D&L firming up biodegradable plastic portfolio
FOOD and plastic input manufacturer D&L Industries aims to finalize this year a new portfolio of biodegradable plastic products for packaging and other applications, banking on rising preference for eco-friendly materials here and abroad.
Apart from producing products that can replace the conventional non-biodegradable plastic bags that are banned in some Philippine cities and municipalities, D&L sees big demand from overseas markets, particularly in countries like Japan and Italy, D&L chief finance officer Alvin Lao said in a recent press chat.
“We’re hoping that by this year, we will be able to finalize some of the formulation so we can start doing market tests and shipment to some large customers. So that’s one of the goals we have,” Lao said.
“It won’t be something that will have an immediate impact for us but we can see that the potential for this kind of product is big,” he said.
For D&L, such products are still in the development phase. While the products could be finalized this year, Lao said it would take time to build market acceptance.
D&L has started exporting biodegradable plastics to Japan albeit in small volumes. Lao estimated that this had not even constituted 1 percent of the production capacity of DPLC’s plastic plant in Canlubang, Laguna, can produce 50,000 metric tons of plastic annually.
Biodegradable plastic is currently seven times more expensive than regular plastic but is still cheaper than paper.
The recent bans of plastic bags nationwide have opened up demand for paper bags as alternatives. But D&L said that paper bags, unless heavily modified, can hardly meet the strength, ease of use, and affordability of plastic bags. For instance, paper bags used for groceries are not good for wet and heavy items as they tear easily. In most cases, the more paper is modified, the less biodegradable they become.
In 2013, D&L through subsidiary D&L Polymer and Colours Inc. (DPLC) teamed up with Japan’s leading chemical engineering company Showa Denko K.K. to produce such a new line of eco-friendly materials. But D&L is also working with other companies.
“We’re exploring working with other companies also just to make sure we cover the full range of possible benefits, uses and so on,” Lao said.
The need to find the balance – of having a durable yet biodegradable product – is part of the evolution of this technology, Lao said. “Because it’s still a young market, there’s a lot of experimentation,” he said.
While D&L sees greater demand for such biodegradable products overseas, he said local demand was likewise growing, driven by the local ordinances passed by some local government units. “We want to address both (offshore and local demand) if we can,” he said.
But what would be ideal is if there will only be one national legislation covering the use of eco-friendly packaging – like how the use of renewable biofuels was mandated by law – as opposed to each city having its own rules and standards, Lao said.
“What is needed is a legislative mandate for the uniform use of biodegradable plastics,” Lao said, adding that talks have begun in Congress to draft such a bill.
Over the longer term, Lao said D&L would focus on increasing collaboration with global players in various industries, which today include wire harness and biopolymers, to develop a stronger pipeline of higher margin, higher growth opportunities.
NatureWorks, the world’s leading supplier of eco-friendly biopolymers and plastics, has tapped two subsidiaries of D&L Industries Inc. as its distribution and compounding partners. NatureWorks’ products emit 60 percent less greenhouse gas and requires 48 percent less energy to manufacture into resin as compared to plastic.
D&L also produces BIOmate, a propriety mixture of additives that makes regular plastics decompose by oxidation and biodegradation. It’s now widely used by big and small retailers in the country.
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