The bioplastic industry will be glad to hear that well-known branded companies such as Coca-Cola, Ford Motor, Heinz, Nike and Procter & Gamble, have teamed up to accelerate the development and use of 100% plant-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic materials and fibers in their products.
PTC members said "it is committed to developing commercial solutions for PET plastic made entirely from plants, and will aim to drive the development of common methodologies and standards for the use of plant-based plastic including life cycle analyses and universal terminology."
This is a good sign for the bioplastic community especially these days when the global plastics industry in general is facing a downturn because of macroeconomic uncertainty. If demand is weak and pricing for traditional petrochemical-based plastics are going down, plastic converters are not interested to invest in premium bioplastics.
For those who are not familiar with PET, this is traditionally manufactured by combining ethylene glycol (EG) with polyethylene terephthalic acid (PTA).
According to ICIS' official chemical economist Paul Hodges on his Chemicals and the Economy blog, US ethylene prices are already 44% down over the past 7 weeks. PTA in China (which is globally the largest producer) is down 23% as buying interest was said to be low because of persistently weak polyester demand and downbeat outlook curtailed buying activity.
Added to this weak demand is that China and India's PTA capacity is expected to reach 69m tonnes/year in 2015, a 60% increase from 43m tonnes/year this year, according to ICIS.
On its own, 100% plant-based PET will not be able to survive its infancy stage if cheap petroleum-based PTA materials and cheap ethylene from North America will deluge the global market. The backing and commitment of consumer branded companies through this collaboration is an assurance that they are ready to move the bioplastic industry forward even if it means losing margins in the near term.