My grandmother always emphasized on the use of copper vessels, as the material was deemed to be healthy. But obviously I did not find it convenient to carry my food in it to work. The only alternative was the use of plastic tiffin boxes. Yes, the food smell did remain in the container which was very unpleasant. One day while at office I overheard my colleague talking about a new plastic – biodegradable plastic and its many benefits. I wondered how different was it from the normal plastic? Was it only restricted to store food or were there more benefits?
Why the need for Bio-plastic?
My curiosity to know more about it, led me to the fact that biodegradable plastic or bio-plastics have been around for at least 100 years. Bio-plastic utensils are different from plastic ones as they are derived from natural resources made from agricultural, cellulose, potatoes, corn starch waste corn oil, orange peels and plants. The material represents a new generation of plastics that reduces the impact on the environment, both in terms of energy consumption and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, they will more easily break down and decompose than traditional plastic will. Plastic is the most commonly used petroleum derivative in the world. It comes from a non-renewable source and it can take more than 1000 years to decompose.
The US and Europe are dominating in bio-plastic market, due to more and more consumers having strong environmental protection consciousness, high consumption levels and perfect sales channel (e.g. organic food stores and on-line shopping). Asia-Pacific also in an important market, but the bio-plastic market is developing slowly, because of the weak environmental awareness, and the high price. Compared to the conventional materials, the price of bio-plastic products is too high and it is hard to expand massively, as most of the retailers are reluctant to purchase bio-plastic products due to low demand, especially in countries with low consumption levels, such as China, Southeast Asia, India and South America.
Emergence of Bio-plastic products
The worldwide market for Bio-plastic Utensils is expected to grow at a CAGR of roughly 5.6% over the next five years, will reach US$42 million in 2024, from US$32 million in 2019. In more recent years, bio-plastics have been used in a variety of consumer products, such as food containers, grocery bags, bio-degradable utensils, and food packaging. It can also be used for electrical and electronic housings and enclosures. In future, as awareness of environment protection strengthening, and the rise of online shopping, people can buy bio-plastic utensils online through their smart phone conveniently, more and more people will choose to use bio-plastic utensils, not petrochemical plastics utensils.
Besides the use of bio-plastics in the food sector, the material is widely used by the electronic industry as they are light weight and durable. This plastic is also used for medical devices, as they are easy to sterilize, robust and aid better during surgeries. Bio-plastic is used by the aerospace and automotive industry to produce components that deliver high performance in terms of temperature control. In addition to the above the cosmetics industry makes use of bio-plastics for its numerous product packaging.
Bio-degradable plastics are safe for use, but they do have some drawbacks. For instance, they do not decompose easily unless they are disposed of properly. It has to be treated in the same way as compost. Although, the many benefits of the material would seem to overshadow any of the drawbacks, but it is still a matter of debate if bio-degradable plastics will someday replace traditional plastic.