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Biodegradables

SK, Kolon tie up on biodegradable plastic production

Apr 07, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

SK Global Chemical CEO Na Kyung-soo (left) and Kolon Industries CEO Jang Hee-goo (right) hold a PBAT sample at their strategic partnership signing ceremony. (Courtesy of SK Innovation) 
SK Global Chemical CEO Na Kyung-soo (left) and Kolon Industries CEO Jang Hee-goo (right) hold a PBAT sample at their strategic partnership signing ceremony. (Courtesy of SK Innovation) 

SK Global Chemical Co., a petrochemical subsidiary of SK Innovation Co., will produce biodegradable plastics together with chemical and textile heavyweight Kolon Industries Inc. from the third quarter of this year.

SK Global Chemical and Kolon Industries have signed a strategic partnership to produce polybuthylene adipate-co-terephthalate (PBAT) plastic, according to the two companies on Apr. 7.

SK and Kolon by 2023 will annually manufacture 50,000 tons of PBAT, the highest output of biodegradable plastic in the country.

PBAT is a biodegradable plastic that biodegrades in nature within six months through air, sunlight, heat and enzyme reactions, whereas a typical plastic material takes more than 100 years to biodegrade.

PBAT also has an eco-friendly advantage over other biodegradable plastics, including polylactic acid (PLA) plastics, which unlike PBAT require certain soil conditions such as high temperature and humidity for degradation.

The two companies launched a research project last year to develop a biodegradable plastic material. Within a year of this joint effort, they are on the brink of the first mass production of biodegradable plastic in South Korea.

While PBAT is a biodegradable plastic, it is not a bioplastic, which is produced from renewable biomass sources such as vegetable oil, corn or sugar cane. PBAT is made using petroleum-based materials.

The PBAT will be used in agricultural bags, disposable bags and fishing nets.

Under the deal, Kolon Industries will offer support regarding the mass-production process and facilities management, based on its nylon and polyester production know-how.

“We expect great synergy from the two companies in establishing an eco-friendly plastic ecosystem. Kolon will continue to develop new materials that contribute to sustainability,” said Kolon Industries CEO Jang Hee-goo.

SK Global Chemical, as the only manufacturer and supplier of the base material used in PBAT production, will build on its technical expertise of eco-friendly packaging materials.

The global biodegradable plastics market is growing at a sustained rate, driven by tougher regulations across borders, projected to reach $13.1 billion in 2027 from $4.6 billion as of 2019, according to the research firm Allied Market Research.

“This partnership will put us a step ahead of the competition in the biodegradable plastics market and in establishing an eco-friendly plastics ecosystem,” said SK Global Chemical CEO Na Kyung-soo.

Write to Hyung-kyu Kim at khk@hankyung.com

Daniel Cho edited this article.

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