Overview of World Bioplastics Technology and Markets: Future Drivers, Developments and Trends for Flexible Packaging

Overview of World Bioplastics Technology and Markets: Future Drivers, Developments and Trends for Flexible Packaging

Terence Cooper
ARGO Group International

The current status and trends in the bioplastics industry worldwide are reviewed, with major emphasis on advances in biobased and biodegradable polymers, renewable carbon sourcing and end-of-life processes. The reasons and drivers behind these developments are described along with concepts of sustainability, specifications and certifications for biobased and biodegradable materials, and the rationale for the ongoing development and adoption of both “new-molecule” renewably-based plastics (such as PLA, PHAs and PEF) and renewably-sourced “drop-in” conventional plastics (such as PE and PET). The rapidly expanding development of biological-, catalytic-, and thermal-based routes to chemicals, monomers and polymers from renewable feedstocks, including food crops, agricultural and other wastes, non-food crops and materials such as lignocellulosic, cellulosic and algal biomass and bio-methane, and non-biological feedstocks such as carbon dioxide, is surveyed. Examples are described of developmental and commercial partially- and wholly-biobased polymers for flexible packaging applications, including polyesters, polyolefins, polyamides and novel barrier-layer materials. Bioplastics market projections and economics are discussed together with future trends and issues, including the impact of low shale gas ethylene and petroleum prices on petrochemical polymer prices.