US demand to reach 550 million pounds in 2016
US demand for bioplastics will expand strongly through 2016, when it is expected to reach 550 million pounds, valued at nearly $700 million. Although bioplastics have begun to achieve a considerable degree of commercial success, the industry remains in an early stage of development, representing only a small niche within the overall plastics industry. Going forward, technical innovations and increased production capacity will combine to enhance the properties of bioplastics, boost their availability, and lower their price, thus making them more competitive with conventional polymers. In addition, many bio-based polymers benefit from relative price stability when compared with their petroleum-based counterparts. Moreover, the desire to decrease dependence on foreign oil will further fuel the expansion of bio-based resins, as will efforts by US manufacturers to enhance sustainability and improve the corporate image they project to an increasingly eco-conscious consumer base.
Non-biodegradable bioresins to gain market share Although biodegradable materials accounted for the vast majority of bioplastics volume in 2011, the emergence of non-biodegradable bioresins will dramatically alter the market landscape. By 2021, these materials will represent more than two-fifths of volume demand. Growth will be fueled by large-volume production of bio-based polyethylene, as well as the eventual commercialization of bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride, as well as polyethylene furanoate. Since such resins are chemically identical to their conventional counterparts, market acceptance is forecast to occur at a rapid rate. PET is projected to offer significant growth potential over the longer term, particularly as large corporations -- especially those in the soft drink industry -- are investing heavily in the development of this material.
PLA to remain most commonly used bioplastic
Although demand for biodegradable products will continue to be impacted by issues such as their inability to decompose in landfills and their potential to contaminate the recycling stream, polylactic acid (PLA) is expected to remain the most extensively used resin in the bioplastics market through the forecast period. Advances will be promoted by a widening composting network and greater processor familiarity. Furthermore, PLA is being blended with other resins and additives to create new grades that offer improved product performance, allowing for expanded use in an extended range of applications.
Bio-based polyethylene to offer best opportunities
Bio-based polyethylene -- which entered the market in 2010 -- is expected to offer the best opportunities for growth through 2016, increasing rapidly from a small base. The exceptionally strong gains are predicated on the expansion of production capacity, which will reduce prices and enable bio-based polyethylene to compete more effectively with its petroleum-based counterpart. Although bio-based polyethylene will continue to command a price premium that will restrict demand in price-sensitive nonconsumer markets through 2016, the fact that bio-based polyethylene is chemically identical to, and can serve as a drop-in replacement for, conventional polyethylene will remain a key factor driving its adoption.
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