Bioplastics, growing fast at about 10% pa, cover approximately 10-15% of the total plastics market currently, poised to increase to 25-30% by 2020. New applications and innovations in the packaging, automotive and electronics industry are driving the market boom. Over 500 bioplastics processing companies already exist, and are expected to increase ten fold by 2020 to over 5000. Due to limited petroleum resources, their prices and also their disposing problem, demand for biodegradable plastics (which produces carbon di oxide and water) is growing.
Recycling of plastics is a very big issue : less than 3% of all waste plastics gets recycled globally, compared with recycling rates of 30% for paper, 35% for metals and 18% for glass in 2006. Hence, the driving force in the growth of bioplastics is sustainable and environmental friendly products. Bioplastics production is more environmental friendly as less CO2 is produced, thus not contributing much to the global warming. Compostability is the main material property which differentiates bioplastics products from conventional plastics :enabling the organic recycling of bioplastics products.
Bio-plastics are biodegradable and can be made from the triglycerides found in oilseeds such as canola, starches, such as those found in corn, sugar beets and potatoes or on using proteins from soybeans. When corn is used, it is introduced to microorganisms in a fermentation process that yields a polymer. The polymer is then made into pellets that are used to make different grades of paper coatings and thermoformed products.
Europe is one of the most important markets, due to the limited amount of crude oil reserves. In recent years, bioplastics have been used in the food and packaging industry, medical, toys and textile industries. With new innovations expected in the near future, there would be more and more applications for bioplastics, such as the automobile industry and electronics industry, where plastics play a major role.
Bioplastics production companies are relatively new and are still in the early stages of the development and surely, with new developments in the future, the production will be more and more effective and will open new applications, and new opportunities.
The world's resources are depleting at an amazing speed. Fossil fuels are exhaustible due to the increasing population, these will not be sustainable in the future.