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Packaging applications driving growth of biodegradable plastics


With increasing crude oil prices and issues related to petroleum based plastics such as disposal and efficient waste management, the concept of using biodegradable plastics as an alternative in various applications is increasing, according to a new report by market research and consulting firm, MarketsandMarkets. The cost of biodegradable plastics which is 3-5 times higher owing to expensive processing as compared to the traditional plastics, is acting as a major restraint. However, market participants can overcome the awareness barrier among end-users by promoting environmental benefits of biodegradable plastics as compared to petroleum based plastics, the report states. Polylactic acid (PLA) & polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) are the most popular biodegradable plastics followed by polycaprolactone (PCL) & polybutylene succinate (PBS).

Packaging applications driving growth of biodegradable plastics: Report

 

With increasing crude oil prices and issues related to petroleum based plastics such as disposal and efficient waste management, the concept of using biodegradable plastics as an alternative in various applications is increasing, according to a new report by market research and consulting firm, MarketsandMarkets. The cost of biodegradable plastics which is 3-5 times higher owing to expensive processing as compared to the traditional plastics, is acting as a major restraint. However, market participants can overcome the awareness barrier among end-users by promoting environmental benefits of biodegradable plastics as compared to petroleum based plastics, the report states. Polylactic acid (PLA) & polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) are the most popular biodegradable plastics followed by polycaprolactone (PCL) & polybutylene succinate (PBS).

High growth predicted

The report estimates the market volume of biodegradable plastics at 664,000 metric tonnes in 2010 and expects the market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.24% between 2011 and 2016. The high growth is the effect of increased production capacities and increased penetration of biodegradable polymers in potential applications, it said. More than 70% of the 248,000-mt of PLA produced today finds its way in packaging applications. However, with increased environmental awareness, many high-technology & medical devices are being produced from PLA based materials. The increasing demand from end-users such as packaging, medical devices, and textiles to project them as eco-friendly are driving the market for biodegradable plastics. Although packaging, especially films and rigid packaging, by far remains the largest application of biodegradable plastics, the upcoming new applications in agriculture, electronics, medical, and automotive will further fuel their growth, the report stated. Companies like NatureWorks, Purac and Telles are main players who produce PLA and PHA products.

Feedstock availability and end-use tie-ups

The MarketsandMarkets report discusses in detail various government measures and regulatory support for green procurement policies favourable to biodegradable plastics. It further lists tax exemptions for biodegradable plastics, ban on usage of traditional plastics bags by different countries, which are further enabling the market participants to enhance their production capacities. Apart from government support, market participants are largely attracted by vast availability of biobased feedstock in emerging countries such as India, Thailand, China and Brazil. These regions in future will have potential to become major raw material suppliers of biodegradable plastics. The report points out that, it has become extremely necessary for producers of biodegradable plastics to have long term relationships with the end-user segments in order to increase usage of biodegradable plastics. Until now, cost competitiveness of biodegradable plastics matches up with conventional plastics through economies of scale. However, biodegradable plastics suppliers need to focus on efficient production processes, long term contracts with end-users, and increasing the awareness of biodegradable plastics through benefit selling, the report said.

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