A Revolutionary Plastic Made From Corn

A new revolutionary plastic made from corn may revolutionize the plastic industry, Cargill Dow Polymers has invented a new biodegradable polymer and can competed with standard oil-based plastics on a cost and performance basis.
By Eben Carle
June/July 2000
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With CDP set to make biodegradable plastic out of corn, you'll be able to compost your water bottles along with your kitchen scraps.

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Learn about this revolutionary plastic made from corn. Broccoli fights cancer, carrots sharpen vision, but who could have guessed that corn would prevent head contusions? 

Vegetables have long been regarded as one of nature's greatest gifts. Broccoli fights cancer, carrots sharpen vision, but who could have guessed that corn would prevent head contusions? If Dow Chemical and Cargill Company have anything to say about it, your bicycle helmet will be made with maize.

Cargill Dow Polymers (CDP), a joint venture of Cargill Company and Dow Chemical, has invented a new biodegradable polymer, a revolutionary plastic made from corn that may revolutionize the plastic industry.

Using a patented process called NatureWorks, CDP extracts unrefined sugar from corn and, through fermentation, transforms it into lactic acid. Water is then removed from the lactic acid to form lactide, which in turn is refined to produce polylactide polymers (PLA). Commonly known as bioplastic, PLA is biodegradable and can be composted in your backyard along with your table scraps.

"Not only are we using biodegradable components to manufacture plastic, but we can compete with your standard oil-based plastics on a cost and performance basis," says John Ohman, marketing executive for CDP.

Already a leader in the production of ethanol, a gasoline additive made from corn, CDP is banking on bioplastics to outpace traditional petro polymers. Sure to help the cause are skyrocketing oil prices, which over the last year have doubled worldwide.

Finally headed for market after ten years on the drawing board, PLA will be produced in a $300 million CDP plant being built in Blaire, Nebraska, and scheduled to open in 2001.

—Eben Carle 

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