Biodegradable plastics are a billion dollar growing industry that is pushed by the increased regulations and bans against plastic bags and other single-use plastic items. The demand for biodegradable plastics worldwide is growing as more people become concerned about plastic waste.
These plastics are bio-based or fossil-fuel-based chemical compositions that are able to decompose, microbially, to carbon dioxide and water. The process happens in industrial or municipal compost facilities. Additionally, some of these polymers are able to decompose in compost bins or in soil, freshwater, or saltwater. Therefore, you can decompose them even in your backyard.
According to a new analysis from IHS Markit, the current market value of this type of plastics exceeds $1.1 billion in 2018. Also, it is expected to reach $1.7 billion by 2023. Currently, the global demand for these polymers is equal to 360,000 metric tons, but it can increase to almost 550,000 metric tons by 2023. It is a huge number, but it is not even close to the demand for regular non-degradable plastics.
Western Europe is the absolute leader in the context of demand. Due to the strictest and increasingly stringent regulations for single-use plastics, it commands 55% of the global market value in 2018. It is followed by Asia and Australias/New Zealand at 25%, then North America at 19%, and the rest of the world at 1%.
Consumer awareness of sustainable plastic solutions, government interest in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and a pervasive, general desire to eliminate fossil fuel independence are the reasons for the market growth. Western Europe combines all of these factors and implements biodegradable plastics even in household and business products, such as foam packaging, mulch films, textiles, implants and sutures, downhole tools for oil and gas field operations, 3-D printing filament, etc.
Another factor that is important in this case is whether this plastic is decomposed. Most of the plastics should not end at the landfill since they will not decompose by themselves. Therefore, some European countries increased the costs of disposal of plastic at their landfill. By this, people are financially motivated to bring the plastic somewhere where it can be decomposed.
On the other hand, countries that lack mandates do not have any sufficient growth in the demand for biodegradable plastic. There, the awareness of consumer and activism regarding the environmental issues should be increased in order to push the bioplastic market growth.
The major manufacturers of biodegradable polymers include NatureWorks (a joint venture of Cargill and PTT Global Chemical), Novamont, BASF, and PTT MCC Biochem Co., Ltd., a joint venture of PTT Public Company Ltd. (the parent of PTT Global Chemical) and Mitsubishi.
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