26 May 2011 18:06 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (ICIS)--The economic downturn has been a wake-up call for both consumers and chemical producers to push the development of bioplastics, resulting in a far more positive outlook, a global business research and consulting company said on Thursday.
As a result, interest in the relatively nascent market is gaining impetus because of better funding, increased consumer awareness and an emphasis on efficiency and sustainability, according to Brian Balmer, of researchers Frost & Sullivan.
“Throughout the recession, people have generally become more aware of sustainability as an issue, so that has been a key driver,” Balmer said.
He pointed out that a throwaway culture has been compounded by high oil costs and rising food and commodity chemical prices.
Balmer said that although the bioplastics industry is growing at about 20% globally a year, the market still represents only 0.1% of the entire plastics sector, which means its market potential is vast. He said even growth of 20% a year is perfectly sustainable for several years.
“As the industry is still quite small, individual plants coming onstream still have a massive impact on market size from one year to the next, so it’s not smooth growth,” he added.
Balmer said the economic downturn severely impacted spending in the sector.
“The companies developing these technologies have continued to invest in R&D but we have seen a massive drop-off from the venture capitalists and private equity firms,” he added.
The volume of investments and spending plummeted in 2009, falling by as much as 25–50% from the year before, he said.
There was, however, a marked improvement in 2010, with interest starting to pick up in the market.
This has continued so far in 2011 with several notable investments, including the initial public offering of US renewable chemicals and biofuels company Gevo.
Global renewable chemistry company BioAmber also raised $45m (€30m) to help commercialise its biosuccinic acid and modified polybutylene succinate and build a large-scale plant in North America.
Current penetration levels for bioplastics are higher in packaging but there are plenty of opportunities for them to be used as a substitute for conventional polymers in other end-use markets.
($1 = €0.71)
For a view on the latest sustainability issues, visit Doris de Guzman’s Green Chemicals Blog
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