Polylactic Acid (PLA) Market: The Green Plastic Revolution

According to Inkwood Research, the global polylactic acid market is projected to develop with a CAGR of 18.26% during the forecast period 2024-2032. The polylactic acid market has prompted a shift in research efforts by scientists and polymer-related companies, stimulated by growing concerns about the impact of microplastics on living organisms. 

The emphasis is on creating eco-friendly plastics that degrade the environment without harmful by-products, aiming to replace non-degradable fossil-based plastics. Furthermore, in a world combating plastic pollution and climate change, the PLA market is pivotal. 

With growing consumer demands for sustainability and government regulations curbing single-use plastics, the market is experiencing rapid expansion. PLA also delivers robust strength and durability, making it ideal for diverse applications. For example, in medical applications, PLA is spun into sutures and controlled drug release devices leveraging its strength and biocompatibility.

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Polylactic Acid (PLA) Market - Inkwood Research

Polylactic Acid (PLA) Market: Environmental Threats and Sustainable Shifts

  • Industrial plastic production began in the early 1950s, with current global estimates ranging from 8.3 to 9.1 million metric tons. Over 50% is used in packaging, posing challenges for recycling due to their lightweight nature. Unfortunately, 79% of produced plastics end up in landfills or scattered in the environment.
  • Most commercially produced plastics are derived from fossil-based materials, known for their stability and slow environmental degradation, primarily due to exposure to UV irradiation. This degradation forms microplastics (MPs), recognized in the past 10–20 years as a significant threat to both microorganisms and human health. MPs are found in oceans, sediments, rivers, and sewage systems.
  • Concerns over microplastics have driven a surge in research on biodegradable plastics and bio-based polymers as alternatives to traditional petroleum-based materials.

The Green Gold Rush: Navigating the Booming Polylactic Acid Market

PLA, the biodegradable bioplastic, is transforming sustainability. The innovative material breaks down in backyard compost bins, providing an eco-friendly alternative to conventional plastics with a lasting environmental impact.

PLA goes beyond eco-friendliness; it’s a versatile thermoplastic sourced from renewable materials like corn starch or sugarcane. This not only reduces reliance on fossil fuels but also minimizes the carbon footprint compared to traditional plastics.

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Polylactic Acid Market: Packaging & Beyond

  • Packaging constitutes a significant proportion of plastic waste. Plastic bottles, food containers, and shopping bags contribute significantly to pollution. 
  • PLA offers a compelling solution. Its versatility allows it to emulate the functionalities of traditional plastics, forming rigid containers, flexible films, and sturdy bottles. The food service industry is already embracing PLA-based straws, cups, and cutlery, offering eco-conscious alternatives to single-use plastics.
  • While PLA displays good strength and clarity, its heat resistance lags behind conventional plastics. This limits its use in applications requiring high temperatures, like hot beverages or microwaveable containers. Additionally, PLA production costs are currently higher than traditional plastics, creating a price barrier for some consumers.

PLA’s potential goes well beyond packaging. Its biocompatibility and biodegradability make it a standout in medicine, offering safer alternatives with PLA sutures, implants, and drug delivery systems. The textile industry is also tapping into PLA for eco-friendly and breathable garments. PLA’s versatility extends far past packaging, leaving its mark in both healthcare and fashion.

The 3D printing revolution finds a valuable ally in PLA. Its printability and biodegradability make it ideal for creating intricate designs and prototypes, minimizing waste and environmental impact. The possibilities seem endless, from sustainable furniture and construction materials to agricultural ground cover and even green electronics.

Trailblazers in PLA Market: Innovation in Action

  • Evonik, a German chemical giant, partnered with Adidas to create the world’s first fully biodegradable running shoe, the Futurecraft Loop. Every component, from the upper to the midsole, is crafted from PLA, showcasing the potential for PLA in high-performance applications.
  • NatureWorks, a leading PLA producer, partnered with Danimer Scientific to develop PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates), a new bioplastic even more resilient than PLA. Their collaboration yielded a revolutionary material called Luminen, used in foodservice products like straws and cutlery that biodegrade in industrial composting facilities within weeks, significantly reducing landfill waste.
  • The packaging giant PepsiCo is making waves with their Aquafina 100% plant-based bottle, made entirely from PLA. This initiative demonstrates the scalability of PLA in mainstream consumer products, with the potential to divert millions of plastic bottles from landfills.


PLA’s Double Impact: Less Waste & Lower Emissions 

Widespread adoption of PLA holds immense potential, with projections indicating that a mere 10% shift in packaging to PLA could prevent the annual accumulation of 2.6 million tons of plastic waste. This not only promises cleaner oceans and safer ecosystems but also ensures healthier communities.

A Quantis study revealed that PLA generates up to 70% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than PET throughout its lifecycle. This substantial reduction contributes to addressing the urgent climate crisis, presenting PLA as a sustainable alternative for a carbon-conscious future.

Research & Development: Refining the Green Knight

The quest for a perfect PLA doesn’t end with initial successes. Researchers are actively working on overcoming its limitations. Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are exploring modifying PLA’s structure to improve its heat resistance, potentially opening doors for its use in hot-fill applications and microwaveable containers.

Further, research teams at MIT are focusing on developing PLA composites, blending them with other bio-based materials like cellulose or wood plastic components, to enhance their strength and flexibility. This could unlock its potential for even more diverse applications, from construction materials to automotive parts. The continual initiatives underway depict a narrative of sustained enhancement, securing PLA’s position as a leader in the ongoing sustainability revolution.

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PLA Emerges as Leading Bioplastic Across Industries

Did you know the first disposable coffee cup made from PLA was launched in 2006? Or that PLA fibers are being used to create sustainable apparel alternatives? 

Polylactic acid is transforming the bioplastics market with its eco-friendly and sustainable attributes. As the demand for environmentally conscious alternatives grows, PLA’s biodegradability and renewable sourcing from materials like corn starch or sugarcane position it as a key player globally. The intelligence and versatility of PLA are anticipated to drive substantial growth in the polylactic acid market over the forecasting period.

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By Saurabh Sanghavi


Traditional plastic production contributes to significant pollution, with over 50% of plastics used in packaging. PLA offers an eco-friendly alternative, aiming to reduce pollution and replace non-degradable fossil-based plastics.

Ongoing research aims to overcome limitations, with efforts to improve PLA’s heat resistance and develop composites for enhanced strength and flexibility. These initiatives depict a narrative of sustained enhancement, positioning PLA as a leader in sustainability.