According to the report (see ‘Refs’), the PLA market in 2022 is valued at $1.5 million. The PLA market value estimation for 2030 is $3.5 million. Here’s the graph:
Assuming that the data of this report are correct … € 1.5 million is not much; it’s tiny. I thought it was much more.
If you include inflation (rising prices) in this equation, you could assume that it’s almost a negative growth in terms of volume.
Or let me re-phrase this: the estimated growth is maybe realised by the inflation.
I think it cost at least $ 50 million to build a fully operational PLA plant, with at least an operational cost of $ 5 million a year to keep the factory up and running.
I’m not a financial analyst but I can imagine that the numbers are mostly ‘red’ on the balance sheet. It’s a loss-making endeavour …. that’s why they need EU funding from the Horizon program and from their friends at CBI-JU. I like to call this the ‘Sicilian connections’.
Looking at the two major PLA producers: NatureWorks and TotalEnergies Corbion.
NatureWorks (joint-venture between Cargill and PTT oil company) was the first to produce PLA at commercial scale in the US, they never made an ounce of profit; PLA has been a very expensive ‘story’ for Cargill. Natureworks is now building a second PLA plant in Thailand … the name of this sequel will be: How can Cargill loose another $ 100 million?
TotalEnergies Corbion built its first PLA plant in Thailand afterwards to join the dance. Corbion (NL sugar industry) converts sugar into lactic acid … so whether the lactic acid is converted in polylactic acid or not doesn’t really make a huge difference for Corbion…. except of course if you consider the price of the extra industrial unit needed for the polymerisation of lactic acid (polymerisation plant) that converts lactic acid into PLA (at least $ 25 – 35 million). TotalEnergies Corbion was planning to build a second PLA plant in France, but Corbion performed a ‘Coitus interruptus‘ recently and decided to pull the plug.
I understand why TotalEnergies Corbion didn’t keep the presidency of European Bioplastics; they needed to save on the money. European Bioplastics went from greedy Dutch to psychorigid German …. I mean the writings on the wall at European Bioplastics said it all: Fiasco (PLA 3D printed).
If you consider the PLA ‘lobbying and outreach’ budget of NatureWorks and TotalEnergies Corbion combined (at least $ 1 million per year), almost the total PLA market value anno 2022 ….
Anyway, after 25 years of PLA commercialisation, no profit is in sight yet …. well, China is coming and is also producing PLA; but let me tell you ….. if you buy PLA from China then you should hold tight to your Karma and be careful about the human rights and environmental issues backfiring. You know what I mean… child labour, forced labor camps, factories running on coal, etc.
Anyway, if you’re a multinational and your balance sheet after 25 years of business is $ 1.5 million, then you should start asking one question: where did it go wrong?