Plastics have widespread applications across just about every imaginable human endeavor, and the packaging industry is a prime example. Plastics are among the most commonly used packaging materials today. Their high durability, eponymous plasticity, poor thermal and electrical conductivity, and impermeability to water have made the use of plastics essential in the packaging industry.
Unfortunately, most plastics are manufactured from petrochemicals and are thus synthetic and nonbiodegradable. This has caused one of the most pressing environmental issues of today: Plastic waste. Plastic doesn’t degenerate into the soil when discarded, and can cause soil pollution as well as posing a major threat to the health of any animals that may happen to consume it. Due to the close association of plastics with food packaging, many animals are attracted to plastic waste due to the presence of leftover food or a scent. Due to the insolubility of plastics in water, plastic waste also poses a threat to marine life.
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Bioplastics have been developed to eliminate the problems caused by conventional plastics. Bioplastics are made from biodegradable feedstock, which means they can degrade into the soil like any other organic matter. The global market for bioplastic packaging has been driven by the rising awareness among the global population about the adverse effects of conventional plastics, which has led to both consumers and regulatory bodies opt for bioplastics instead. Bio-PET and polylactic acid are the major types of bioplastics used for packaging around the world.
Global Bioplastic Packaging Market: Drivers and Restraints
The major driver for the global bioplastic packaging market is the rising support given by governments encouraging the incorporation of bioplastics in place of conventional plastics. The net benefit to a country adopting bioplastics on a mass scale is prevention of the ecological damage that would have been caused by conventional plastics. Furthermore, this also removes the need for further resources to fix the damage.
The growing awareness among the general population about the ecological impact of their lifestyles is another key driver for the global bioplastic packaging market. Bioplastic packaging can, in fact, be used as a USP by packaging companies targeting environmentally conscious consumers.
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On the other hand, even though bioplastics are biodegradable, they can’t be degraded as easily as naturally occurring organic matter. Since they have to replace plastics in their applications, they need to possess similar qualities. This requires a particular molecular structure. Unfortunately, since microbes can’t break down the similar structures in conventional plastics, it is also not easy for them to break down these structures in bioplastics.
The need to balance the physical properties of plastics and the biodegradability of organic matter leads to high production costs, which leads to premium prices. Technological innovations and government incentives are likely to erase the price gap between conventional and bioplastics eventually, but the global bioplastics packaging market faces an uphill battle till then.