Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Dow, Nature Conservancy Team for Biopolymers Production in Brazil

Last week, Dow Chemical Company and The Nature Conservancy announced that they are teaming with Santa Vitória Açúcar e Álcool Ltda. (SVAA), a joint venture between Dow and Mitsui & Co. Ltd., to use SVAA’s production facility in Santa Vitória, Brazil as the second pilot site location of their collaboration. SVAA, a sugar cane and sugar-cane-derived ethanol company, is already building its ethanol plant.

Dan Hawkins, Dow’s VP of sustainability that on its Santa Vitória site, “SVAA will construct the world’s largest integrated plant for the production of biopolymers from renewable sugar cane, including the use of waste biomass to power the plant.” He said the collaboration on the pilot creates the opportunity to develop approaches that deliver sustainable solutions to a variety of local and global challenges.

João Campari, The Nature Conservancy’s program director of the Atlantic Forest and Central Savannas, noted that this pilot site lets TNC work with SVAA in the early planning for expanded agricultural production and site development. “It is located in the heart of the agricultural region of Brazil, where less than 6% of natural vegetation remains. With the right stakeholders working together on smart science, we can inform land use decisions for agriculture siting and forest restoration to optimize both sugarcane production and habitat value for local communities, business, and the environment.”

SVAA’s existing operations at Santa Vitória include the planting, cultivation and harvesting of sugar cane, while its ethanol plant is under construction and expected to begin operations by late 2013 or early 2014. Construction of the polymer plant will begin at the end of 2013 and be completed in 2015. Initially, the plant is going to produce biopolymers aimed at applications in sectors such as high performance flexible packaging, hygiene, and medical.


Chemical and the Dow Chemical Company Foundation have committed $10 million to the collaboration with The Nature Conservancy over five years, which will examine how Dow’s global operations rely on and affect nature. A first pilot site at Dow’s Freeport, TX operations site was announced earlier this year, and scientists there are currently analyzing water supply, air quality, and coastal storm protection.

The collaboration between Dow and The Nature Conservancy that began in early 2011 in itself signals a concerted effort toward sustainability, more so since the Brazilian site is intended to produce sustainable bioplastics from renewable sugar cane.

Due to their recent, rapid emergence, there has been some inevitable confusion about biopolymers. The Bioplastics Council, a special interest group within SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, has taken action to clarify the issues and questions about bioplastics. In February it published two new guides: “Understanding Biobased Carbon Content” and “Life Cycle Analysis Primer – What, Why and How,” with each available as free downloads. More recently, in conjunction with its “Business of Bioplastics” event on April 3, 2012 at NPE2012, the Council announced publication of the “2012 Bioplastics Industry Overview Guide.” Covering bioplastics trends, material types, applications, production and market projections, geographic development, and more, it is available as a download from the SPI Plastics Industry e-Store, or through Amazon. It is free for Bioplastics Council members and $499 (USD) for non-members.


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