Ownership of the NatureWorks 50-50 biopolymers joint venture between agriculture and food company Cargill of the USA and Teijin of Japan has been transferred to Cargill, with Teijin withdrawing from the business as part of its restructuring moves in response to the global economic downturn.
The joint venture was set up in 2007 when Cargill sold a half share in NatureWorks to Teijin with the aim of expanding sales with the help of Teijin’s experience in fibres, films and compounds. NatureWorks itself was the result of a cancelled alliance, when in 2005 Dow Chemical pulled out the Cargill Dow joint venture and the business took on the name of its NatureWorks brand PLA under sole Cargill ownership.
Since then NatureWorks has rebranded its PLA materials as Ingeo and now reckons to have the world’s biggest PLA plant with a capacity of 140,000 tonnes – and is exploring the possibility of a second plant.
Teijin’s withdrawal from Natureworks is by no means a withdrawal from biopolymers. It has its own brand PLA, Biofront, for which it has developed grades which overcome the inherent difficulty of PLA of low heat resistance. Teijin has been pushing Biofront for automotive applications and fibres, including fabrics for car upholstery, and earlier this year said it planned to get production up to 10,000 tonnes annually by 2010.