Demand for biodegradable plastic in the US is forecast to expand nearly 16% per year to 720 million pounds in 2012, valued at $845 million. Average prices will continue to decline as a result of higher capacity and greater production efficiencies, as well as price mixes reflecting fastest growth for the lower priced resins. Myriad opportunities are anticipated based on a more competitive pricing structure, increased competitiveness with petroleum-based polymers, and growing environmental, governmental and consumer initiatives for greater use of sustainable resources. Biodegradable plastic applications are also being expanded by developing testing and certification standards and enhanced performance properties brought about by more sophisticated polymerization and blending techniques.
Polyester-based biodegradables to grow fastest
Polylactic acid (PLA) demand will present good opportunities through 2012, reflecting price declines, improved product performance and greater processor familiarity. Good opportunities are expected in packaging areas such as film, thermoformed products, and foodservice products. Starch-based plastic demand will present good growth through 2012 due to the availability of lower priced and improved resin blends. Film products such as yard and kitchen bags will remain dominant. Rapid advances are also expected in areas such as plates, bowls and foodservice items. Slow growth is expected for biodegradable loose-fill packaging based on competition from bubble packaging and inflatable bags. Demand for polyester-based biodegradables will increase at the fastest pace through 2012 due to rapid capacity additions, price declines and opportunities in film and fiber products. The materials also have good synergy in blends with PLA, starch and other materials.
Packaging will remain dominant end use
Packaging, which accounted for more than 70% of all biodegradable plastic use in 2007, will present good opportunities. Molded biodegradable products will exhibit the fastest growth due to widespread use in containers and trays based on improved resins and processing technologies. Biodegradable film has diverse bag, liner and overwrap applications. Fiber markets will provide good opportunities, with bedding and apparel remaining the leading applications.