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BioPlastics Are In Your Future—What Do You Need To Know To Grow Your Bio-Business?

bio concept with leaves and water drops pulitoBioPlastics demand is growing far faster than the overall plastics market. Worldwide demand for biobased plastics is forecasted to see 8-12% annual growth through 2020, far out pacing conventional plastics.1 Packaging is the largest market, but there are significant opportunities in automotive and consumer goods as well.

Several drivers support the growth, including consumer desire for “greener” products, legislative requirements, and emerging technologies that are yielding better products and processes.

Being aware of the growth is one thing, but how can your company position itself to fully leverage this emerging opportunity? It starts with building an understanding of the technology and markets. Because bioplastic technology grew out of the agricultural industry and not the petrochemical industry, the supply chains, key players, and technologies are all very different. At times, even the most fundamental terminology can be unclear.

Despite the growth, numerous misconceptions remain in the minds of consumers—and perhaps also within the industry—of the exact definition of a bioplastic. Is it enough to be biobased only or does it need to be bio-degradable as well? What about a petroleum-based biodegradable plastic? Is that also a bio-plastic? Does it have to be 100% biobased to be a bioplastic or can it be a blend?

SPI has developed a definition of bioplastics that is now globally accepted.2 It states that bioplastics are plastics that are partially or fully biobased and/or biodegradable. ”Biobased” means the plastic is partially or fully based on renewable sources, while “biodegradable” means the plastic is fully degradable by natural biological activity.

Though SPI’s definition is fairly straightforward, it is also quite broad, which can lead to confusion at the consumer level. To help the consumer understand bioplastics, guidelines and certifications have been developed.

Companies need to pay close attention to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s “Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims”3 when making claims on biodegradability and recyclability. Biobased content is most commonly reported as a weight-percent or as biobased carbon content in the bioplastic. These parameters are the basis for the USDA BioPrefered Program that promotes the purchase and use of biobased products.

This growing and technologically fast-paced segment of the plastics market can yield profitable opportunities for companies. However, investment in time and resources is necessary to understand the market potential, the current state of the art in materials and processing, technology trends and, most importantly, how to build a strong network within this new segment of the industry.

PolymerOhio and OBIC are presenting “Bioplastics and Biobased Composites Technology Forum” on May 18th. This event is a first-of-its-kind forum devoted to understanding bioplastics. Learn about the current state of the technology and be prepared to embrace relevant emerging technologies.

Keeping a Pulse on Bioplastics

PolymerOhio keeps a pulse on the evolution of the polymer industry, including the rise of bioplastics. In an effort to build, encourage, and advance polymer production in Ohio, we connect multiple players in the polymer industry. Help us keep you connected – contact us at 614-776-5720 or fill out a simple contact form today.

1 Market study and Trend Reports on “Bio-based Building Blocks and Polymers in the World – Capacities, Production and Applications: Status Quo and Trends Towards 2020″ Retrieved from http://bio-based.eu/markets
2 SPI BIOPLASTIC DIVISION. (Feb 2016). Bioplastics Simplified: Attributes of Biobased and Biodegradable Plastics. SPI. Retrieved from http://plasticsindustry.org/files/Bioplastics%20Simplified.pdf
3 FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION. (2012). Federal Register (Vol 77, No 197, Part VII) Rules and Regulations. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved from https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/federal_register_notices/guides-use-environmental-marketing-claims-green-guides/greenguidesfrn.pdf
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