The bioplastics industry, while still in the emerging growth phase, has established itself as a fixture in a number of commercial markets and applications. Growth will be stimulated by consumer preferences for sustainable materials, increased adoption of bioplastics by plastic processors and compounders, and new product development that expands the range of uses for bioplastics. Global demand for biobased and biodegradable plastics is estimated to rise 19% pa to 950,000 metric tons in 2017, as per Freedonia, with robust growth in demand expected in virtually all geographic markets. Despite the rapid increase in demand, bioplastics are still expected to account for less than 1% of the overall plastic resin market in 2022. The success of the bioplastics industry will ultimately depend on price and performance considerations, and large scale conversion to bioplastics will not occur until price parity with conventional plastic resins is achieved.
Biodegradable plastics fall under the "green" category, they exhibit high potential for growth compared to other thriving environment-friendly technologies in the renewable energy and chemicals segments. That is the conclusion of an analysis from Frost & Sullivan report as per greenerpackage.com. The report indicates that opportunities are proliferating in key application areas such as packaging/plastic bags, agriculture, consumer goods, electronics, automotive, and healthcare. Growth in this sector occurs due to factors such as climate change, favorable governmental measures, and green procurement policies practiced by governments and corporate entities. Stringent environmental regulations are driving the development of bio-based products and are triggering the growth of the biodegradable plastics industry. Consumer products and packaging have emerged as the application sectors having the highest potential for biodegradable plastics. Analysis revealed that film packaging and rigid packaging scored the best in terms of level of attractiveness and possibility of success. Traditional packaging materials contain a range of oil-based polymers, which are largely nonbiodegradable notes technical insights research analyst W.F. Kee. "Packaging waste forms a significant part of municipal solid waste and has caused increasing environmental concerns, resulting in strengthening of legislation in order to reduce packaging waste. With the ramping up of the attraction quotient in recent years, green products are clearly gaining advocates. It has become increasingly fashionable for the public to support green products, Frost & Sullivan says The popularity of hybrid cars and reusable bags is a good example. Eco-friendly products have been introduced in various sectors, including food, appliances, and cars. Consumer interest in bio-based packaging is on the rise, the analysis relates. Public support for green products is partially responsible for the biodegradable plastics market growth, and this global trend is expected to continue, gathering steam in the future. Although the overall prospects look bright, some issues have been reining in market progress, the report notes. Cost competitiveness is foremost among the challenges confronting the market. To circumvent this obstacle, proposed solutions include the use of cheaper feedstock, for instance, biomass-based feedstock, as well as an integrated process. Utilization of feedstock is very limited right now, and the adoption of biomass-based feedstock will mostly be influenced by the development of improved biocatalysts. Other concerns associated with biodegradable plastics are poor processability characteristics, low barrier properties toward air, water, and oxygen, low resistance to heat, and in some cases, low shelf life, the report states, "The properties of traditional biodegradable polymers do not offer the essential mechanical properties and fail to match up to the needs of end-user application compared with conventional plastics,"says Kee. "This acts as a barrier for the penetration of biodegradable packaging in high-end applications." The report concludes that it is imperative that these impediments be addressed before biodegradable products can compete on an equal footing with conventional plastics. Suggestions to improve properties include deploying enhanced blending technologies or developing composites. Blending studies are underway in the academic and corporate sectors, and efforts have been initiated for the development of bio- and nanocomposites. The former incorporates bio-based materials such as natural fibers to improve the mechanical properties of biodegradable plastics, while the latter incorporates nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes to produce materials that are stronger and more durable.
Some of the drivers include use of renewable and bio-based materials, increasing awareness regarding packaging waste, and landfill which is currently having high impact in the market. However, in the near future, efficient composting facilities and proper waste management will lower down the impact. There are some opportunities which will change the dynamics of biodegradable plastics industry in the years to come, which include increased applications of biodegradable plastics in end-use sectors such as electronics, transport and medical. As per MarketsandMarkets, North America region is the world's largest market for biodegradable plastics in 2013. The U.S. is the key consumer of biodegradable plastics in North America. Rising environmental concerns coupled with waste management issues have shifted consumer focus towards sustainable and environment-friendly plastics, especially for packaging. This has resulted in a push towards biodegradable plastics from regulatory bodies such as the EPA (Environment Protection Agency).Various product launches, developments, and expansions in different industries have in turn made the region a potential growth market for biodegradable plastics. Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) is aliphatic polyester produced via fermentation of carbon substrate within a microorganism. Polyhydroxyalkanoate is the fastest-growing biodegradable plastic driven by its high use in tissue engineering, wound healing, and drug delivery. The packaging market for biodegradable plastics has a wide scope for its expansion, which in turn would help in increasing the consumption for biodegradable plastics. Packaging is the biggest application of biodegradable plastics and is projected to be worth US$2007.94 mln by 2019.