Connecting countries to climate technology solutions
English Arabic Chinese (Simplified) French Russian Spanish Yoruba

Plastics

Technology Type Group:

Bioplastics have much in common with conventional plastics. Two main characteristics separate bioplastics from conventional plastics: 1) The use of renewable biomass materials in the manufacture of bioplastics. Bioplastics are manufactured from sources such as starch and vegetable oil rather than fossil fuel based plastics which are derived from petroleum. 2) the biodegradability and compostability of bioplastics. Some, but not all, bioplastics are biodegradable or compostable. The aim of the bioplastics industry is to close the production loop, mimicking nature's example (as indicated in the introduction image). Introduction== Most biodegradable bioplastics are used for disposable items such as packaging or organic waste bags. Nondisposable applications include items such as mobile phone casings, carpet fibres and car interiors. In these areas, the goal is not biodegradability, but to create items from sustainable resources.

Initial research into bioplastics started several decades ago. Novel biodegradable bioplastic products have been on the market in Europe for about a decade (European Bioplastics, no date). Mostly, these products are compostable biowaste bags and loose fill. The expansion of production plants for bioplastics resulted in the dynamic development of the market for packaging film since around 2002 (European Bioplastics, no date).

Feasibility of technology and operational necessities

Like with conventional plastics, the application spectrum of bioplastics is very broad. Several applications have already established themselves successfully in important markets. Figure 2 shows several segments of the economy in which bioplastics have already successfully been established. Many of these bioplastic products are being used in areas where compostability is a significant benefit. Commercial success occurs above all when the particular properties can be transformed into useful product functionality and added value (European Bioplastics, no date).

In 2007, global production capacity of bioplastics was estimated to be 0.36 Mt (million metric tonnes), and constituted approx. 0.3 % of the worldwide production of all plastics (PRO-BIB, 2009). Current worldwide production of plastics is dominated by petrochemical plastics. However, the bioplastic market has been experiencing dramatic growth: from 2003 to 2007 the average global growth was 38 % (PRO-BIP, 2009). In Europe, the market even grew with 48 % over the same period (PRO-BIP, 2009).

According to the PRO-BIP study the bioplastics industry is at the beginning of the S-shaped learning curve. Although newly constructed plants are still small, they are rapidly increasing in size. Therefore, it will not be long until turn-key plants with production capacity similar to conventional plastic production plants will be commercially available (PRO-BIP, 2009).

Status of the technology and its future market potential

The total technical substitution potential of bioplastics is estimated to be 270 Mt, or 90 % of the total polymers that were consumed in 2007 (PRO-BIP, 2009). However, it will not be possible to exploit this potential in the short to medium term, according to the study, because of economic barriers, technical scale up challenges and the need for time for the industry to adapt to the new plastics (PRO-BIP, 2009). But the authors of the PRO-BIP study stress that the potential of bioplastics is very large, and that future developments might increase the potential.

Current status of the technology of bioplastics is illustrated in figure 3. It can be seen that the sector is characterized by high growth and strong diversification among different bioplastics. Number of materials, applications and products, number of manufacturers, converters and end users has increased considerably over the last years. In addition, significant financial investments have been made into production and marketing and are expected to be made in the years to come.

How the technology could contribute to socio-economic development and environmental protection

From a geographic point of view, the U.S. and Europe are leading in the bioplastics production (See Figure 4). However, the geographic distribution has changed to a more balanced distribution among the world regions (PRO-BIP, 2009). For instance, the U.S. share of production decreased from 84 % in 2003 to 33 % in 2007. Europe's share increased over the same period from 15 % to 36 %. The Asia-Pacific region and South America have upcoming markets. This development is illustrated in figure 4.

. Based on company announcements, the geograhic distribution is expected to further balance out over the regions of the world (PRO-BIP, 2009). Figure 5 illustrates the estimated geograhic distribution per world region in 2020 based on the company announcements (PRO-BIP, 2009). A long and sustained growth trajectory of production and demand for plastics is expected in the developing world (PRO-BIP, 2009).

