InterviewGlobal bioplastics production to quadruple by 2013

24 February 2010 17:12  [Source: ICIS news]

By Will Conroy

PRAGUE (ICIS news)--Global production of bioplastics should nearly quadruple to 1.46bn tonnes by 2013 as bio-polyethylene (bio-PE) plants go into operation, the secretary general of the European Bioplastics industry group said on Wednesday.

"We will this year see the world's first industrial-scale bio-PE plant under the project of Brazil's Braskem and I think there will be other producers looking to set up production to make use of the abundant sugar cane [feedstock] in countries such as Brazil. Other bio-polymer production moves could be seen in many areas including polypropylene (PP),“ said Harald Kab.

The predicted output of 1.46bn tonnes would be achieved from compostable bioplastics production rising from 409,000 tonnes in 2009 to 748,000 tonnes in 2013, and non-compostable bioplastics production climbing from 25,000 tonnes to 715,000 tonnes in the same period, according to European Bioplastics.

Braskem's Brazilian plant is due for startup by the end of this year and should have a bio-PE production capacity of 200,000 tonnes/year.

Braskem has also entered into a research partnership with bioinnovation firm Novozymes to develop large-scale production of polypropylene from sugarcane.

"More and more bioplastics will be seen in areas such as packaging, films - both thick and thin - carrier bags, wrapping fresh and organic produce, mobile phones and in products of drinks companies. We already see Coca-Cola's PET [polyethylene terephthalate] bottle with plant-based material and Tetra Pak is looking at bioplastics for its carton closures,“ said Kab in a telephone interview with ICIS news.

"Of course there is still a premium to be paid for bioplastics, which is generally passed on to the consumer. But consumers will pay this premium.

"Our research actually shows that when asked many consumers say they are willing to pay it, though in practice they do not want to do so. However, the extra cost has no visibility and the consumer does not really inquire into it,“ he added.

"Functionality improvements" with bioplastics, such as packaging advantages that provided extra shelf-life compared to standard plastics, would also help to drive the growth of the bioplastics industry, Kab said.

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Please read Doris de Guzman's Green Chemicals Blog

By: Will Conroy
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