The use of bioplastics is set to rise markedly due to improved technologies, according to a U.S.-based research firm.
In its report, "Global Markets and Technologies for Bioplastics," BCC Research has analyzed specific end markets by material types, with sections detailing each type of renewably sourced plastic.
BCC Research revealed in its study that the growing trend is to compound bio-based plastics with oil-based plastics to extend the reach of bioplastics into markets for durable products such as cars and cell phones.
With biodegradable plastics, the focus is on end-of-life or disposal, independent of carbon source standards.
BCC Research defined a fully biodegradable polymer as a polymer that is completely converted by microorganisms to carbon dioxide (CO2), water and humus, or organic matter.
The global bioplastic market, which totaled 1.6 million metric tons in 2015, could hit nearly 6.1 million metric tons in 2020, reflecting a five-year (2015-2020) compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30 percent.
The Americas bioplastic market totaled 798,830 tonnes in 2015 and should total nearly 3.4 million metric tons by 2020, a five-year CAGR of 33.3 percent.
The Asian market totaled 380,100 tonnes in 2015 and should total nearly 1.4 million tonnes by 2020 on a five-year CAGR of 29.7 percent.
Currently, bioplastics rely on around 0.01 percent of the global agricultural area of five billion hectares. BCC Research forecast bioplastics production could grow by 271 percent from 2015 to 2020, which means bioplastics could consume farm products from about 0.04 percent of total global agricultural area by 2020.
"Although specifics vary widely, bioplastics generally have weaker thermal properties than oil-based plastics," said BCC Research analyst Jason Chen.
"For that reason, there is an increasing trend toward blending bioplastics with oil-based plastics for durable applications."
"Some bioplastics absorb water and are unstable in humid conditions. Polylactic acids (PLAs) can be brittle, and their rheological properties make them difficult to process in certain applications, thus limiting their potential. The occurrence of a very small amount of moisture during processing will hydrolyse PLAs, leading to a reduction of molecular weight and a reduction of mechanical properties. For these reasons, there is a growing trend toward using bioplastics as alloys with traditional plastics."