Guest Column | September 3, 2014

What's Happening With Bioplastics In Food And Beverage Packaging?

By Neil Farmer, Owner/Proprietor and Managing Director, Neil Farmer Associates

Neil Farmer, Owner/Proprietor and Managing Director, Neil Farmer Associates

The market for bioplastics in the fast-moving consumer goods packaging sector is growing, but it has not always been a smooth ride. Competitiveness of materials, need for greater investment in infrastructure, and questions over material performance have all impacted growth negatively. Nevertheless, there are signs that the market could be entering a period of rapid expansion, as part of the current holistic approach to the environment being demonstrated by leading FMCG producers.

The bioplastics packaging market has reached its highest level of growth ever. Just five years ago, the market was relatively small. For example, in Europe the bioplastics for packaging volume was a mere 100,000 tons per year. At that time, many experts believed the volume increase would be rapid. While growth has occurred, it has not been at the speedy rate many envisioned.

European Bioplastics’ — in co-operation with the Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites from the University of Hannover in Germany — annual survey says bioplastics production capacity will grow to 6 million tons by 2017. Not all of this production will be for packaging, but this is substantial growth when held against 2012’s 1.4 million tons of bioplastics production capacity. The survey also says that all material types would gain ground with bio-based, non-biodegradable “drop-in” solutions, including bio-based PE and bio-based PET, at the forefront. Finally, the survey highlights the increase in production capacity of biodegradable plastics, including polylactic acid (PLA), biodegradable polyesters, and starch blends.

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