FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Leaders of two North Dakota companies that make products out of biobased materials say most of their potential customers want price and performance first and aren’t caught up in being green.
C2renew, based in Fargo, takes various types of thermoplastics and combines them with agricultural byproducts such as flax fiber, wood flour, sunflower hulls, dried distiller grains and sugar beet pulp to create bio composites. Ultra Green’s Devils Lake plant makes food containers out of wheat straw, which is the leftover stubble from the wheat harvest.
C2renew Chief Technology Officer Chad Ulven and Ultra Green CEO Mack Traynor, who headlined a bio-industry summit at North Dakota State University this week, said that while more people are showing interest in environmentally friendly products, it can’t be used to peddle inferior goods that are more expensive.
“Our message is, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re green,’” Ulven said. “If that’s important, great, if not, that’s OK.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has long supported biobased products on the grounds that they provide new markets for farm products and reduce reliance on petroleum.
Ultra Green, which moved its plant to North Dakota from China, where it was using sugar cane, has more than 100 products targeting the food service industry. One of its most popular items is a take-and-bake pizza pan. The company also makes toilet paper.
Ultra Green, based in Plymouth, Minnesota, has 18 employees at its Devils Lake plant. It plans to add 80 more by the end of the year, Traynor said.
Ulven, an NDSU researcher, said the impetus behind C2renew was to spur economic development in rural communities, increase value-added opportunities for farmers, and establish a business that could hire engineers and scientists from NDSU and the University of North Dakota.
C2renew is making plans to locate its manufacturing plant in rural North Dakota and recruit “people who want to stay in the state and work in high-tech materials,” Ulven said.
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