. The existing facility is “just a shell” now, according to the Cereplast spokesperson with whom we spoke, but the plan is to have the facility pumping out 500 million pounds of biodegradable, biomass-based plastics annually by 2010.
The company, which trades on the bulletin board under CERP, needed to issue some good news. In November the company reported some not-so-stellar third-quarter financials. According to their release, the company reported a net loss of $1.6 million, or a penny a per share, for the latest three-month period, compared with a net loss of $1.1 million, or a penny a share, for the third quarter 2006.
Cereplast’s shaky financials notwithstanding, the bioplastics industry is starting to gain serious traction, as venture capital takes notice and more and more cities and nations move to ban petroleum-based plastic bags.
The bioplastics products made by Cereplast fall into two categories: compostables, which are made almost entirely from plant starches found in food crops like tapioca, corn, wheat and potatoes and are often used in single-use food containers and utensils, and hybrid resins, which mix bio-based polymers with traditional petroleum plastics. The hybrid resins product description notes that they’re “not as influenced by the volatile prices of oil,” but what of the volatile price of food?
In order to be a truly sustainable endeavor, bioplastics will have to get away from food crops and find a different biomass feedstock. Bill Collis, CEO of bioplastics startup Trellis Earth, told us last month that his company is looking for “a synergy between chemistry and non-food crop biomass.” As the market appetite for bioplastics grows and production ramps up, bio-based plastics will be the new plastic.