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Algae Biomass Could be Central to New Plastics Compounds

Algae Biomass Could be Central to New Plastics Compounds

Cereplast, a supplier of bioplastics, expects to offer its first commercial compound made with algae by the end of this year.

"Algae-based resins represent the latest advancement in bioplastics technology and our product development efforts over the last several months have yielded very encouraging results," says Frederic Scheer, CEO of Cereplast, which is based in El Segundo, CA.

"The properties of hybrid materials that we have developed with algae are now very close to meeting our expectations, and are on target to introduce a new family of algae-based plastics by the end of the year," says Scheer. "In the not so distant future, we believe that algae will become one of the most important 'green' feedstocks in bioplastics as well as biofuels."

Algae from a typical photo-bioreactor are harvested daily and may be treated as biomass that can be used as biofuel or as a raw material source for plastics compounds.

As a first step, Cereplast algae materials could replace 50 percent or more of the petroleum content used in traditional polyolefin resins. Cereplast buys algae mass that is treated and compounded at its new converting facility in Seymour, IN. Scheer told Design News that the properties of algae-based compounds are slightly different than bioplastics derived from corn, potatoes or tapioca.

The short-term plan is to compound algae materials with oil-based polyolefins to create hybrids. "At first we will have a limited capacity, just 5-10 million pounds due to supply chain issues," Scheer said.

Longer-term Scheer hopes Cereplast can create a polymer that is 100 percent algae-based. Cereplast is looking for companies that could convert algae biomass into viable monomers for further conversion into potential biopolymers.

Cereplast has a history of operating losses and has incurred significant net losses in each fiscal quarter since its inception. In 2009 and 2008, Cereplast had gross revenues of $2,751,445 and $4,599,303, respectively and incurred net losses of $6,072,948 and $12,748,701, respectively. The company hopes to see positive cash flows by the end of the third quarter of 2010 due to restructuring efforts and the startup of continuous production in Seymour, IN.

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