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New biopolymers will shape growing bioplastic packaging market to 2020: report

Fuelled by new breeds of biopolymers, global bioplastic packaging demand is forecast to reach 884,000 tons by 2020, according to a new report by market research firm Pira International.


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March 16, 2011 by Canadian Plastics

Fuelled by new breeds of biopolymers, global bioplastic packaging demand is forecast to reach 884,000 tons by 2020, according to a new report by market research firm Pira International.

The company’s study – entitled “The Future of Bioplastics for Packaging to 2020: Global Market Forecasts” – also predicts an annual growth rate of 24.9 per cent for bioplastics packaging from 2011 to 2015, followed by a slower rate of 18.3 per cent in the five years to 2020.

Bioplastic technology will change with the commercialization of bioplastics produced directly by natural/genetically modified organisms, Pira said, and also through the introduction of non-biodegradable, bio-derived polyethylene (PE). Pira forecasts these materials will account for a quarter of total bioplastic packaging market demand by 2020; in particular, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are forecast to achieve annual growth of 41 per cent and bio-derived PE a whopping 83 per cent by 2020.

As traditional bioplastic packaging technologies based on starch, cellulose and polyester each show a decline in market share during the next 10 years, the report said, important new technologies will emerge to take their place. U.S. bioplastics producer Cereplast, for example, has already launched a range of all-natural algae-based resins. Also, several companies, Bayer among them, are currently exploring the development of bioplastics using carbon dioxide as a raw material. And a new sugar-based bioplastic obtainable from non-food crops and produced through a low energy process is also predicted to reach the market within the next five years.

Pira said that rigid packaging held 52 per cent of the bioplastic packaging market in 2010, with flexible packaging accounting for the remainder. Retail and foodservice trays and containers are currently the largest single pack type for bioplastic packaging, followed by flexible film. According to Pira, flexible packaging will take a growing share of the bioplastic packaging market throughout the next decade.  

Currently, Europe is the largest regional market for bioplastic packaging, the report said, accounting for over half of world tonnage in 2010; but as consumer and government attitudes change, Pira predicts both North America and Asia to show higher growth rates than Europe for bioplastic packaging by 2020.