Three leading Danish companies, the industrial enzyme companies Danisco and Novozymes, and the catalysis technology company Haldor Topsoe, have spotted a potential future gold mine in making plastics and synthetic rubber from plant materials instead of from fossil fuel sources, reports financial daily newspaper Børsen.
Haldor Topsoe project director Claus Hviid Christensen commented: "It will be a phenomenal market. Plants are the only alternative for replacing fossil resources in the chemical industry. So in the long term bioplastics will take over the whole plastics market, but it's difficult to foresee if the conversion is already under way or will first begin in 10 years."
Combating climate change, and the scarcity of oil will be the two primary parameters that will open the way to bioplastics. Production of conventional plastics accounts for 5% of the world's oil consumption, so there is a huge CO2 saving to be made by making plastics and synthetic rubber from plants.
Via its enzyme division Genencor, Danisco has entered a partnership with tyre manufacturer Goodyear on developing and producing bio-based isoprene, which is the basic molecular building block of the rubber polymer. Danisco estimates that the potential world market for bio-based isoprene is around DKK 5-10bn (USD 850m-1.7bn) annually.
Meanwhile Novozymes has entered a research collaboration with the Technical University of Denmark to develop components for bioplastics, with support from the High Technology Fund. In addition Novozymes has embarked on a four year research project with US firm Cargill to develop a bio-based monomer that can be converted into acrylic acid, which is especially used in plastic paints and superabsorbents.