Next to the advantages of conventional plastic (such as being lightweight and multifunctional) bioplastics have certain other advantages that can contribute to socio-economic development and environmental protection. Because bioplastics are made from renewable resources the use of fossil resources is limited. In addition, the biodegradable aspect of some of the bioplastics can be useful in developing countries with arid conditions where the soil lacks humus. Composting the plastics would provide fertiliser and substrate to improve the soil quality (European bioplastics, no date). Moreover, the biodegradability of bioplastics reduces the stress on landfills.==Climate== Currently, no CDM projects have been registered by the CDM Executive Board that address the shift from the production of conventional plastics to bioplastics. As noted, such a shift would prevent the emissions of GHG as bioplastics are produced from a renewable resource. As of July 2010, no CDM methodology exists that would support the shift in production from petrochemical based plastic production to bioplastics.

However, there are certain situations in which a project could potentially apply for CDM status. For instance, when the biomass used for the production of the bioplastics is derived from biomass waste streams the project would prevent GHG emissions as it prevents the biomass decay. The following methodology might be suitable in this situation: 'Avoided emissions from biomass wastes through use as feed stock in pulp and paper production or in bio-oil production --- Version 2.2'. This methodology assists in the calculation of the avoided emissions because of the prevention of the decay.

Financial requirements and costs

Because petrochemical based plastics have been developed and used extensively for over seventy years they are relatively cheap compared to bioplastivs. While there are a number of bioplastics with great potential, and unique features, to compete in a wide range of applications currently dominated by petrochemical based plastics, certain barriers still exist that prevent this from happening. Ideally, to compete, a bioplastics should be environmentally sustainable, inexpensive and functionally equivalent to conventional plastics. Usually bioplastics are both environmentally friendly and sustainable, but they are still relatively expensive and they can't replace petrochemical based plastics in some applications (Barker & Safford, 2009).

Currently, bioplastics are two to four times more expensive than conventional plastics (Barker & Safford, 2009). Barker and Safford identify several reasons for this: 1) there is a high cost for the plant production, 2) a high cost of the raw materials used, 3) the current smale scale of production doesn't provide economies of scale, and 4) the research and development costs of bioplastcs are high (Barker & Safford, 2009).

The price of conventional plastics is linked to the price trend of oil, as byproducts of the petroleum industry are key ingredients for production of plastic (Barker & Safford, 2009). Because bioplastics are based on another resource bioplastics are not linked to the fluctuating oil price. Bioplastics are therefore not accompanied by the high price volatility of oil. According to the European Bioplastics organization current economic competetiveness of bioplastics is restricted by high development costs and lack of economies of scale for mass production. Mass production of bioplastics is expected to increase economic competetiveness. As can be seen from figure 2, and from the statement that it is likely that bioplastics production is at the beginning of the S-curve, it seems likely that economies of scale will be reached in the near future. In addition, forecasts on the development of crude oil prices illustrate that rising oil prices will make use of renewable resources increasingly economical in the future (European Bioplastics, 2009).

References

  • Barker, M., & Safford, S., (2009). Industrial uses for crops: Markets for bioplastics. Project report 450: HGCA. Retrieved on 16 July 2010 from: [[1]]
  • European Bioplastics, no date. The association European Bioplastics, based in Berlin, website: [[2]]
Collection:

Plastics

  • Tal-Ya Water resources management

    Type: 
    Product
    Technology:

    Tal-Ya is a new Israeli company that develops innovative water saving solutions for row-crop agriculture vineyards forestry and the municipal gardening sectors. Collecting and using DEW together with more efficient use of irrigated water represents savings of up to 90% irrigated water. Square cover over a plant’s root system and the surrounding soil (replaces traditional plastic mulch) collects dew during the night and prevents evaporation during the day directing all water to one single point- the root system. Irrigated water is directed more efficiently to the right spot.

  • ECOPET(TM)

    Type: 
    Product
    Technology:

    ECOPET(TM) is a recycled polyester fiber made from used plastic bottles by material recycling. We recommend this for environmentally-friendly products requiring green procurement. ECOPET(TM) gets the Oeko-Tex(R) Standard 100 ceritification as staple fibers.

