Fifteen Kernels of Corn to a Handle

Kuraray Co., Ltd., major packaging manufacturer The Pack Corp. and handle-maker Matsuura Sangyo Co., Ltd. today announced the joint development of PLASTARCH BioRope, a biodegradable polylactic acid fiber made from corn, for use as handles for shopping bags. The Pack will begin the full-scale marketing of environmentally friendly shopping bags with BioRope handles on January 20.These products are made entirely from recyclable materials, and received a high evaluation in pre-marketing research, principally from firms with a high environmental consciousness.

These new shopping bags with BioRope handles embody the environmental stances of the three firms involved: The Pack, which promotes packaging with low impact on nature; Matsuura Sangyo, which is working to make materials eco-friendly; and Kuraray, which is striving to become known as an eco-friendly company.

Progress has already been made in making paper, ink, and other shopping bag materials more environmentally friendly. Petroleum derivatives have been the mainstream material for handles, because they are tough and colorfast. However, there are various issues associated with their disposal and the use of petroleum resources.

The PLASTARCH BioRope used in the new shopping bags is a biodegradable synthetic fiber made of polylactic acid, which is derived from the fermentation of lactic acid from corn and other plants. It takes fifteen kernels of corn to make the handles of one shopping bag. The development of this new PLASTARCH material for handles has resolved a number of issues, and allows shopping bags to be made completely from recyclable materials. In addition, Kuraray's original technology was used to make the new material more colorfast, allowing the sort of multicolor designs that were not possible with previous polylactic acid fibers. Therefore, the new product also contributes to the market's design needs.

Approximately 3000 tons per year of petrochemical fibers are used in shopping bag handles, so the substitution of BioRope for these materials represents a substantial contribution to environmental protection.

The shopping bags with BioRope handles are approved by The Pack Forest Fund, which is operated by The Pack Corp. The Pack Forest Fund is an affiliate of the incorporated nonprofit organization Eco Future Fund (headquartered in Tokyo's Akasaka area; Chairman, Mr. Hiroaki Takahashi), and contributes 0.5% of the value of shipments of environmentally friendly products to the Eco Future Fund. The Pack Forest Fund also promotes forest preservation and the afforestation business, and together with customers that use environmentally friendly products is engaged in various environmental protection activities.

The Pack, Matsuura Sangyo, and Kuraray will continue to be active in the development and promotion of environmentally friendly products, contributing to the realization of a recycling-intensive society.

Characteristics of PLASTARCH

1. Material

polylactic acid fiber

2. Characteristics

(1) Biomass material derived from botanical matter
Reduces use of petroleum resources; controls atmospheric CO2 increases caused by incineration of petroleum resources.
Biomass material is carbon neutral, and even when used as a fuel does not contribute to an increase in carbon levels in the planet's atmosphere.
(2) Biodegradability
When composted or buried, it is reduced to water and carbon dioxide by microorganisms, and so does not contribute to the accumulation of waste.
(3) Colorfastness
A high degree of color saturation and colorfastness are achieved through the use of Kuraray's original fiber spinning technology and scouring technology.

About Shopping Bags With BioRope Handles

1. Product launch

The Pack will commence marketing on January 20, 2004.

2. Price

Same as existing products

2. Sales targets

First year ¥100 million (after product price conversion)
Subsequent years ¥300 million (after product price conversion)

(Additional information)

The Pack Corp.

President Minoru Shirane
Headquarters 2-9-9, Higashi Obase, Higashi Nari-ku, Osaka-shi
Tel (06) 6972-1221
Capitalization ¥2.2 billion (at March 31, 2003)
Business operations Shopping bags, plastic products, printing paper and equipment, cardboard products, fashion apparel, calendars, various premium products, sales promotion planning, design planning, and other planning, manufacturing, and sales of packaging.

Matsuura Sangyo Co., Ltd.

President Hiroyuki Matsuura
Headquarters 270-1, Kamiyoshida-cho, Zentsuji-shi, Kagawa-ken
Capitalization ¥ 80 million (at March 31, 2003)
Business operations Manufacturing and sale of handles for paper bags.

Kuraray Co., Ltd.

President Yasuaki Wakui
Headquarters 1-12-39, Umeda, Kita-ku, Osaka
Tel (06) 6348-2111

¥89.0 billion (at March 31, 2003)

Business operations Production and sale of synthetic fibers, synthetic resins, and chemicals.