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Verde Bioresin Gears up for Biodegradable Polyethylene Production

Renewables-based biodegradable plastics developer Verde Bioresin is a step closer to NASDAQ listing via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that would raise an estimated $365 million. Currently the company is producing its PolyEarthylene "bio-based biodegradable polyethylene" on a semi-commercial basis in Fullerton, California, with a capacity of around 4,500 tonnes/year but plans are to undertake a significant expansion here by next year to a capability of 23,000-odd tonnes/year.

Reports also indicate an intent to construct a major facility in the Midwest in 2025 with capacity of 170,000 tonnes/year. Verde Bioresin intends to further expand this Midwestern plant at a later date to 340,000 tonnes/year. So what exactly is PolyEarthylene and what else can we conclude regarding future developments? Based on grade sheets (TDS), material safety data sheets (MSDS), radiocarbon (C14) test reports, and other information :

  • PolyEarthylene resin grades are blends of bio-based polyethylene plastics sourced from Braskem (whom Verde Bioresin has a strategic supply agreement with) and post-consumer recycled (PCR) certified plastics, together with inorganic fillers such as calcium carbonate and talc, and a proprietary mixture assumed to contain the biodegradation-inducing additive that is activated when the plastic is exposed to an environment rich in microbes;

  • Radiocarbon testing to assay the proportion of bio-based carbon indicates a 51–78% bio-based carbon content as a fraction of total organic carbon, implying that the fossil-derived PCR content would account for the remaining organic carbon;

  • In its investor presentation, Verde Bioresin notes that Braskem expects to complete a green polypropylene (PP) facility in the Midwest in the second quarter of 2025. This would of course be fed with feedstock from a bio-propylene plant at the same location. This suggests that Verde Bioresin also plans to produce bio-based PP. One wonders if the same brandname will suffice for PP;

  • Startup Citroniq also has plans for a major bio-based PP plant in the Midwest, which could be an alternative raw material source for Verde Bioresin;

  • To achieve outputs in the multi-hundred thousand tonnes/year range and maintain a balanced product portfolio, construction of a bio-based PE plant in the Midwest would appear to be a prerequisite;

  • Verde Bioresin is targeting a price point of $1.50–1.80/lb. ($3.30–4.00/kg) for PolyEarthylene versus $1.80–2.00/lb. ($4.00–4.40/kg) for Braskem I'm Green PE, $1.80–2.30/lb. ($1.80–4.50/kg) for polylactic acid, and $2.70–3.20/lb. ($6.00–7.00/kg) for the bio-based polyester PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate). Presumable the lower price of organic fillers and PCR more than offsets the additional costs of compounding and the biodegradation-inducing additive. By 2030, further cost reductions to the $1.30–1.50/lb. level are targeted, and in the even longer term price parity with fossil-derived polyolefins;

In conclusion, we note that PolyEarthylene bio-based biodegradable polyethylene degrades into water, CO2, methane and biomass. Both CO2 and methane are radiatively active gases (greenhouse gases). An alternative might be to forgo the biodegradation-inducing additive and opt for chemical recycling or mechanical recycling.

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