Bioplastics refer to plastics derived from renewable biomass sources such as corn starch, vegetable oils and fats, and microbiota. The global plastic packaging market has a huge opportunity to grow with the increasing demand for bioplastics. Rising demand for plastics in pharmaceutical packaging, coupled with increasing consumer preference towards flexible plastics, has propelled the global plastic packaging market. The global plastic packaging market is projected to expand at a CAGR of 5.20% during the period between 2014 and 2020. The overall market was worth US$259.6 bn in 2013 and is estimated to be valued at US$370.2 bn by 2020.
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How Bioplastics Score Over Conventional Plastics
In bioplastics, carbon is derived from renewable feedstock that may or may not be biodegradable. According to European Bioplastics, a platform representing the interests of 70 member companies in the bioplastics industry throughout the European Union, a plastic material can be termed as a bioplastic if it is either biodegradable or biobased, or both. Bioplastics have a number of advantages over conventional petro-plastics:
· Made from a variety of renewable resources, bioplastics can be composted locally into a soil amendment and can be utilized by living matter. Petro-plastics, on the other hand, are mostly non-biodegradable and have adverse effects on soil- and water-dwelling organisms.
· Bioplastics can contribute to healthier economies. A recent study by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (CEBR) has found out that the growing domestic bioplastics sector in the UK would lead to 35,000 jobs and £2 bn in gross value added to the economy. The conventional petro-plastics industry, however, supports more oil drilling owing to skyrocketing demand and production with low recycling and reuse.
Nanotechnology to Improve Performance of Bioplastics
Though bioplastics have significant advantages over petro-plastics, one of the major challenges in the development of bioplastics is their inferior mechanical properties, such as barrier properties, which are not as good as those of petro-plastics. Manufacturers are utilizing nanotechnology to overcome these shortcomings in bioplastics. In commercial bioplastics products, nanotechnology is already being used. For example, Cereplast Inc. has developed cutlery and drinking straws with the help of nanotechnology in bioplastics. BioTRED, a Goodyear-Novamont tire made partially from Mater-Bi starches, is another bioplastics product manufactured using nanotechnology. According to the manufacturers, some of the mechanical properties of bioplastics tires have been enhanced by more than 100X with the implementation of nanotechnology.
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Are Bioplastics Safe?