Enhancements in chemical technologies during the Second World War gave us new types of plastics that could be mass-produced. Humans produce more than 300 tons of plastic every year, and only 3% of the total plastic produced is recycled, leaving the rest to pollute our landfills and oceans and even enter our food chains. This has led scientists to come up with a cleaner solution to this menace in the form of a bio-degradable material called shrilk.
Shrilk is a blend of silk protein and chitosan found naturally in the shells of shrimps. It provides protection without adding weight and offers material hardness comparable to that of aluminium alloy. Further, it can be easily decomposed when placed with composites and forms natural fertilizers. Growing demand from the packaging industry has improved the demand for shrilk, while the application in the medical field for wound healing has created upswing for the shrilk market.
Bottled water continues to make pronounced shifts in consumer preferences, with a wide variety of packaged bottles being introduced in the market, such as sparkling water, mineral-infused water, and flavored water, among others. As per the International Bottled Water Association’s 2018 report, consumption of the U.S. bottled water market increased from 12,808 million gallons to 13,7105 million gallons, recording a 7% growth rate. The report further predicted that the per person consumption of bottled water is likely to reach more than 50 gallons in the coming years. Plastics derived from shrilk have high biodegradability, can be molded in various shapes, and maintain the integrity of the packaged material. Thus, growth of the bottled water industry is expected to drive the growth of the shrilk market during the forecast period.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is one of the most commonly used polymers globally. Being naturally transparent and semi-crystalline, it finds applications in a variety of end uses, such as packaging, automobile, electrical electronics, textiles, and household appliances, among others. PET is non-biodegradable, meaning it photodegrades and breaks into smaller fragments that assimilate toxins, which seep into underground water systems and pollute water bodies, contaminate soils, and migrate into the food chain.
Globally, governments have come together to fight plastic pollution and implemented stringent norms to tackle the ill effects of PET disposal. For instance, the Basel Conference of the Parties, held in May 2019, amended the Basel Convention to include plastic waste in a legally binding framework, which required countries to take informed consent prior to exporting mixed plastic scrap. Furthermore, rising environmental consciousness about plastic pollution in the oceans has also led to the banning of plastics in many countries in a phased manner. These factors are expected to create opportunities for the shrilk market, as the product is used to make biodegradable plastics stronger than aluminium alloys.
Packaging is one of the fastest-growing and most promising industries of our times. Increasing per capita income and rising globalization have led to an increase in the demand for fast-moving consumer goods. With the growing demand for bottled water globally, the growth of shrilk used in the manufacture of bottles will see an upswing in the coming years. As per data provided by the Committee for Economic Development, the food sector accounts for about 5% of the GDP and total sales worth USD 1.4 trillion, including food consumed at home and away from home, out of which the food and beverage industry alone generates USD 164 billion. This highlights the immense potential of foods and beverages that use high-quality plastics derived from shrilk for packaging to preserve perishable foods and improve their shelf life.
The automotive industry plays a crucial role in the overall prosperity of the European economy. It represents a major chunk of the continent’s exports and accounts for around 13.5 million jobs. As per the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, total investments in Europe’s automotive sector amounted to around USD 60 billion in the year 2017, and the total vehicles produced in the year 2018 were pegged at around 17.3 million units, representing around 18.1% of the global figure.
The automotive industry uses plastics derived from shrilk extensively to make automotive components that exhibit superior resistance to high temperatures, good abrasion resistance, high strength, and chemical resistance, among other properties. Furthermore, plastics derived from shrilk exhibit strength comparable to that of aluminium alloys without adding extra weight. It is a well-known fact that a reduction in the overall weight of an automobile can improve fuel efficiency and make it economical in the longer run. Thus, solutions, such as shrilk, which can reduce weight without comprising performance and functionality are gaining widespread adoption in the automotive industry. Shrilk also finds use in fast, racing, high-performance cars that need to lightweight as well as sturdy.
Food and beverage is another leading industry in Europe, which is one of the most significant contributors to the region’s economy. As per FoodDrinkEurope, total external trade accounted for USD 121 billion, of which Europe held 18%. This has been backed by resurgent investments worth about USD 3.2 billion in R&D. Furthermore, the F&B industry's annual turnover was around USD 1.23 trillion in 2017, and it contributed around 2.1% to the total gross value added to the economy. The food and beverage sector drives the demand for plastics derived from shrilk, which are extensively used for packaging since they are transparent, semi-rigid, and lightweight, do not react with food and water, and maintain the integrity of the food. Thus, growth of the food and beverage industry is expected to drive the shrilk market in years to come.
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