When we think about petroleum, we generally think about the stuff that makes our cars run – which is definitely what most of it is used for in this country. But a significant amount goes into “Just one word – plastics.”
That famous line from the 1967 film “The Graduate” can be applied to the great potential in plastics from agricultural products. A recent study from the European Bioplastics and the European Polysaccharide Network of Excellence estimates that “up to 90% of total plastics consumed could be replaced by bio-based polymers.”
A company called Cereplast expects the U.S. bio-plastics market to top $10 billion in sales by 2020. The company makes renewable plastics using starches from tapioca, corn, wheat and potatoes and plans to launch a family of algae-based resin products. They believe the potential market is enormous, since petroleum is used in nearly every product we buy from toys and toothbrushes to contact lenses and electronics.
According to Cereplast CEO Frederic Scheer, “This study found that in 2007, only 0.3% of global plastic production was bio-based. By 2013 we expect that overall bio-plastics manufacturing capacity will increase by approximately seven times current levels, which still barely taps the surface. Demand is huge and will increase exponentially according to all the indicators we are watching.”
With companies like Coca-Cola and Walmart turning to more environmentally-conscious plastic packaging, Scheer believes that biodegradable resins “can compete with their petroleum counterparts and help break the world’s addiction to oil.”
Farmers can not only provide food, feed, fiber, and fuel – but the bags and containers to carry it in!