The packaging and PET bottle industries represent huge potential markets for bio-based plastics, as innovations in the production of polylactic acid continue to improve performance, according to this analysis. However, because of PLA's subpar barrier properties, it only competes with PET in thermoforming applications, according to consultancy firm Smithers Pira. "Assuming PLA can displace 20% of this volume gives a potential market of 200,000 tonnes by 2015," said Jim Lunt, managing director at Jim Lunt & Associates.

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