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South Korea CJ BIO cooperates with US NatureWorks in degradable high-performance plastics

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CJ BIO is a subsidiary of the South Korea-based CJ Group (CJ) and a major producer of PHA polyhydroxyalkanoates. NatureWorks is a producer of the advanced material PLA polylactic acid. The two companies jointly signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to establish a strategic alliance and announced that they are working towards a Master Cooperation Agreement (MCA). The two companies will take advantage of CJ BIO's PHACT®Marine Biodegradable Polymers and NatureWorks Ingeo™Biomaterials technology to jointly develop solutions for sustainable materials. The goal of the agreement is to develop high-performance biopolymers that can replace fossil fuel-based plastics, covering applications ranging from compostable food packaging and food tableware to personal care products.

NatureWorks is a pioneer in the development of bio-based materials that not only reduce the impact of carbon emissions, but also enable new waste treatment options through its Ingeo technology. As a producer of biomaterials, it has developed many of the main application areas where PLA can be used in large quantities. In recent years, PLA, as a bio-based material, has been significantly developed in a wide range of end-use applications. Due to its unique functionality, it has been used to replace petrochemical plastics. In addition to being 100% bio-based, it can also realize a variety of waste recycling options, including composting, chemical recycling or coated paper recycling. Both companies recognize that there is further potential to improve the performance of biopolymers and waste solutions, as well as to increase adoption in new product areas. Together, NatureWorks and CJ aim to provide the market with next-generation solutions by combining their expertise and technology platforms. The initial collaboration between the two parties to develop and use CJ BIO's unique amorphous PHA and Ingeo biopolymers has shown very encouraging positive results.

CJ BIO is a provider of biofermentation products, with 13 plants worldwide producing products related to animal nutrition, human nutrition and biomaterials. The company recently announced the completion of its new plant in Basuruan, Indonesia, and the start of commercial-scale production of PHA. CJ BIO is currently the only company in the world to produce amorphous PHA(aPHA) and is the first product under its new brand PHACT, named PHACT A1000P. Amorphous PHAs are softer and more elastic, and have completely different properties than crystalline or semi-crystalline PHAs. It has been certified and meets the criteria for being biodegradable in industrial compost, soil (environmental) and marine environments. Modification with amorphous PHA and PLA can enhance its mechanical properties, such as toughness and ductility, while maintaining transparency. It also improves the biodegradability of PLA and has the opportunity to become a home compostable product.

"Plastics are an important material for improving human life, but the serious climate challenges caused by their fossil sources and the impact of their abandonment must now be addressed." Seung Jin Lee, head of CJ BIO's biomaterials business, said: "NatureWorks and its Ingeo technology have brought new material functionality and a variety of post-use treatment solutions to the market. They have excellent product and multi-application research and development capabilities, enough to support products suitable for PHACT amorphous PHA technology, such as soft and hard packaging. I am excited about the opportunity to work with NatureWorks companies to create new solutions that will have a real impact on the challenges facing plastics today and will help improve the lives of future generations."

Rich Altice, President and CEO of NatureWorks, said: "There is a growing demand for sustainable products around the world. For more than 30 years, NatureWorks have been involved in the circular economy, developing advanced biomaterials to contribute to a sustainable future. Looking ahead, we hope to develop more potential new bio-based solutions to expand the impact of Ingeo technology. We believe that CJ BIO's PHACT aPHA technology is an ideal partner to achieve our goals."

NatureWorks and CJ BIO will collect feedback from existing and potential customers on product applications and markets, including packaging, food tableware and organic recycling management, to understand the market's growing demand for functional products that meet sustainability goals. This cooperation will provide valuable information for the company's product and technology development roadmap. Both companies said that the letter of intent is only the beginning of a long-term cooperative relationship between NatureWorks and CJ BIO, and the two sides plan to jointly sign a master cooperation agreement in the near future.