Commodity plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene consume up to 270 million tons of petroleum annually. Their production contributes to environmental problems related to the exploration, production, and distribution of oil. In addition, despite being recycleable, as much as 80% of the 100 million tons of plastic produced annually end up in landfills where they remain indefinitely. As such, there are significant environmental issues related to the production and disposal of petroleum-based plastics and while improved recycling programs or the development of biodegradable plastics would help lessen the environmental impact, the fact that these materials consume up to 7-8% of the world's annual oil production is still a significant issue.
To address this, "bioplastics" that are biodegradable and/or made from renewable resources are being developed. The bioplastics market, specifically polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), starch-based materials, and soy-based materials, is expected to experience significant growth (20-26% compound annual growth rate (CAGR)) over the coming years as consumer demand for these "green" plastics increases to an estimated market value of $1.8B USD by 2013. The global PHA market is expected to experience significant growth over the coming years and be worth $444M USD by 2015, according to the "Global Biopolymers Market Analysis and Forcast to 2015" by Global Markets Direct.