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Marketplace opportunities for integration of biobased and conventional plastics

Read the full report: Marketplace Opportunities for Integration of Biobased and Conventional Plastics

About this report:

The bioplastics industry is continuing to grow and expand. This report looks at the biobased materials industry in Minnesota.


(1) The bioplastics industry is a small but rapidly growing section of the overall 270 million tonnes plastics industry. Growth estimates for bioplastics from various market studies range from 19% to over 30% per year. In the opinion of Jim Lunt and Associates actual growth is closer to the 19% value based on a thorough evaluation of the actual volumes being sold as opposed to declared capacities.

(2) First generation compostable bioplastics (polylactic acid (PLA) and compounded starch products still represent the major category of bioplastics and have captured market share from commodity thermoplastics such as polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in primarily single-use disposable application segments. The polyolefin markets have not been penetrated by first generation compostable bioplastics due to their unique combination of low specific gravity, performance spectrum and pricing compared to these bioplastics.

Recently, other non-compostable thermoplastics such as bio polyethylene (PE) partially biobased polyesters such as PET and polybutylene terephthalate ( PBT), polyamides and thermoset products such as polyurethanes (PU), epoxies, unsaturated polyesters (UP) and other bio plastics, are entering the marketplace as direct replacements for 100% oil based equivalents.

(3) The bioplastics market has evolved considerably over the last 5 years with many performance deficiencies of the early compostable bioplastics having been overcome by the use of additives and compounded polymer blends. There are still opportunities to further improve performance but cost and commercialization times for completely new approaches may be prohibitive. Overall, for all bioplastics, pricing and performance against petrochemical-based plastics are still significant issues. Due to these concerns, recent commercialization activity in bioplastics has largely shifted to the manufacture of conventional monomers and existing oil-based plastics from renewable resource based alternatives. Bio based polyethylenes entered the marketplace in 2010 and have been successfully displacing their oil-based counterparts. However, the recent expansion in natural gas availability has lead to concerns about the ability of the bio-based olefin analogues to compete on price with natural gas derived products.

(4) Bio derived chemicals such as monoethylene glycol has enabled the commercialization of a 20% renewable carbon content PET by Coca Cola for their “Plant Bottle”. As yet the bio aromatic component –terephthalic acid, has not been produced commercially although this is an area of intense development. In contrast to the polyethylene scenario, plentiful natural gas may actually accelerate activity in the bio-aromatics area since natural gas does not contain aromatics.

(5) The last few years have seen a growing number of governments’ worldwide developing strategies and policy frameworks to support the development of a sustainable and competitive bioeconomy. Several of these policies offer generic support for the further development of biochemicals, biomaterials and bioplastics, promoting bio-based products or the bio economy in general. Most of them focus on research and innovation. Many countries have implemented policies banning single use plastics bags. However, only a few countries have developed a specific set of policies targeting the development of bioplastics.

(6) Pressure is increasing to replace food crops as feedstocks for bioplastics with agricultural or forestry biomass. Technology advancements are being made to cost effectively extract sugars from these waste products but as yet no commercial scale plant is operational. Some key players are emerging as leaders in this area. Other key issues with biomass feedstocks, in addition to efficient extraction, are the logistics of supply, storage and accumulation of sufficient quantities for processing.

The bioplastics industry is growing at an overall estimated 19% CAGR and this is expected to continue into 2020.

Project outcomes:

AURI and the project partners will use the report to find opportunities in the plastics industry for greater utilization of biobased materials derived from agricultural commodities and coproducts.


Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council
Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council


For questions or additional information, please contact AURI at 800.279.5010.