Cargill Dow recently completed a plastics plant in Blair, NE, that will consume 14 million bushels of corn a year once the plant reaches full-scale operation.

According to Pat Gruber, chief technology officer for Cargill Dow, the plant will begin production in 2002, creating biodegradable plates, forks, spoons, cups, clear film, bottles and fabrics from PLA, a biopolymer made from lactic acid. The base for PLA is made of fermentable sugars derived from corn.

Bio-based polymers have become attractive to manufacturers recently due to their environmental profile. Several other companies, including DuPont, Mitsubishi Plastics and BASF, plan to produce polymers from corn (or biopolymers) on a large scale over the next 10 years, according to representatives from both U.S. and Japanese companies.