PLA Production Process

Biodegradable plastics

The term biodegradability is a common knowledge today for the serious environmental problems that our societies are facing. Biodegradability is a very simple concept, closely related to the “natural world” because nature itself is involved in this process.
A substance biodegrades when, whatever are its conditions, its decomposition process is performed by microorganisms that can be found in nature and that are suitable for this activity. Biodegradability is the characteristic of any natural substance or material of being assimilated by specific organisms becoming thus part of a natural cycle. Biodegradable materials are digested by microorganisms naturally present in the environment; if the level of moisture is high enough, those microorganisms digest and degrade organic molecules giving inter alia water, CO2 and heat. The timing of these processes should be sustainable with all the human activities, including the manufacturing of the compound itself.
The final products of this process spontaneously return into the natural cycle and are non-toxic. Plastic materials, as per today, are highly durable with a very long degradation time.

Our challenge is to develop new bioprocesses as well as new polymers having all the required properties while in use, but biodegrading at the end of their life cycle.

Galatea Bio Tech’s current target is the production of biodegradable and compostable PLA plastics (Polylactic acid) as well as other compounds 100% biodegradable and 100% compostable (Materials & Compounding)

Lactic acid (LA) is a building block for the synthesis of PLA, a biodegradable polymer, which is commonly used in many different sectors due to its transparency, processability and characteristics.

“YESTERDAY”, LA was mainly produced by chemical synthesis starting from fossil resources. Chemical synthesis of LA always leads to racemic mixture, which is a major disadvantage. The optical purity of LA is an essential factor in determining the physical properties of PLA.

PLA is an aliphatic polyester, primarily produced by industrial chemical polycondensation of lactic acid and/or ring-opening polymerization of lactide.

L- and D-LA isomers that can be chemically polymerized into pure poly‐L‐LA (PLLA), pure poly‐D‐LA (PDLA) and poly‐D,L‐LA (PDLLA).

“TODAY” LA is also produced by microbial fermentation routes using Lactobacillus genus.
Because of the low pH robustness of the bacteria used, the major disadvantage is the production of lactate instead of lactic acid. Lactic acid is then obtained using chemical acidifiers. This is a quite simple, but expensive process.
Fermentative production of lactate offers great advantage in producing optically pure L‐ or D‐lactic acid.
Like YESTERDAY, PLA is primarily produced by industrial chemical polycondensation of lactic acid and/or ring-opening polymerization of lactide.

“TOMORROW”, PLA will be industrially produced directly by microbial fermentation routes starting from dedicated crops as well as from organic wastes. Galatea Bio Tech Srl has just developed a patent on this new promising technology (see section Patents).

ONE STEP. The main advantage of our molecular approach is the direct and simple one-step production of L- and/or D-LA isomers that can be directly biopolymerized into pure poly‐L‐LA (PLLA) or pure poly‐D‐LA (PDLA) inside a microbial cell. 

CIRCULAR ECONOMY. The main advantage of our process approach for the production of 100% biodegradable PLA is the use of organic wastes and agriculture byproducts, an unavoidable choice on the path to a circular bioeconomy