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Cambridge-based MIT spinoff Metabolix (MBLX) pioneers biodegradeable plastics made from plant matter: Bioplastic April 23, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Biotech, Manufacturing, Products, renewable energy, Startups.
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The publicly traded company has seen its stock nearly double over the past year. The company has genetically engineered a microbe that eats sugar from corn and generates a plastic-like molecule called PHA. After a few months, the bioplastic will decompose in water or soil and is so pure that waste containers made with the material are safe for use in backyard composting heaps. Metabolix also claims its bioplastic is carbon neutral.

The company has entered into a joint venture with the Archer Daniels Midland company (ADM) which is called Telles. The venture will begin shipping their “Mirel” bioplastic pellets from a new plant in Clinton, Iowa. Newell Rubbermaid’s Paper Mate division is one of the first customers, using the Mirel bioplastic pellets in a resin form for their new $1.25 biodegradeable Paper Mate pens.

Metabolix charges around $2.50 a pound for its green bioplastic, about twice the price of traditional plastics. But increased customer demand for “Green” products and biodegradeable items is so strong in many cases that lower margins can be made up for by increased unit sales.

Metabolix creates products that are genetically modified – a taboo in many environmentalist circles. And, as the demand for bioplastics increases, many worry that the demand for corn, already being used increasingly for ethanol production, will rise even more dramatically, driving up food prices.

Metabolix is working to address these concerns by researching next generation plastics made from nonfood material such as prairie switchgrass.

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