Global biopolymer films market size is likely to be driven by the shift in preference towards products derived from renewable resources owing to dwindling fossil fuel reserves and to curb pollution levels. Global bioplastics market production capacity was over 5 million tons in 2013 and is likely to exceed 17 million tons by 2022. Bio based polymers such as PLA (polylactic acid), PHA (polyhydroxyalkonoates), PTMT (polytrimethylene terephthalate) and TPS (thermoplastic starch) are likely to witness significant gains over the forecast period.
Global flexible packaging market size was over 18.5 million tons in 2013 and is likely to exceed 26 million tons by 2023, with an estimated CAGR of over 3.8%. This market was worth over USD 73 billion in 2013 and is likely to worth over USD billion in 2023, with estimated gains of over 4.2%. Biopolymer films market price trend will be key for gaining industry penetration, most likely to be supported by the regulatory scenario.
Increasing flexible packaging market demand is likely to drive biopolymer films market size growth over the forecast period. It is one of the high growth segments in packaging owing to advantages offered such as preservation and offering additional shelf life for applications such as food & beverages & pharmaceuticals. Consumers are encountering biodegradable flexible packaging in various supermarkets. For e.g. in UK, supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury are using biodegradable plastics for organic food products.
Strong awareness and regulatory support should play a key role in developing Europe and U.S. biopolymer films market share over the forecast period. APAC represents significant industry growth potential, already occupying significant packaging market share.
PLA market size, estimated at over 300 kilo tons in 2014, represents an attractive bio based polymer used for flexible packaging for food applications including flow wrap, twist wrap and hot seal overlays. Apart from being thermoplastic, it is derived from renewable sources & biodegradable, has enhanced mechanical properties and performs well compared to conventional thermoplastics such as polystyrene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
Properties such as stiffness, hardness, elasticity and impact strength are same as conventional PET. Oriented PLA film can fold or hold or retain or hold a crease which are properties similar to that of foil and paper, which usually lacks in polymers. These properties in combination of PLAs high clarity and flexular modulus are similar to that of cellophane based products and can replace in some applications. This factor is likely to increase biopolymer films demand.
PLA films manufactured earlier were traditionally unstable to changes in pressure and temperature which resulted in plasticizer bleeding used for production. This led to the defects in characteristics such as flexibility and transparency. Toray Industries developed technology which contains plasticizer bleeding when exposed to external pressure & temperature without losing flexibility & transparency and displays high stability. This technology innovation is expected to lead to open new growth opportunities for improved biopolymer films production over the forecast period.
Over the past few years, PLA/pectin or PLA/Chitosan composite based biopolymer films in antimicrobial (AM) packaging are investigated. It has shown some great potential in AM food packaging applications. PLA/pectin composites in AM packaging suppress L.plantarum growth. Also PLA with nisin are used for controlling food pathogens growth
Tshuho Technologies manufactures Bio PET resin derived from sugarcane. Product obtained from this resin are entering market and replacing conventional PET. Emerald Packaging, U.S. based flexible packaging company, has launched bags manufactured partly out of potato starch. The product contains 75% LDPE (low density polyethylene) and 25% starch from potato. The company claims that the product is stronger than 100% LDPE film.
Biopolymer films are also used in agricultural applications as mulch films. This application is still at nascent stage compared to that of polyethylene (PE) mulching. Environmental concerns coupled with low labor costs are likely to drive demand for agricultural applications. These are able to prevent topsoil humus loss and enrich the soil with additional amount of carbon.
Agricultural mulching is promising application over the forecast period as it can be used to retain soil moisture and inhibit weed growth. High cost associated with the product is likely to hinder industry growth. Increase in government subsidies to use the product and technology innovation is likely to promote demand in agricultural applications.
Some companies operating in biopolymer films market share include Tagleef Industries, Toray Industries, Changzhou Water Soluble Co. Ltd, Bruckner Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG and NatureWorks.
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