Pilot Plant In Finland Will Produce Bioplastic From Soy Residues

March 31, 2021
Four companies collaborate to develop the first process to produce compostable bioplastic from food and feed production side streams.

Four companies have collaborated to develop a process to produce compostable bioplastic from food and feed production side streams. Finnfoam, Brightplus, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Nordic Soya are exploring the possibilities of soy molasses as a raw material of the future. A biopolymer plant will be built in Uusikaupunki, Finland where bioplastic production will be piloted on an industrial scale. The research project, partly funded by Business Finland, reportedly took four years.

"The process developed as an outcome of this cooperation project is the first in the world to produce an ecological lactic acid polymer from the side streams of soy production. This way we can offer a sustainable alternative to sugar and corn based polylactic acid, i.e. PLA,” says Henri Nieminen, CEO of Finnfoam.

Soy molasses, which is not suitable for food, has previously been disposed of by incineration. Producing biomaterials from side streams of food production also improves the food production value chain. Nordic Soya Oy uses soy grown in Europe in its Uusikaupunki plant. Soy molasses left over from its processing has been used as the raw material in the research.

"This project is both an excellent example of what expertise in industrial biotechnology can achieve and a triumph in converting a challenging industrial residue into a higher value product using microbes,” says Tiina Nakari-Setälä, vice president, strategy and business intelligence at VTT. “This endeavor required significant efforts in technology at various stages of the process. It particularly made use of VTT's expertise in synthetic biology, the modification of microbes and optimization of bioprocesses.”

Finnfoam says it intends to use the new bioplastic in the production of thermal insulation for buildings. Its ecological quality is enhanced by the fact that thermal insulation also serves as a carbon sink, thus helping to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings.

The pilot plant will be built during 2021-2022. The full-scale plant reportedly will be operating by the end of 2023.

For more information, visit: www.finnfoam.com

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