While materials like polylactic acid currently get most of the attention, bioplastics experts believe that eventually the majority of bio-based resins will be conventional resins — such as polyethylene and polypropylene — made from renewable resources rather than from petroleum.
“The next generation of bio-plastic resins is already coming,” said Jim Lunt of Jim Lunt & Associates LLC in Wayzata, Minn. “There is increasing interest and development in making both existing and new monomers from renewable resources. We are transitioning from oil-based to renewable feedstocks.”
Braskem SA, for example, is expected to begin making sugar-cane based ethylene that will be turned into polyethylene at its plant in Triunfo Brazil, starting in August, with annual output projected to be 400 million pounds. That will be the first plant to produce traditional plastics resins on an industrial scale using a 100 percent renewable feedstock.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. has already announced plans to use Braskem’s sugarcane- derived PE in selected packaging on its Pantene Pro-V, Covergirl and Max Factor products.
Brian Balmer, performance materials industry principal for Frost & Sullivan Inc., said polymers like PE and PP behave the same regardless of whether they are made from oil or bio-based feedstocks. While some end-users may be reluctant to use new materials, “there are all sorts of things that people are developing to make existing polymers from renewable resources.”
Plastics News, 2010-08-12.