Bioplastic food packaging is getting “closer and closer” to its conventional plastic counterparts, and could soon challenge in the market, according to a bioplastics industry expert.
European Bioplastics chairman Andy Sweetman, who represents the interests of Europe’s growing bioplastics market, told FoodProductionDaily.com of a huge increase in the ability to deliver, “barrier properties and more conventional properties in bio-based and or compostable solutions.”
Although the use of bioplastics in the packaging sector is “still relatively small”, producers are expecting industry growth of about 30% per annum.
“It’s very much a growing industry, obviously conventional plastics are very strong in packaging markets and bioplastics are much more recent,” he added. “But as the technical properties of the materials have improved over the last few years there has been more and more interest in food market applications.”
“Fruit and vegetables is pretty much where it started – but now it’s moving more and more into mainstream long shelf life applications so we’ve started to see coffee packs, potato chip bags –products which you would never have seen in bioplastics just a couple of years ago.”
EU ‘2020’ goals
Sweetman spoke to FoodProductionDaily.com just days after an event which highlighted the benefits of using renewable bioplastics and the role they can play in the EU’s 2020 sustainability goals.
The EU hopes that by 2020 they will have better resource efficiency, and run a greener and more competitive economy.
During the conference, Plastics and the Bio-Economy: The Evolution of Bioplastics, some speakers voiced their concerns over the ‘niche’ status of bioplastics in the European market, but Dutch MEP Lambert Van Nistelrooij was more optimistic.
He said, “Bioplastics offer great opportunities for smart and sustainable growth in the EU. There are already numerous proposals for supportive measures with regard to bioplastics. It is vital that EU policy focuses on implementing them in the short and mid-term.”
European Bioplastics believe it is imperative that EU policy makers implement supportive measures with regards to bioplastics to meet these goals.
“What you’re looking to in the 2020 targets is a stronger move towards a bio-economy,” added Sweetman.
“And really what we’re trying to do in the European Union is point out that as you move towards a bio- economy you’re looking for more and more materials to be derived in a sustainable way.”
“It’s still early days; the industry is not much more than 10 years old. There’s still a long way to go.”