According to John Kalkowski, editorial director at Packaging Digest, “bioplastics’ time has not yet come, but it can’t be far off.” According BCC research, the market for biodegradable plastics reached 541 million pounds in 2007, and is expected to reach 1.2 billion pounds by 2012.
Bioplastics are made from biopolymers which are living green cells. Unlike hydrocarbon polymers, biopolymers can be broken down by microorganisms and composted.
Kalkowski says bioplastics need improvements to cost, performance, moisture-barrier properties, recycling-stream contamination and use of food crops, before their use becomes more common.
However, Kalkowski says volatile oil prices; energy security concerns; environmental benefits; favorable regulator initiatives; and the improving performance and competitiveness of bioplastics will help drive the growth of the material.
In February, EL reported that bioplastics start ups were becoming the darlings in the clean tech industry.
Although bioplastics are seen as a way to boost recycling and reduce the 10 percent share of U.S. petroleum consumption that goes into plastic, manufacturing bioplastics still produces CO2, and the crops needed to make it still require land and water.