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TotalEnergies Corbion partners with Korean water producer to take recycled PLA bioplastics mainstream

#TotalEnergies Corbion partners with Korean water producer to take recycled PLA bioplastics mainstream


PLA water bottles.
Ji-Hoon Kim and Thomas Philipon signing agreement about the embossed label Luminy PLA only water bottle.

22 Mar 2024 — Korean water producer Sansu is developing an embossed label water bottle made of Luminy polylactic acid (PLA) bioplastics in partnership with TotalEnergies Corbion. The collaboration is intended to speed the adoption of recycled PLA (rPLA) as a feedstock in South Korea and “revolutionize” rPLA production processes.

Since 2019, Sansu and TotalEnergies Corbion have been jointly conducting post-consumer recycling (PCR) of PLA. Traditionally, creating PCR PLA has been a “cumbersome” process, according to TotalEnergies Corbion.

The process requires the removal of caps and labels, followed by crushing, cleaning and shipping the used PLA in the form of flakes back to TotalEnergies Corbion’s Thailand plant. It is depolymerized at the plant into PLA monomers and repolymerized into rPLA.

However, according to the companies, this process is inefficient, so Sansu and TotalEnergies Corbion reached an agreement to produce a 100% PLA bottle with an embossed label, which expedites the process by avoiding the need to remove labels and caps.

“This partnership is another example of how TotalEnergies engages with partners in the value chain to advance the adoption of Luminy PLA bioplastics and contribute to lowering carbon emissions from plastic usage,” says Thomas Philipon, CEO of TotalEnergies Corbion.

“Furthermore, this collaboration is a clear example of a design for recycling that can also be applied to PLA. This initiative is in line with the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation being finalized in the EU and promoting design for recycling criteria.”

Recycling advancements
Recent advancements in recycling technology have enabled rPLA to achieve properties equivalent to virgin Luminy PLA, including food contact approval.

Luminy PLA bioplastics are derived from sugarcane. Creating a kilogram of PLA requires 1.75 square meters of sugarcane farmland, which captures 1.8 kg of CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows.

TotalEnergies Corbion’s entire production capacity requires 0.08% of arable land in Thailand, where the company produces PLA locally. The company asserts that the efficiency of land use and the benefits of carbon capture make PLA bioplastics a good option for reducing global reliance on fossil-based plastics.

The production of bio-based Luminy PLA has a 75% reduced carbon footprint, including biogenic carbon, compared to conventional plastics.

The company says that its peer-reviewed LCA analyses contain a more detailed overview of the global warming potential and of how Luminy PLA performs in other environmental impact categories such as carbon footprint, water footprint and direct land use change.

This year, TotalEnergies Corbion conducted an LCA and found that the advanced recycling of PLA has a lower environmental impact than production from virgin feedstock.

The company reported that the global warming potential of Luminy 30% rPLA, considering its biogenic carbon content, is 0.19 kgCO2/kg of PLA, whereas virgin Luminy PLA emits 0.51 kgCO2/kg of PLA.

TotalEnergies Corbion specializes in producing PLA with 20% and 30% allocated recycled content for global customers like Sansu. Sansu says its commitment to adopting a “bottle-to-bottle” closed-loop cycle underscores its dedication to sustainability by incorporating advanced recycled content into its water bottles.

By Louis Gore-Langton

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