Present and future development in plastics from biomass



Biobased plastics have experienced fast growth in the past decade thanks to the public concerns over the environment, climate change and the depletion of fossil fuels. This perspective provides an overview of the current global market of biobased plastics, their material properties, technical substitution potential and future market (for 2020). In addition, the technology and market development of three biobased plastics, namely polylactide (PLA), biobased polyethylene (PE) and biobased epoxy resin, are discussed in detail. The emerging biobased plastics market is still small compared to traditional biobased polymers and biomaterials. The global capacity of the emerging biobased plastics was only 0.36 million tonnes in 2007. However, the market grew strongly between 2003 and 2007 (approx. 40% per year). The technical substitution potential of biobased plastics replacing petrochemical plastics is estimated at 90%, demonstrating the enormous potential of biobased plastics. Global capacity of biobased plastics is expected to reach 3.45 million metric tonnes in 2020. Starch plastics, PLA, biobased PE, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) and biobased epoxy resin are expected to be the major types of biobased plastics in the future. Copyright © 2009 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd