Worldwide demand for bio-based and biodegradable plastics is set to rise 19 percent per year to hit 960,000 metric tons in 2017, according to the study World Bioplastics from research company Freedonia Inc.
Bioplastics are biodegradable and compostable plastics which are created using renewable raw materials such as starch [from corn or other plants], cellulose or soy protein, and which decompose back to non-hazardous elements such as biomass, carbon dioxide and water.
According to analyst Kent Furst, from Cleveland-based Fredonia: "Robust growth in demand is expected in virtually all geographic markets." This will most likely be due to increasing consumer preference for sustainable materials, the increased adoption of bioplastics by plastic processors and compounders and new product developments creating new uses for bioplastics.
Despite reporting an increase in demand, Freedonia says that bioplastics are still only expected to make up less than 1 percent of the total plastics 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," Furst said.
Increased regulation of everyday plastic products, such as plastic bags, is forecast to stimulate demand for starch-based bioplastics, while bio-based versions of plastics, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, just hitting the commercial market are expected to see the fastest growing demand.
In 2012 Western Europe was the largest regional consumer of bioplastics, using 212,000 metric tons, equal to over half of the total global demand.