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Eco-friendly material

LG Chem develops world's first biodegradable plastic alternative

By Oct 20, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

LG Chem Ltd. has developed the world's first 100% biodegradable material that can replace plastic as the company moves to take the lead in the global biodegradable market.

The company said on Oct. 20 that the newly developed material made of corn glucose and waste glycerol has the same properties and transparency as synthetic resins.

LG Chem has been developing eco-friendly biodegradable materials amid tighter environmental regulations, particularly in Europe, to curb the use of plastic. Next year, the European Union will ban the use of plastic straws, cotton swabs, disposable knives, forks, and plates. And in 2025, all plastic bottles in Europe will be required to contain at least 25% recycled plastic. The ratio will rise to 30% by 2030.

Currently, LG Chem offers a wide range of petrochemical products in its portfolio. The company posted record profit in the third quarter, boosted by robust sales of petrochemical products used in disposable products amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, there is strong concern that demand for petrochemical products will dwindle in the long run as the anti-plastic trend becomes a global initiative, prompting the company to boost its involvement in the biodegradable materials market.

“It’s meaningful that we created this biodegradable raw material with our independent technology,” said LG Chem’s Chief Technology Officer No Ki-soo. He added, “We are determined to be at the forefront in protecting the ecosystem and creating a virtuous cycle of resources through the development of eco-friendly materials.”

LG Chem's newly developed biodegradable material
LG Chem's newly developed biodegradable material

LG Chem plans to kick off mass production of the material in 2025, by which time the global biodegradable materials market is expected to reach around 10 trillion won ($8.7 billion) with annual growth of 15%. Its market size was around 4.2 trillion won last year. 

Previously biomaterials that substituted plastic were not deemed 100% biomaterial, as they had to be mixed with other plastic materials or additives to be used. LG Chem's new material as a standalone will offer up to 20 times more elasticity than existing biodegradable products and has similar properties to petrochemical products.

Another strength is that the new material will maintain transparency even after being processed. Most of the demand for packaging materials is derived from clear and transparent packaging materials. Until now, companies that offered eco-friendly packaging mostly used non-transparent materials because most biodegradable products are not clear.

Once the biodegradable material becomes commercialized, it will not only be used for plastic bags but also for disposable cups, bubble wrap cushioning, mask covers and other products. 

The relatively swift decomposition of the material is another plus. The Germany-based DIN CERTCO, a body that administers compostability certification, assessed LG Chem's biodegradable material and said that over 90% of it will biodegrade within 120 days.

Going forward, LG Chem plans to produce prototypes with companies that want to use this material in 2022, and begin mass production in 2025 if the results are positive.

Write to Jae-kwang Ahn at ahnjk@hankyung.com

Danbee Lee edited this article.

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