Production of plastics is estimated at about 270 million tons (mt) per year world-wide and most of it originated from petroleum resources. The huge quantity of non-biodegradable plastics generated year after year due to limited recycling practices is posing an enormous challenge in disposing them of, after use. Bio-plastics are being touted as the answer to the hydrocarbon based plastics of to day. Of course, it certainly is not a panacea but if the world is compelled to move to a fossil fuel free state, some alternative options should be available to make plastics on which the modern society depends so heavily. If the studies by scientists from Utrecht University are any indication, Bio-plastics will definitely be a potential option in the years to come.
"In their study, Martin K. Patel, Li Shen and Juliane Haufe demonstrate that up to 90 percent of the current global consumption of polymers can technically be converted from oil and gas to renewable raw materials." But while that's a pretty huge number, this is a theoretical ceiling. In the short to mid-term, the numbers are much lower: "Based on recent company announcements the production capacity of bio-based plastics is projected to increase from 360,000 tons in 2007 to about 2.3 million tons by 2013." The production of Bio-plastics could grow by on average 37 percent annually until 2013. Ceresana Research predicts the largest growth rates in electronics and auto industries. The Freedonia Group, an industrial research company, sees demand growing fastest in the Asia-Pacific region, and some predict the U.S. market to reach $10 billion a year by 2020, a tenfold increase from 2007.
Probably world will be left with no choice but to use Bio-plastics, once the fossil fuels start dwindling and their cost starts climbing steeply. Most eligible candidates in the Bio-plastic group would be Starch based plastics, poly lactic acid (PLA) and Bio-based Polyethylene (PE) and Polyhydroxy Alkanoates (PHA). World has to go a long way before bio-plastics production can assume a dominant role for industrial use.