Bioplastics Industry ! Future of plastic packing

Green Energy is in demand by a small and dedicated class of consumers who want to use Green products.

Bioplastics ( A growing industry ) Plastics made out of plants (e.g. Sugarcane, Corn ) or plastics that biodegrade. As a recent example Consumers protested on Facebook pages like " I hate the noise the Sun Chips bags make", Frito-Lay came up with a quieter bio plastic bags that easily biodegrade. It is not that Sun Chips customers want a quiet bag but they didn't want the bag made out of plastic.

Research conducted by a group in Bioplastic Industry suggest that consumers are willing to pay higher premium for Biodegradable material or Bioplastics.

Companies are focusing their product design to be in Bioplastics form and to have eco friendliness. Procter & Gamble uses sugarcane-based high density polyethylene, HDPE made by Braskem in some of its Pantene,Covergirl and MaxFactor brands. Papermate has a line of pens made up of Bioplastic Mirel, that is made by Metabolix. Also, Plant plastics used in Autos and coffee cup liners.

Dorel Industries ( Canadian baby furniture maker) developed a line blended with Cereplast's bio-resins.

Bioplastic Industry has grown annually 35 % since 2008 and it will reach $ 5 billion in 2018 according to a report from a Research Firm which will be 0.1% fraction of a total plastic demand globally.

Also fueling demand is a rapidly growing segment of the bioplastics industry that creates non-biodegradable plastics and bioplastics that can be blended with fossil-fuel-based resins, allowing them to be processed as if they were regular plastics.

Cereplast, based in El Segundo, California, makes two forms of bioplastic resins, one that can be used in products that are composted, and one that can be blended with traditional plastics. NatureWorks, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cargill, makes Ingeo, a bioplastic resin that can be used in both biodegradable and non-biodegradable end products.

The cost of bioplastics
Bioplastics generally are more expensive to produce than traditional plastics, but also, the cost of source materials like fossil fuel vs. plants, the cost of new material in same facility and amount of resins required to make a final products are considered.

As we see oil prices above $110 a barrel, the cost of plant based resins is comparable with petroleum resins,which may be helpful for the Bioplastics Industry growth. Type of bioplastics is also important factor to compare price factor. For example Mirel a bioplastic developed by Metabolix and Acher Daniels Midland is bio-based and biodegradable and its cost is around$2.25 to$2.75 a pound compare with $0.50 to$1 a pound from an petroleum based resin. While Ingeo Bioplastic ( Developed by NatureWorks) made up of polylactic acid or PLA has a price same as other plastics-polyethylene terephthalate and polystyrene.Groupe Danon's Stonyfield Yogurt unit found NatureWorks’ Ingeo to be a cost-effective choice for its multipack yogurt cups in part because the packaging didn’t break open as much during shipping.

Land for plastics
Another cost factor for bioplastics is land to grow corn and sugarcane, currently the main raw materials for bioplastics. Research is going on to use non-edible plants and parts such as switchgrass or corn husks and may be algae.

Another hurdle is processing.Non-biodegradable plastics are likely to take off more quickly than the biodegradable type is that processors and compounders that convert the resins into plastics can more easily deal with non-biodegradable bioplastics.

Chemically, Braskem’s bio-based polyethylene, made out of ethanol derived from sugarcane, is the same as polyethylene made from petroleum, so there’s no learning curve as far as processing it, compounding it.

NatureWorks, which only makes bio-based, biodegradable resins, says its strategy has always been to create a product that could be dropped into traditional processing. While that’s not possible yet, some of NatureWorks’ processors are beginning to sell enough PLA to reach the economies of scale necessary to make Ingeo more cost competitive.

End of life

One of the biggest issues in the bioplastics industry is what happens to the products after they’re not needed. Biodegradable plastics can, of course, biodegrade, but usually only if composted properly. And as of right now, the U.S. doesn’t have an infrastructure to handle widespread municipal-level composting.
Another solution is to recycle the materials. Products made of Ingeo, for instance, can be returned to lactic acid, the ingredient created when plant sugars are fermented, and then made into a virgin polymer again. Currently, NatureWorks does this with waste at its plant.

Another solution is one both Coca-Cola and Pepsi are after: Creating a 100-percent, bio-based PET plastic bottle that can be recycled along with anything else made of plastic PET (the No. 1 plastic for those who recycle.)

Coke has already created Plant Bottle, 30 percent of which is made from plants, and now has the technology to get the bottle to 100 percent — as does Pepsi — but the process of bringing the bottle to market remains complex.

“Innovation isn’t worth much until you can commercialize it and make it available to consumers,”

(Source CNBC )
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