Three companies - TotalEnergies Corbion, Posco International and Esol- have announced a new partnership established specifically to advance PLA recycling in South Korea. Over the coming years, the companies will work to develop the PLA recycling infrastructure and technology in the country, in this way, aalso contributing to the Korean Government framework for Carbon Neutrality.
Korean trading company Posco International’s portfolio already comprises a range of bio-based and sustainable resins and other products. The company entered the bioplastics space in 2019 and is now aiming to broaden this to include bio-based recycled products. By 2026, Posco said it wants to have a process for post-consumer recycling of PLA up and running. It also has started a campaign named Green Butterfly with ESOL to promote the recovery of used PLA.
While Posco International will oversee and finance the project, TotalEnergies Corbion will contribute the knowledge and experience it has accumulated over the years with advanced PLA recycling. Sourcing will be the task of ESOL; the company will procure PLA waste from post-consumer recycling and establish and promote the necessary technology to collect, sort, clean, purify, and reuse the PLA. Esol already produces PLA-based products in Korea. The partnership will enable the company to leverage TotalEnergies Corbion’s existing advanced recycling technology and infrastructure to establish a recycling infrastructure throughout its supply chain for a more sustainable use of plastics in the country’s growing PLA market.
“TotalEnergies Corbion is already supplying Luminy rPLA, a recycle-based PLA, to the South Korean market and creating a local plan to reprocess PLA waste will just accelerate the transition to an even more circular economy,” said Thomas Philippon, TotalEnergies Corbion CEO.
The push to establish a recycling stream for PLA comes partly in response to a global bioplastics market that is now growing at an annual rate of over 20%. Increasing the availability of PLA through mechanical and chemical recycling will support its increasing use to produce bottles, containers, and other food service and packaging products.
PLA, a 100% bio-based, recyclable, and compostable polymer, is one of the first renewable polymers capable of competing with conventional polymers when it comes to performance, as TotalEnergies Corbion has pointed out. Producing PLA generates three times less CO2 than producing fossil-based polymers.
The company already commercially produces its Luminy rPLA, containing 20% post-industrial and post-consumer PLA waste is available. And last year, it demonstrated once and for all that PLA was able to be effectively sorted from other municipal plastic waste using existing separation equipment - quelling an often-heard objection to including PLA in the recycling stream.
“In short, no technical barriers exist that prevent an effective separation of PLA from other plastic waste,” said François de Bie, Senior Marketing and Supply Chain Director at TotalEnergies Corbion at that time.