Office of the Cane and Sugar Board (OCSB), Ministry of Industry, Thailand reported that Thailand was ready to push forwards sugar and cane industries and become the 3rd or 4th leader on bioplastic industry of the world. At present, two big bioplastic producers are investing on building a bioplastic factory here. The first is Corbion (Thailand) Co. Ltd., the big lactic acid manufacturer of the world, which is expanding production and factory construction under the 6,000 million Baht investment. The factory will be ready to start in 2023. The second is the “Nakhon Sawan Biocomplex” project in Nakhon Sawan which is now producing PLA from cane extraction under the investment worth 30,000 – 40,000 million Baht.
Mr. Wirit Wisetsin, Deputy Director General of the OCSB, said that, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession throughout the world, the bioindustry is still expanding, especially an investment on bioindustry in Thailand which sees local and international investors establish production bases of biochemistry and bioplastic. The Corbion (Thailand), for instance, is one of the biggest lactic acid producers of the world. After investing on bioplastic production in Asia Industrial Estate in Ban Chang district, Rayong, in 2018, it had production power of 140,000 tons annually, 75,000 tons of which are used for PLA production. Raw sugar is a major ingredient.
“Lately, in 2020, production power is expanded and a new factory is built in the present site where more 125,000 tons of lactic acid and its derivatives are produced per year. Also, 700,000 tons of PLA are manufactured under the investment of 6,000 million Baht. It is expected that more 150 positions of workforce will be recruited and additional 300,000 tons per year of raw sugar will be used. Construction is expected to begin in 2021 and the factory will be available in 2023,” explained Mr. Wirit.
Most of the PLA will be exported to Europe for production of food and materials for one time usage. The rest of 500 tons per year will be sold in Thailand because Europe is highly concerned with the environment. Even though bioplastic is 3 times more expensive than normal one, needs are increasing because European consumers have buying power. As a result, Corbion is constructing a new factory to produce sufficient bioplastic to serve the needs. Besides, it is obvious that a joint venture between PTT Global Chemical (Public) Company Limited and Nature Work Co. Ltd. from the US will have a bioplastic factory under the project, “Nakhon Sawan Biocomplex”, in Nakhon Sawan, in 2021 under the investment of 30,000-40,000 million Baht. The project will depend mainly on cane extraction to produce the PLA.
Currently, Thai bioplastic factories are becoming one of the 15 world leaders following the US where corn is used as a raw material, Brazil where cane sugar as a raw material, China where sugar as a raw material and Europe where beet sugar as a raw material. If construction of the 2 bioplastic factories are completed, Thailand will be ranked 3rd or 4th of the world. However, in case the country promotes use of bioplastic, needs of the product will increase, resulting in Thailand becoming a leader of bioplastic industries of the world. Moreover, Thailand is planning to increase use of bioplastic as, in 2019, the cabinet approved a tax measure on environment in which 125% of tax can be deducted from January, 2019, to December, 2021, for company buying and using bioplastic products. This will encourage 10% of plastic factories to become bioplastic producers.
For the present fiscal year of 2020, the OCSB received budget to found a center of bioindustrial promotion in Bang Phra sub-district, Sri Racha district in Cholburi. The center will serve as a hub for research and development, analyses, testing, seminars and dissemination of bioindustrial works, namely bioplastic, biochemistry, biopharmaceutical products and cosmetics. It is located in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) which is the base of petrochemical and plastic production. The EEC is now ready to become a bioindustrial producer known as bio-polis on bioenergy, biochemistry and bioplastic. It is expected to complete in 2022. If Thailand is serious in bioplastic use, it will become a leader on this industry.