Increased interest in dropping in bioplastics

17 Jul 2012

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Positioned on the fast track, pilule a certain group of the bioplastic material family has decisively raised the interest in the renewable industry during the last two years ? the drop-ins. Drop-in bioplastics are biobased or partly biobased non-biodegradable materials such as (partly) biobased Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Why drop-ins? Because these materials feature the same properties and functionalities as their fossil counterparts. The value-added chain only requires adaptation at the outset. Processing, use, recycling and recovery follow the same routes as conventional PE or PP products do.

The intrinsic benefit of drop-ins is their renewable basis. This provides a huge potential to switch from finite to renewable resources, and to reduce a product?s carbon footprint, ideally right down to carbon neutrality.

In 2010, Brazilian Braskem was the first company worldwide to go on-stream with a large-scale biobased PE plant (200,000 tonnes/year). More than two thirds of these production capacities were sold out when production finally began. And even though biobased PE products today command a price premium of about 15 to 20 percent, large brandowners such as Procter & Gamble or Johnson & Johnson immediately jumped on the opportunity to use biobased PE for several big product lines such as Pantene Pro V shampoo or Sundown sunscreen.

This represented quite a successful start for this group of materials and resulted in growing demand. Braskem now has further plans to tackle the ?switch? of the next polyolefin ? biobased Polypropylene (PP), and more investors are planning to set up production capacities for biobased PE.

Much anticipated amongst these new investors is the project of US-based Dow and Japanese Mitsui ? a 350,000 tonnes/year facility for biobased PE. It will be situated in Brazil and is expected to come on stream in 2015. With new producers entering the market, bio-PE prices are expected to drop in the mid-term.

Another commodity material partially based on biomass is PET. Today, a biobased carbon content of about 22.5 percent is contained in products such as Coca Cola?s PlantBottle. The company is working on a 100 percent biobased bottle with several cooperation partners such as Gevo and Virent.

However, it is not only bottles that are produced from partially biobased PET. Front  runners of the automotive industry such as Toyota also use it for their cars? interiors.

With all these markets and companies on the lookout for new drop-in production capacities, the drop-ins certainly are the fastest growing bioplastic material group and will provide the bulk in the coming years.

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