Asia’s biopolymers production capacity is expected to more than double to around 480,000 tpa in 2015 from around 190,000 tpa in 2010 on growing demand for biodegradable plastic bags and the sustainability drive in the plastics industry. The trend towards sustainable, “landfill friendly” plastic bags has made degradable bioplastics a popular alternative to traditional polyolefin-based polymers that are often viewed as environmentally hazardous, Alan Yeap, the CEO of New Quantum, told ICIS on the sidelines of the 2nd ICIS Asian Polyolefins conference in Singapore.
Global biopolymers output is expected to grow to 1.71 mln tpa in 2015 from 725,000 tpa in 2010, he said. “Europe is biased towards bio-based biodegradable polymers that are more costly while in Asia we see more oxo-degradable plastics,” he said, adding that biopolymer production units in Europe are now running at a mere 50% because of lacklustre margins.
Oxo-degradable plastics contain additives that enhance the existing manufacturing process of normal plastic bags, turning them oxo-degradable. Unlike biodegradable products, these Oxo-degradable-based plastic bags will only start disintegrating in a landfill once the additive breaks down the plastic bag after a preset period of time, according to Yeap.
Bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) production capacity is projected to jump nearly sixfold to 290,000 tpa in 2015 from 50,000 tpa in 2010, buoyed by demand for environmentally-friendly plastic bottles that are been pushed forward by beverage companies such as Coca-Cola, according to Yeap. The Singapore-based New Quantum produces two kinds of plastic products; Oxium and Ecoplas. Ecoplas bags, which will biodegrade after one year or less depending on micro-organism activities, are produced from scratch out of Tapioca starch. The company also produces Oxium, an oxo-degradable type of plastic bag. New Quantum currently runs a 18,00 tpa Oxium production unit in Indonesia, which is now running at full capacity, according to Yeap.
The company plans to start up its new Oxium units in China and Vietnam, with 60,000 tpa and 18,000 tpa of capacity, respectively, by the second quarter of next year, he added.