Biodegradable polymers are bio-based as well as synthetic polymers that can degrade (undergo microbial decomposition to carbon dioxide and water). Most of the decomposition takes place in industrial or compost facilities. Some of the polymers decompose in backyard compost bins or in soil, freshwater, or saltwater. Biodegradable plastics are produced by a wide variety of technologies from renewable resources and from plant and vegetable sources like corn, maize, sugar-cane, palm oil, soya and potatoes. Some biodegradable plastics are also made from mineral oil. One of the major benefits of the biodegradable polymers is that it reduces the amount of waste plastics sent to the landfills. Most of the biodegradable plastics are processed by injection moulding, extrusion and thermoforming. To improve their tensile strength, bio-plastic polymers can be blended with their co-polymers or with other polymers.
The actions of living organisms degrade the biodegradable polymer. The biodegradable polymers were largely commercialized in1980s. At that point of time, most of these first-generation biodegradable polymers were not able to undergo complete degradation. After this, new plastics were introduced in the later years which were able to completely degrade. Further, most of these plastics were highly-priced in comparison to other petrochemical-based commodity plastics.
As of the last analysis in 2018, there was overcapacity in almost all of the types of biodegradable polymers especially starch based plastics and polylactic acid (PLA). It is understood that most of the major players are currently working towards bringing down the cost of production of PLAs, starch based plastics and other biodegradable plastics by increasing production capacity, improving process technology, and using low-cost raw materials.
The global demand for biodegradable plastics was estimated to be around ##### kilotons in 2018 and is forecast to grow at anannual average of 13.6%during the forecast period 2019 – 2025. Itis estimated that the bio-degradable plastics account for almost 44% of the world's bio-plastics market. Bio-plastics account for around 1% of the total plastics produced globally. Packagingapplication dominates the biodegradable plastic market with PLA and starch based plastics blends being majorly consumed. Other major applications of biodegradable plastics include consumer goods, agricultural and textile applications. All other applications like electrical &electronics, automotive, building & construction together account for around 10.6% of the total demand.
The increase in the use of biodegradable plastics is driven by the increasing demand for environmental-friendly and sustainable products by consumers. Awareness of the environment and the need to reduce fossil fuel dependency has also driven the biodegradable plastic market.With the increasing use of biodegradable polymers in all application areas, the market is expected to grow at a faster rate in almost all regions of the world. The demand for biodegradable polymers is expected to rise during the forecast period as there is a growth in its use with more sophisticated biopolymers, applications and products emerging through the development of innovative materials.
Biodegradable plastics commercially available can be classified as
• Naturally BiodegradablePolymers
• Synthetic Biodegradable
• Modified NaturallyBiodegradable Polymers
The major type of biodegradable plastics covered in the study include
• Starch Based Plastic
• Polylactic Acid (PLA)
• Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA)
• Polycaprolactone (PCL)
• Polybutylene Succinate (PBS)
• Regenerated Cellulose
Market Dynamics - (Drivers, Restraints, Opportunities, and Challenges)
The growth opportunities for biodegradable and bioplastics is primarily linked with the industry’s drive for production for packaging applications and its growth in consumer goods, textile, agricultural applications and other new and emerging applications.
Growth in Packaging and other end-user industries
Packaging is the largest and one of the fastest-growing applications for biodegradable plastics. The sector accounts for more than 63%of the total demand in 2018 and is expected to grow at an annual average of 11.9% during the long-term forecast. With a certain set of standards and certification procedure for biodegradable packaging and increased pressure of regulatory and environmental protection agencies in most of the major countries of the world, the use of PLA, Starch-based plastics, PHA and other bio-plastics to make bottles, containers, blister packaging will continue to rise during the long-term forecast. Packaging has shown higher growth than the GDP of most of the countries around the world. With expected high growth in the Asian packaging industry due to growing industrialization and purchasing habits in the region, the global packaging market is expected to witness fast growth during the forecast period. The factors that are likely to push the demand growth upwards include increasing disposable income and rapid urbanization. Western European countries decided to reduce the consumption of thin-film plastic bags significantly will also push for the production of more biodegradable bags thereby increasing the demand for biodegradable plastics like PLA and starch blends.
With new investment in biodegradable plastics like PLA, PHA, and starch blend thermoplastics sector globally and in the Asia-Pacific region, and with industries like packaging and manufacturing that are shifting their base to Asian countries, the demand of biodegradable plastics in these sectors will increase during the long-term. Other emerging applications like medical and others will also push the demand upward while some growth is also expected from the electrical & electronics and automotive sector, where plastics now account for 16% of the weight and is expected to reach 25% during the forecast period.