Brian R. Hook
plastics – biodegradable in soil or in a composting
environment – may only be a small section of the
overall plastics market, but that sliver is growing.
“There is a lot of growth” in the compostable
plastics markets, said Keith Edwards, who works in market
development out of Cincinnati for Florham Park, New
Jersey based BASF Corp. – the North American affiliate
of the German-based BASF Aktiengesellschaft (AG). He
said that sales of the company’s compostable-product,
trademarked Ecoflex, grew 25 percent in 2004. He expects
Ecoflex sales to grow slightly more than that this year.
Ecoflex is designed to look, feel and perform like low-density
polyethylene, Edwards said. He said it can be used for
plastic bags and films. It also can be used for paper
coatings, but he said compostable bags are currently
driving the Ecoflex market.
“You can safely say that within eight weeks a
bag composed of Ecoflex is basically going to be gone,”
Edwards said, assuming that it is used in commercial
composting programs that have well defined temperature
and moisture levels.
“There are signs everywhere that the market is
growing,” Edwards said. To meet growing demand,
BASF has announced plans to build a new Ecoflex plant
in Germany. As first reported last month by American
Recycler, this new plant would almost double BASF’s
Ecoflex capacity to around 14,000 tons a year. “Companies,
like BASF, see the market continuing to grow and are
putting resources behind the product,” he said.
keep this momentum moving, Edwards said that the current
international trend toward setting standards for compostable
products is an important development. “There is
a lot of credibility still lacking because of some campaigns
done in the past where products were called biodegradable
and they really weren’t,” he said.
The Biodegradable Products Institute, a not-for-profit
trade organization based in New York, promotes the use
of biodegradable polymeric material. The group, which
also certifies compostable products, is open to any
compostable materials and products that meet international
testing requirements set by ASTM International, originally
known as the American Society for Testing Materials,
based in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
BPI is also part of the International Compostability
Certification Network, which includes similar trade
groups in Europe, Japan, China and Taiwan. “Essentially
we’ve agreed to work together to harmonize the
specifications around the world so that manufacturers
need only one fundamental set of criteria,” said
Steve Mojo, executive director at BPI. “Marketers
don’t need to redo the tests, which saves them
Mojo said that he expects the market for compostable
plastics, especially compostable plastic bags, to grow
“dramatically” over the next few years along
with the trend toward diverting food-waste to composting
sites. He said that cities like San Francisco are leading
the way by separating organic material from the waste