Biodegradable Polymers

Published - Aug 2001| Analyst - Melvin Schlechter| Code - PLS025A
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Report Highlights

  • The biodegradable polymer market in North America is estimated at 25 million pounds in 2000.
  • This market will increase to almost 35 million pounds by 2005, growing at an average annual rate (AAGR) of 7%.
  • Another 25 million pounds of the biodegradable product polylactic acid (PLA) are also expected by 2005, but in non-biodegradable applications.
  • The market is dominated by loose-fill packaging and compost bags, the latter of which will feature the largest growth, climbing at an AAGR of 9.9% through 2005.
  • Other applications such as agricultural films, hygiene-related products and paper coatings will represent 8% of the market in 2005.



The objective of this study is to provide an analysis of the biodegradable polymer market, which has not yet realized its potential due to several, critical yet unresolved issues.


Although biodegradable polymers have been commercial for over 20 years, this niche market is beset with a variety of roadblocks led by high prices and lack of an industrial infrastructure to deal with these materials.

With the recent demise of several, important biodegradable polymer products manufactured by major companies in the , there is a need for a realistic appraisal of the impact of these polymers over the next five years.


Although the term "biodegradable polymers" is well known, there are no universal standards in place, and in many instances, the fate of these materials in composting mediums is unclear. In addition, the major drivers for growth in North America stem from mandated legislation, which may not develop for some time.

The controversy within the industry as to which materials should be considered biodegradable continues unabated. Several of the materials in question include polyolefin-based compositions and polymers containing aromatic groups. Microorganisms have difficulty using these materials in their metabolism.

Part of the current debate is defining an acceptable period of time for the biodegradation to be completed. Almost all carbon-based materials biodegrade given an acceptable period of time.

This report includes polymers that producers market as fully biodegradable. Most producers define a fully biodegradable polymer as a polymer that is completely converted by microorganisms to carbon dioxide, water and humus. In the case of anaerobic biodegradation, carbon dioxide, methane, and humus are the degradation products.

This report covers the chemical types of biodegradable polymers, along with their properties, production, producers and applications. The companies involved will be detailed in terms of their products, including trade names, and their impact on the market. Definitions and standards, biodegradation testing, environmental issues, composting and relevant technologies will also be covered.

Consumption is provided for North America, but there is considerable information on both Western European and Japanese products, technologies, markets and companies because biodegradable polymers needs to viewed on a global scale.

Details are also provided for several keys companies no longer in the because it is important to discuss their efforts in order to more fully understand the pitfalls of the biodegradable polymer .


An extensive review of technical and market information along with a careful analysis of product literature was undertaken. Interviews were completed with major companies involved in the biodegradable polymer to clear up unresolved problems and to obtain their assessments of the current situation and to provide forecasts.

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