Metabolix opens EU office, products in home improvement stores

By Metabolix Inc. | April 23, 2012

Metabolix Inc., a bioscience company focused on developing clean, sustainable solutions for plastics, chemicals and energy, announced the opening of its new office in Cologne, Germany. Located in the BioCampus Cologne life science park, the space will enable the company to directly access the European market for biopolymers and will serve as a coordination point for its regional initiatives in renewable chemicals. The new office marks the first expansion for Metabolix outside of the U.S. and will coordinate business development, customer service and technical support to business partners and biopolymer customers based in Europe.

“Countries in the European Union are keenly focused on sustainability initiatives and are taking decisive steps to drive the adoption of green alternatives to conventional plastics and chemicals,” said Richard P. Eno, president and CEO of Metabolix. “Opening a German office in an area of thriving life science innovation will put Metabolix in a central location to serve the needs of our customers and business partners.”

Metabolix’s new office opened its doors on April 16. For more than 100 years, plant-based pharmaceuticals have been produced at the site of BioCampus Cologne, which was established in 2002 and is currently one of the largest biotechnology parks in Germany. The park is home to approximately 20 life science companies, including Bayer HealthCare, Sanofi-Aventis and Direvo.

According to the Freedonia Group, global demand for bioplastics is expected to more than triple through 2015, with Western Europe remaining the largest consumer of bioplastic materials. With more than 700 issued and pending patents, Metabolix has led the industry in the development of a family of biopolymers called PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates). Metabolix’s technology platform has led to the development of a line of biopolymer resins marketed under the trademarked Mirel and Mvera brands, as well as the development of biobased industrial chemicals as drop-in replacements for petroleum-based products.

The Mirel and Mvera brands share the physical properties of petroleum-based resins for performance and durability and can be processed on existing equipment with similar productivity and post-processing techniques. The difference is that Metabolix biopolymers display unique biodegradability properties. Mirel is certified to biodegrade in soil and water environments, as well as home composting and industrial composting facilities. Mvera is a certified compostable film grade biopolymer intended for industrial composting. Metabolix biopolymers represent a distinctive solution as a high-performance bioplastic alternative. Metabolix’s customers have demonstrated use of PHA biopolymers in agriculture/horticulture, compost and organic waste diversion, marine/aquatic, sustainable packaging and consumer goods applications.

In recent months, Metabolix has produced biobased gamma-Butyrolactone (“GBL,” a C4 chemical) at semi-works scale (60,000L) and has produced biobased acrylic acid (a C3 chemical) at lab scale. The company is actively moving these processes towards commercial scale targets. According to industry sources, the current combined global market for conventional four-carbon and three-carbon industrial chemicals is estimated at more than $10 billion annually. C4 chemicals are used in applications ranging from high-performance engineering plastics to spandex. C3 chemicals have applications in paints, coatings, diapers and adhesives.

In other company news, Metabolix and Ball Horticultural Co. announced arrangements with Floral Plant Growers and Costa Farms to make Mirel-based biodegradable SoilWrap plant containers available at Home Depot and Shopko stores located across the Midwest and Northwest (through Floral Plant Growers) and at Lowe’s Home Improvement stores in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina (through Costa Farms).

Ball’s SoilWrap plant containers biodegrade naturally in soil. Its innovative design promotes fast plant growth and eliminates transplant shock by immediately bringing roots in direct contact with soil. Once planted in the garden, SoilWrap degrades by becoming food for beneficial soil microbes.