China’s Lake Taihu, now a freakish green from algae blooms, has potential as a source for U.S. made plastics. Photo: wst.cn

China’s Lake Taihu, now a freakish green from algae blooms, has potential as a source for U.S. made plastics. Photo: wst.cn

Nina Ying Sun writes for Plastics News that due to rampant industrialization, Lake Taihu, the once beautiful third largest freshwater body in China, has in the past couple of decades turned a freakish green with rampant algae blooms, a worsening condition that has plagued local residents.

Now, thanks to an unnamed American company, Taihu’s high protein content (>35%) algae are being processed into dry powder and shipped to the United States to make algae-based plastics. Wuxi-based Delinhai Tech Co. Ltd. (DLH) said it has received an order from a U.S. customer to deliver 1,400 metric tons of algae powder in batches through the end of next year.

The customer first approached DLH in 2013. The company spent months on research to reduce moisture and in 2014 reached the customer’s requirement of less than 10% moisture content. It sent a test sample of 5 metric tons of powder to the customer in January. DLH said the customer was very satisfied and placed the 1,400-ton order.

DLH’s production line currently can produce 8 tons of powder per day, using 50 tons of algae collected from the lake, the company told Chinese media. It also said it would be able to consume all of the algae from Taihu if it were to expand to five lines.

DLH told local media that it’s selling the powder at $500 per ton with a thin profit margin. Nevertheless, it’s a higher value-added application than traditional uses like compost and biogas power generation.