Sponsored by Oregon Business

Bioplastic businesses grow

| Print |  Email
Articles - September 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

0911_BioBusinessPortland’s upcoming ban on single-use plastic bags, which goes into effect in October, is one sign cities — and consumers — are moving away from petroleum-based plastic bags and food packaging. Growth in Oregon’s “biobased” food packaging industry — companies that use plant-based starches to manufacture bags, food containers, and tableware — is another.

Over the past few years, “sales growth has continued unabated to the extent we never really saw a recession,” says Buzz Chandler, president of Stalkmarket, a Portland-based company that makes tableware and food containers out of sugarcane fiber and other plants. Stalkmarket’s growth has been in the high double digits for the past few years, Chandler says, and the company, which got its start in 2003 selling to New Seasons Market, now sells its products in the U.K., Western Europe and Brazil.

Revenues at Trellis Earth, a Portland manufacturer of bioplastic bags and food containers, have increased every year since the company launched in 2005, says CEO Bill Collins. The company, which grossed $3 million in 2010, filed two patent applications for new bioplastic technologies in July. It also signed an agreement with a New York investment bank to underwrite a Nasdaq IPO aimed at financing a new manufacturing facility in Wilsonville, Collins says.

Fueled by concerns about the economic and environmental costs of oil, the plant-based industry faces several hurdles. One problem is that not all biobased products are easily compostable or recyclable. Nor are there clear standards defining what is or isn’t compostable, an important tool for companies who want to capitalize on municipal plastics bans or food composting initiatives.

Although national certifying organizations exist, many cities and waste management facilities develop their own criteria for “compostability.” A case in point is the Recology Inc. facility in North Plains, which began taking food scraps from Portland last year and is developing a list of acceptable bioplastic products. Recology is looking for materials that break down in 60 days, “and we would like to go to 40,” says Chris Choate, Recology’s director and vice president of technology. A San Francisco-based company, Recology earned $538.5 million in 2010, up from $452.7 million in 2006.

Higher cost is another challenge, but that’s beginning to change. One of Trellis’ patent applications covers a bioplastic that uses agricultural industry byproducts such as wheat chaff and soybean hulls. The product doesn’t rely on a food source, which brings the price down  and helps make plant-based  products a “sustainable solution to the problems created by oil,” Collins says.

Linda Baker

 

Comments   

 
Jody Wiser
0 #1 If only the rest of the state would follow PortlandJody Wiser 2011-09-13 11:55:03
Years ago Portland said no to Styrofoam, but barely outside the city, at fast food and grocery stores Styrofoam is still in use for cups and meat trays. It's sad that the rest of the state didn’t follow the lead of Portland on this. I fear they won’t on plastic bags as well.

At my local QFC (just outside of Portland), they have changed their behavior at the checkout stand. Clerks now automatically use paper, a sign that the effort in the state legislature did have some benefit. But there isn’t even one place to get simple paper bags in the produce department, so that paper bag at the checkout stand will still be filled with both Styrofoam trays and plastic bags.

Hopefully the bags of the future will be a big improvement.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Letting Go

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

As baby boomers sell their businesses, too many forget the all-important succession plan.


Read more...

2015 100 Best companies announced

The Latest
Friday, February 27, 2015
IMG 0022cneditBY OB STAFF

The 100 Best list recognizes large, medium and small companies for excellence in work environment, management and communications, decision-making and trust, career development and learning, and benefits and compensation.


Read more...

Help Wanted: Poached Jobs aids restaurateurs

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

“We thought there was room for something new.”


Read more...

Uncertainty about convention center hotel could cost Portland an NBA All-Star Game

The Latest
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
463545460BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

NBA commissioner: "I would love to end up having an All-Star Game in Portland. It's really just a function of ensuring that we can fit in town."


Read more...

Everything old is new again: How the EEOC is reinventing itself

Contributed Blogs
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
BY TAMSEN LEACHMAN | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

It is important to understand the EEOC’s priorities, and ensure that your leadership understands the shifting expectations of regulators and the heightened standards to which you (and they) may be held.


Read more...

Money Talks

March 2015
Saturday, February 21, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Will community banks survive the digital age? Three CEOs peer into banking's crystal ball.


Read more...

Beyond Bodegas

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Five years in the making, the Portland Mercado — the city’s first Latino public market — will celebrate its grand opening April 11. A $3.5 million public-private partnership spearheaded by Hacienda CDC, the market will house 15 to 20 businesses in the food, retail and service sectors. It has some big-name funders, including the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and JPMorgan Chase. The project goals are equally ambitious: to improve cross-cultural understanding, alleviate poverty and spur community economic development. 


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS