Bio-based material companies should move beyond niche applications to address the same large markets dominated by petro-based material, according to a study by Lux Research.
Bio-based polymers have so far been largely limited to specialized applications, but the top markets for these materials are largely the same ones currently dominated by petro-based material, according to Bridging the Divide between Demands and Bio-Based Materials. Developers should therefore aim for large, addressable markets, among which the biggest are composites and coatings, industrial manufactured intermediates and packaging, Lux said.
To adapt to these markets developers must bring cost parity, offer more bio-based drop-in monomers, and close performance gaps on temperature distortion and brittleness, as well as advance bio-based polymers beyond their reputation as merely disposable, the report says.
Lux Research analysts examined the size of a wide range of potential markets to determine commercial attractiveness of 38 applications and 21 conventional and bio-based polymers. Among their findings:
- Coatings provide literally thousands of opportunities to substitute bio-based raw materials – in many cases with significant improvements, such as elimination or reduction of volatile organic carbons.
- Bio-based plastics can be biodegradable, recyclable, and less energy-intensive to process, and thus are often tough to beat as disposables, with volume applications such as medical, flatware, cleaning, bags, liners, bottles and others.
- Industrial intermediate components target huge addressable markets such as electronics, building materials, automotive, aerospace, and consumer goods. New innovations are letting bio-based developers like Vertec Biosolvents and Crey Bioresins access these markets.
In June, Coca-Cola Co., Ford Motor Co., H.J. Heinz Co., Nike Inc. and Proctor & Gamble formed a strategic working group to accelerate the development and use of 100 percent plant-based PET materials and fiber in their products. The Plant PET Technology Collaborative builds on Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle packaging technology, which is partially made from plants and has demonstrated a lower environmental impact when compared to traditional fossil fuels-based PET plastic bottles.