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Target Markets and Applications

Target Markets and Applications

Fields of application for bioplastic materials and products are increasing steadily. Today, bioplastics can be found mainly within the following market segments:

  • Packaging
  • Food-services
  • Agriculture/horticulture
  • Consumer electronics
  • Automotive
  • Consumer goods and household appliances

Agriculture and Horticulture

Solaplast series resins can potentially offer specific advantages in agriculture and horticulture.

  • Mulching films are generally making rapid advances in this area. Production of pure foods with a minimum use of pesticide is a big mega trend that appears to be taking off now. Ploughing-in of mulching films after use instead of collecting them from the field, cleaning off the soil and returning them for recycling, is practical and improves the economics of the operation.  This could be one key focus area for Solaplast 2100 series resins.
  • Solaplast 2100 has other promising applications in agriculture and horticulture include: films for banana bushes & grapevine bushes which have to be protected from dust and environmental influences.
  • Solaplast 2100 series may potentially also offer opportunities for pot-plant marketing. Herb pots are a good example. Once the herbs are harvested, everything including the film can be composted. Alternatively, products can simply be planted into their pot, which is very convenient for hobby gardeners.
  • Solaplast 1223 may be used for durable applications such as: fastening technology; plant pots for propagation/cultivation; fertilizer rods; or pheromone traps.

Consumer Packaging

The potential use of Solaplast grade resins within the packaging market is very feasible. The polymers used for diverse applications can be biobased, biodegradable or durable. The type of bioplastics material utilized depends on the application.

There is no larger market segment in the plastics industry than the packaging segment. More than a third of all plastics are converted into packaging, approximately 100 million tones worldwide.

In Western industrial countries, 50 percent of all goods are packaged in plastics.  Without the various available packaging solutions many sensitive goods would perish or be damaged en route to the customer.

Despite its extreme lightweight, plastics packaging can also be easily adapted to meet specific application demands.  However, the enormous consumption of conventional plastics in packaging means that today’s societal demands are not met. The question therefore arises, how to turn plastics packaging solutions into more sustainable products.

The overarching problem of climate change and a noticeable drastic change in fossil resources have accelerated the search for better concepts for plastics packaging. Approaches to reuse and recycle plastics in closed loops need to be developed, keeping the guiding principle of efficient use of resources in sight at all times.  With the corresponding demands of converters and brand owners further driving the development of new solutions, bioplastics are expanding beyond their niche into the packaging segment.

Bioplastics use resources as efficiently as is currently possible while keeping food safe, enduring high heat, reducing CO2, and offering new recovery options. In short, bioplastics packaging offer the same qualities as conventional packaging and even more.

There is a high demand for packaging made from bioplastics to be used for wrapping organic food as well as for premium and branded products with particular requirements. Market introduction is making dynamic progress with growth rates ranging from 20-100 percent, annually.  Bioplastics productioncapacities have been forecasted to grow to more than 6 million tonnes by 2017 with most of these new volumes being converted to innovative packaging solutions.

Governments can further foster this trend by promoting bioplastics packaging in the context of their innovation, resource and climate change policies. The transition from a fossil-based economy to a bio-economy is an important global 2020 Strategy target.

All types of bioplastics used in packaging offer one outstanding advantage over fossil-based products: The use of renewable resources and, by consequence, the intrinsic value proposition of reducing the environmental impact of packaging.

Packaging made from bioplastics can be processed with all customary plastics processing technologies. No special machinery is required. Depending on the type of bioplastics used, only the processing parameters have to be adjusted.

Rigid Packaging

Rigid bioplastics applications are available, e.g. for cosmetics packaging of compact powders, creams and lipsticks as well as beverage bottles.  Solaplast 1223 would potentially fall within this category and could be a potential fit for rigid packaging applications.

Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson count on bio-PP & PE to package different kinds of cosmetic products.  The high percentage of biobased material in these products and the ability to combine them with recyclates from conventional PP has resulted in a decisive increase in resource efficiency and a reduction of CO2 emissions.

Flexible Packaging

Many different bioplastics are used for flexible packaging solutions.  Biodegradability is a feature often sought when it comes to food packaging products for perishables. Biodegradable food packaging certified as industrially compostable was the first successfully commercialized bioplastic product. Solaplast 1223 could be positioned for use within films and trays are particularly suitable for fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables as they enable longer shelf life. In addition, confectionaries, such as chocolate and biscuits or dry food such as tea or muesli, are now being packaged with bioplastics.

Automotive Markets

Reducing fuel consumption and emissions by reducing a vehicle’s weight is a central objective and major challenge for the automotive industry. A number of bioplastics materials are well suited to contributing towards this goal. Leading automotive brands around the world is successfully using Biobased plastics, polyesters and polypropylenes.  The goal is to reduce their products’ environmental impact.

