InterviewBioplastics growth to rely on blending with polyolefins

27 August 2010 22:58  [Source: ICIS news]

By Doris de Guzman

NEW YORK (ICIS)--Most of the potential growth for bioplastics will come from renewable-based polyolefin blends as opposed to compostables, the CEO of US bioplastic producer Cereplast said on Friday.

“We will see a tremendous amount of bioplastics growth from polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS) that contain renewable resources,” said Cereplast CEO Frederic Scheer in an interview with ICIS.

“Compostable plastics such as resins purely made from starch-based polylactic acid (PLA) or polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) still cannot directly compete with traditional commodity plastics as it is a fairly small industry. People are not willing to pay for bioplastics with a 50-60% premium attached, much less twice the price of a traditional plastic,” he added.

Scheer said Cereplast is selling its hybrid PP resins, which contain starch-based materials, at a slightly higher price.

Cereplast is selling its hybrid PP at around 90 cents/lb ($1,984/tonne, €1,567/tonne), while a truckload of PP would cost 80-82 cents/lb, he estimated.

The company is also working to develop starch-based PE, which is expected to be commercialised early next year.

“We will probably see small bioplastic companies such as us to venture with very large polyolefin manufacturers. This is where the tremendous amount of growth will come from for bioplastics,” Scheer said.

Scheer said Cereplast has been speaking with major polyolefin producers in the US and Europe, although no announcements are expected in the near future.

“Polyolefin producers are definitely intrigued but they are still in the wait-and-see mode when it comes to bioplastics,” Scheer said.

Plastic companies already involved in the development of bioplastics include Braskem, Dow Chemical and BASF.

Braskem expects to start its 200,000 tonne/year sugarcane-based PE facility in Triunfo, Brazil, in September.

Cereplast expects bioplastic use to account for one-third of the global plastic market within 15-30 years, with natural gas-based plastics and crude oil-based plastics each also accounting for one-third of the market.

“It will take a long time before bioplastic will have a major impact on the overall plastic market even though the industry is growing exponentially,” Scheer said.

Industry sources estimated bioplastics only account for 1% of the 230m tonnes of plastics currently consumed worldwide.

Video interview by Feliza Mirasol

($1 = €0.79)

ICIS has launched weekly pricing reports in Africa for polyethylene and polypropylene. For more information contact Nadine Spoeri
Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives in Green Chemistry
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By: Doris de Guzman
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