Metabolix Oilseeds Gets $203,000 Grant To Test 'False Flax' As Possible Petroleum Replacement

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A Cambridge, Mass. biosciences company that makes plastics, chemicals and energy from renewable crops rather than petroleum, Metabolix, Inc. (NASDAQ: MBLX) today announced that its subsidiary, Metabolix Oilseeds, obtained a $203,000 grant from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture (or USD $203,614.92) to test a crop called Camelina Sativa, or false flax, as a possible petroleum replacement.

Camelina contains oil, fiber and protein with potential uses in nutrition for people and animals, and industrial applications including in biofuels.

Previously, Metabolix, Inc. attained 22 grants* from the U.S. government totaling $11.3 million since 2001 — including in 2009, a $349,450 award from the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) — to make bioplastics that could replace HDPE, a petroleum-based variety used in bottles and containers, made on commercial scale equipment and at rapid manufacturing speeds.

According to the company’s website, Mirel resin is biodegradable in soil and water, and in home and industrial composting facilities but not in a conventional landfill, and is used in lieu of traditional plastics to make consumer goods, compost bags, business equipment and packaging. It’s also FDA-approved for use in microwaveable, freez-able, and food, medical and cosmetic packaging.

While Metabolix is viewed as an industry leader, competition for a piece of the sustainable packaging market is growing with companies like Biopack Environmental Solutions, Crown Holdings, EnviroPAK, NatureWorks, Pactiv, and many other stalwarts strongly in the game, and startups like EcoSpan and MicroGreen growing quickly.

The global market for sustainable packaging (not just bioplastics) is projected to reach $142.42 billion by 2015, according to projections by Global Industry Analysts (GIA).

Metabolix is also developing technology to make plastics, chemicals and energy, from crops such as switchgrass, oilseeds and sugarcane on the same equipment, or in the same facilities.

*CORRECTION ADDED TH. JAN. 27, 2011:

This story previously said Metabolix, Inc. had attained a $15 million grant. That number was from an estimate by a trade news site, and was inaccurate. According to USA Spending, a U.S. government website, Metabolix has attained 22 U.S. government grants totaling $11.3 million since 2001. The grant it attained in 2009 from the U.S.D.A. was a $349,450 award. I regret the error.

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