Metabolix Bioplastics Are Cleanly Made and Biodegrade

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Metabolix is a Massachusetts biotech company that makes alternatives to petrochemical-based plastics. 

Metabolix’s bioplastic technology includes polymers known as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) and enzymes that make these polymers.

According to this Seeking Alpha article, PHA are “linear polyesters produced in nature by bacterial fermentation of sugar and lipids.”  In other words, PHA are made by microoorganisms through photosynthesis.

CleanTechnica reports that Metabolix is working with the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program to develop its bioplastic for military use in food packaging.

The company also formed a joint venture with Archer Daniels Midland called Telles to market its bioplastic, which it sells under the brand name Mirel.

Some of Metabolix’s key patents and applications include U.S. Patent Nos. 6,620,869 (‘869 patent), 7,202,064 (‘064 patent), 7,208,535 (‘535 patent) and U.S. Patent Application Pub. No. 2008/0275208 (‘208 application), which are directed to PHA biopolymer compositions.

These inventions include improved thin film formation through PHA pellet compositions (‘869 patent and ‘535 patent) and methods of making PHA compositions that can be readily extended to incorporate additional monomers by mutagenesis or genetic engineering of PHA-producing microorganisms (‘064 patent and ‘208 application).

Metabolix recently announced that its Mirel bioplastic resins have received the OK Compost Home certification (provided by Belgian inspection and certification firm Vincotte), which means that the materials will biodegrade in home composting systems of varying temperatures. 

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Its materials previously received the OK Compost certification for industrial composting.  (read about the Vincotte OK Compost certifications: vincotte_cb_05.pdf) 

Unfortunately, Mirel bioplastics are not yet cost competitive with plastics made from petroleum (Mirel sells at $1.50 per pound versus 70 cents per pound for traditional plastics), but the company believes that many customers will pay a premium for its cleanly made, compostable materials, especially in the disposable plastics market.

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Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.