Bioplastic, Company initiatives

Teijin’s Bio-PET Fiber in Nissan

Hello blog readers! Missed me? I am very sorry for being quiet lately as I had to recuperate coming out of a gallbladder surgery on top of a Thanksgiving week and this week’s exam.

This month will also be my finals and therefore I need to focus on school for now until the week of December 22. Hopefully there will not be too many important news in the renewable chems industry that I will miss.

The blog will be fully active again by January. In the meantime, here is a news from Japanese company Teijin about their own activities in the bio-based PET (polyethylene terephthalate) market under the brand ECO Circle PlantFiber. Teijin said the bio-polyester has been selected for use in the seats and interior trim surface of the 100% electric Nissan LEAF automobile.

Specifically, ECO CIRCLE Plantfiber is used for the seats, parts of the door trim, headrests and center armrest. The seat and interior trim surface were co-developed by Teijin, automotive seat manufacturer Suminoe Teijin Techno Co., Ltd. and Nissan Motor Company Ltd.

Teijin said it has been expanding its ECO Circle Plantfiber’s global market for applications ranging from apparel, car seats and interiors to personal hygiene products. The company aims to increase sales to over 50% of its total polyester fiber sales for automotive seats and interiors by 2015.

Like the current bio-PET out there, Teijin’s ECO Circle Plantfiber bio-PET is made from 30% bio-based EG and the rest from petroleum-based dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) or telephthalic acid (PTA).

The blog wonders where the company produces its bio-PET fiber, and if they are sourcing their bio-EG from somebody else? In late 2010, Teijin Fibers announced back then that the company expects to sell 30,000 tonnes of ECO Circle Plantfiber products in the initial fiscal year ending in March 2013, and 70,000 tonnes by the third year of the business. Teijin started its bio-PET fiber production around April this year.

Teijin does produce its own DMT with a total capacity of 230,000 tonnes/year at the Matsuyama Factory in Ehime Prefecture, Japan. A speculative source of their bio-EG could be Greencol Taiwan, a joint venture between Toyota Tsusho and chemical firm China Man-made Fiber Corp. (CMFC).

In one of the articles I wrote for ICIS late last year, Teijin noted that it has already produced its own 100% bio-PET fiber in laboratory scale.

The beauty of Teijin’s bioplastic polyester business is that ECO CIRCLE Plantfiber also can be recycled using Teijin Fibers’ ECO CIRCLE closed-loop polyester recycling system. The polyester is chemically decomposed at the molecular level by the system and then recycled as new DMT material comparable to petroleum-derived DMT.

As a background, here are Teijin’s increasing bioplastics businesses. I just copied these from their corporate sustainability brochure (so apologies for the ad-like definitions).

Compared to PLA, the conventional bioplastic, BIOFRONT® has higher heat-resistance as well as excellent durability, moldability and transparency with a bio-content of close to 100%. Teijin is developing new applications for the electronics and automotive fields.

A polycarbonate-like resin containing isosorbide made from corn and other plants. With the bio-content as high as 70%, it has excellent transparency, chemical resistance, scratch resistance and durability. Applications include automotive/electronics, optical, medical, food, cosmetics and other industries.

The company is utilizing compounding and alloying technologies to propel development of E-COMMUTE®, a plant-derived polymer alloy material.

ECO CIRCLE™ Plantfiber 
A partially bio-derived PET with the ethylene glycol component made from biofuels derived from biomass such as sugarcane. Full-scale production mainly for application to car seats started in April 2012 and has been expanding steadily. This is the world’s first full-scale expansion of a bio-derived PET fiber product.

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.


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