Technical applications within the automotive sector are one of the most important upcoming growth markets for bioplastics.  Volumes are expected to grow from around 100,000 tonnes to 600,000 tones over the next five years.

Lightweighting is a hot topic for the automotive industry and the main reason why plastics have continuously been used to substitute heavier materials such as metals. Beyond the benefits of reduced weight, the future lies in choosing the most resource efficient plastics, i.e. bioplastics. This helps minimizing the environmental impact of car production by further reducing CO2 emissions and energy use. Besides these evident advantages, e.g. biobased performance polymers (biobased polyesters & polypropylene/biobased polyamides, bio based poly propylenes) feature all the performance criteria important to high quality car components.

A front-runner in adopting bioplastics is Japanese car manufacturer Toyota which uses bioplastics such as biobased polyesters, biobased PP, and PLA-blends in its production process. Toyota has set the target of replacing 20 percent by weight of all oil-based plastics for cars with bioplastics by 2015. The Toyota SAI and Toyota Prius models already feature a number of bioplastic applications such as headliners, sun visors, or floor mats. Up to 60 percent of the interior fabrics are made of biobased polyesters, which provide mechanical properties equal to or even better than PBT.

There are potential applications for Solaplast 1223 to be used as a biobased polyester verse traditional polyesters.  Some of the features that may be observed with Solaplast 1223 within the textile fiber market are:

  • Provide a higher stiffness
  • Features very good dimensional stability and lower warpage
  • Features better thermal shock resistance
  • Provides good electrical properties
  • Are easier to process
  • Provides a better surface gloss

Bioplastics have reached maturity as a suitable material for a large number of automotive applications, offering high performance and a unique potential for reducing a product’s environmental impact. It is therefore no surprise that the automotive market is one of the fastest growing application fields for the bioplastics industry.

Industrial/Construction Industry

Research is showing that bio-composites, a new class of construction material, has reduced energy costs and pollution from production as well as greater resource potential after demolition.  There are a variety of bio-composites in terms of biodegradability and mechanical performance that could fit within this space.  One needs to identify where bio-composites can best be used in the building industry today and what fundamental advancements are needed to facilitate more widespread application of these clean, energy-efficient and resource-rich construction materials.

One such area is faux lumber is made from a new, biodegradable plastic that could be used in a variety of building materials and perhaps replace the petrochemical plastics now used in billions of disposable water bottles.     This is a great opportunity to make products that serve a societal need and respect and protect the natural environment.

Solaplast 2000 or 2100 series resins could be used with other biodegradable composites, or “biocomposites”-glue-like resins reinforced with natural fibers that are made from plants and recyclable polymers within this application.

Solaplast 1223 could be stable enough to use in durable applications such as furniture, floors and a variety of other building materials.

3D Printing

Biobased inks are finding their way into this market.  Solaplast 2000 series could potentially be used as a biodegradable plastic that combines easy processing and a superior print finish, while offering much higher print speeds.

Plant-based plastics are already a popular choice for 3D printing because they are much easier to work with during processing, and are food safe and have lower odor verse traditional solvent based inks. They are a great example of how sustainable alternatives can gain market share based on their performance, rather than just their ‘green credentials’. However, oil-based printing filaments are still used because they have a higher softening point and make more flexible models that will bend before they break.

Solaplast 2000 series could combine the benefit of both plant and oil-based printing filaments and demonstrates that high performance.   Plant-based plastics can be the ideal material for the 3D printing industry.   Solaplast 2000 series could potentially show a superior finish and flexibility with ease of processing and excellent printed detail. In addition, and perhaps most importantly for the industry, it runs at much higher print speeds, reducing overall job times.

Consumer Electronics

A large proportion of consumer electrical appliances are made of plastics. Today, casings, circuit boards and data storage are made of plastic to ensure the appliances are light and mobile whilst being tough and, where necessary, durable. An increasing range of bioplastic products is introduced in the fast-moving consumer electronics sector: touch screen computer casings, loud speakers, keyboard elements, mobile casings, vacuum cleaners or a mouse for a laptop.

In the automotive industry manufacturers have turned to biobased or partly biobased durable bioplastics to produce sturdy dashboard components as well as solid interior and exterior features. Components made completely or partially from bioplastics can provide a standard of safety that is of ultimate importance in the transportation sector. The products include seat and airbag covers as well as steering wheels.

With new innovations on the way, Solaplast 1223 could potentially take up a greater share of the composition of both automobiles and high-quality, fast-moving consumer electronics.