Currently, rubber trees are planted in nurseries, above ground, in polyethylene (PE) film bags or polypropylene (PP) cones.
The containers ensure that the roots grow in a contained vessel, enabling the farmer to transport and plant them easily.
Once the mature trees are outplanted, explained Corbion, the cutting off of the bag or cone can damage the root system and result in yield loss of the final tree crop, at a cost of €2.30 per lost tree.
The PE bags could also end up left on the land or blown away, leading to littering.
The bioplastic container project is intended to offer the benefits of directed root growth combined with biodegradability at end of life with no need for cutting off the container.
The bioplastic cone will be based on Corbion Purac's polylactic acid (PLA) along with other biopolymers.
Corbion, which is also building a 75 kilotonne per annum PLA plant in Thailand, and Global Bio-Polymers will be jointly developing the custom compounds for the project, while Maxrich will produce the containers.
Corbion Purac is a supplier of lactides and PLA resins for bioplastics.