  • ECO CIRCLE(TM) FIBERS

    Type: 
    Product
    Technology:

    ECO CIRCLE(TM) FIBERS is a recycled polyester fiber made of used polyester products by chemical recycling. We recommend this for environmentally-friendly products such as ones requiring green procurement. These are polyester fibers recycled from other used polyester products using the innovative recycling technology.

  • Biosensor and methods of fabricating the same

    Type: 
    Product
    Technology:

    Copper is an exceptional material to use in electronic devices due to its low resistivity and low cost. One drawback that limits the use of copper in electronics is the high temperatures required to attach the copper to the host material. These temperatures range from 200°C to over 400°C. Most processes require 15 minutes to 3 hours in an oven to attach the copper. Higher temperatures can shorten the time requirement but many substrates (e.g. plastic flexible electronics) are not able to withstand the intense heat requirements.

  • Municipal and Industrial Wastewater Treatment

    Type: 
    Product
    Technology:

    Rain-Tal specializes in unique solutions for arid and semi-arid climates where water savings is highly important in low volume irrigation for greenhouses orchards and open field agriculture. The company also produces unique Rotary Water Filters that are based on Regenerative Back-Flush cleaning thus no replacement of disposable filter element is ever required. Core technology is based on plastic injection. Most of the water spreading devices are Low Volume Irrigation products made for both surface and overhead irrigation.

  • Drinking water desalinatiom and chemical treatment

    Type: 
    Product
    Technology:

    Hakohav Valves is a valves specialist manufacturing Company (since 1963) with unique and high quality products. The valves use modern and unique production technologies like Vulcanization and various types of Coatings and linings including Glass Halar (ECTFE) Rubber Epoxy Rilsan (nylon 11) Plascoat (polyester) Plastic (ETFE PFA .etc) and Enamel.

  • Municipal plastic waste recycling

    Type: 
    Product
    Technology:

    Clariter is a clean-technology enterprise that controls proprietary rights to patent-protected technology which uses a chemical process that converts plastic waste into high-grade solvents lubricants and waxes. Clariter’s process can use nearly all types of polyolefin plastics in one mix. In most countries the majority of the plastics that are suitable for Clariter’s process are currently destined for landfills. Solid Waste and especially plastic waste is a major global challenge. The natural degradation of polyolefin plastics takes hundreds of years.

  • Catalysts For The Reduction Of Carbon Dioxide To Methanol

    Type: 
    Product
    Technology:

    Stanford and Technical University of Denmark researchers have discovered and tested a Ni-Ga catalyst that reduces CO2 to methanol at ambient pressure. A series of leads for new alloy catalysts were established on the basis of a computational descriptor-based approach. A very active candidate Ni-Ga was synthesized and catalytic testing showed it to have similar performance as the industrial Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 catalyst with considerably less production of CO. This may be the first step towards the industrial development of clean low cost low-pressure devices for CO2 reduction to methanol.

  • High Impact-High Stiffness Bacterial Bioplastic

    Type: 
    Product
    Technology:

    This technology is a new approach for producing biodegradable plastic that overcomes some prior limitation inherent in the use of Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). PHB is a desirable material because of its high crytallinity and water resistance. Crytallinity is when chains pack closely together in a regular way allowing stronger intermolecular forces. The polymer is less flexible and stronger as a result. The current technology addresses the inflexibility (brittleness) and thermal instability of PHB through the incorporation of high modulus fillers (clay).

  • Biodegradable Thermoplastic from Lignin: a Waste Product from Pulp Mills and Bioethanol Manufacturing

    Type: 
    Product
    Technology:

    Background: The biodegradable thermoplastic can be utilized in most commercial plastics applications including biodegradable cups packaging and bags. Lignin is a complex chemical compound found in the secondary cell walls of plants and is a waste product of many industrial processes that utilize plant material. Pulp mill operations for example create excess amounts of lignin (called kraft lignin) that must be disposed. Technology Description: Biodegradable thermoplastic has been produced from a lignin derivative that has properties similar to polystyrene.