GM Crops Not Needed For Sustainable Industrial Products

Corn Becomes Plastic at Huge New Nebraska Factory

NEW YORK, New York, January 11, 2000 (ENS) - The kernel of a new industry
for America's heartland is a first of its kind factory that will make the
raw material of plastic cups, packaging and fabric from corn, not petroleum.

Cargill Dow Polymers, a joint venture between Cargill Incorporated and The
Dow Chemical Company, today leapfrogged over other plant based plastics
companies by announcing plans to build a "world-scale facility" in Blair,
Nebraska to manufacture plastic products from corn.

Companies have been experimenting for years with plant based plastics as
replacements for petroleum based plastics with their toxic byproducts,
wastes and inability to break down in landfills.

Cargill Dow Polymers (CDP) has stepped into the lead by offering a family of
durable plastics derived entirely from annually renewable agricultural crops
that can compete with hydrocarbon based fibers and packing materials in cost
and performance. Cargill and Dow plan to invest more than $300 million in
the business and production facility.

A new technology will use natural plant sugars from corn to make a
"proprietary" polylactide (PLA) polymers for fibers, plastic packaging and
other products. Future applications of the technology could include
injection blow molded bottles, foams, emulsions and chemical intermediaries.

This new technology allows the company to "harvest" the carbon that living
plants remove from the air through photosynthesis. Carbon is stored in plant
starches, which can be broken down into natural plant sugars. The carbon and
other elements in these natural sugars are then used to make NatureWorkstm
PLA, which will be made into utensils, packaging or fibers for cloth adn

The new CDP plant will be located at the site of Cargill's corn wet milling
plant at Blair. It is expected to come on stream in late 2001 with an annual
capacity of 140,000 metric tons of NatureWorks PLA polymers.

"The decision to locate at Blair was based on a number of factors, including
the availability of natural plant sugars needed to make PLA, proximity to
existing Cargill operations, easy access to railroads and freeways and an
excellent pool of people qualified to train for high value jobs as
operations technicians," said Jim Stoppert, CDP president and CEO.

Approximately 200 people will be employed in the construction of the CDP
plant, which will be operated by a staff of about 100 people.

Cargill's corn wet milling division produces about 600,000 tons of Sweet
Bran® 60, 100,000 tons of corn gluten meal, 50,000 tons of corn oil, 1.5
billion pounds of high fructose corn sweeteners, and 70 million gallons of
fuel grade ethanol.

Cargill’s new Bioscience Division in Blair is working on genetically
engineered technologies "to enhance food and people’s health," Cargill said
in a statement in May 1999. No biotechnology is involved in creating the new
plastic from corn, Stoppert said today.

William Stavropoulos, president and CEO of Dow, said, "What's exciting about
this technology is its multitude of applications and the fact that plastics
can come from renewable resources such as corn," Stavropoulos said.

"NatureWorks polymers offer the opportunity to develop truly sustainable
products, and because we are using raw material that can be regenerated year
after year, it is cost competitive and environmentally responsible," said

CDP currently has the capacity to manufacture more than 4,000 tons of PLA
per year at a plant near Minneapolis, and plans to double that capacity
during 2000. In addition, it expects to begin construction of a large scale
European plant in two years.

© Environment News Service (ENS) 2000. All Rights Reserved.

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