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Investment in Plant-Based Disposables
Economy, Business And Markets

Investment in Plant-Based Disposables

Disposable plasticware started to grow in popularity in the late 20th century and is widely used in Iran. However, the market for such products has changed dramatically in recent years, driven mostly by growing concerns about their health and environmental impacts.
Today, a growing number of manufacturers are opting for degradable plant-based dishes and utensils, also known as bioplastics or biobased plastics.
The Persian daily Forsat-e Emrooz assessed the investment opportunities in the production of plant-based disposables.    
Since they are made from corn, sugarbeet, sugarcane, wheat, rice and potatoes, they easily decompose by 80% in about six months. This is while the lifecycle of oil-based plastic is 300-500 years.
There is also no health risk associated with biodegradable utensils as with oil-based plasticware. Experts believe the use of plasticware raises the risks of cancer when exposed to high temperature food.
For one thing, cheap raw materials are abundantly found. Also, bioplastics sell better, as consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the advantages of such products over oil-based materials. Add to it the fact that Iran is among the top 10 consumers of disposable products, which guarantees the profitability of manufacturing plant-based disposable products.
Plant-based plastics can be produced using several different processes, including starch conversion, microbial conversion and genetic modification of plants.
Nevertheless, the first method is more common due mostly to the simplicity of the process and lower production costs. In this method, biodegradable polymers are made from starch derived from crops. These are later extruded and formed into different products.
The main equipment needed in manufacturing biodegradable plastics include mixer for blending starch with materials such as plant-based fatty acids, cellulose, etc.; cooler, extruder, roller, vacuum forming or pressure forming machine; magnetic dryer and punching machine.
Both domestically made and foreign variants of those machines are available in the market. Manufacturers should consider the production speed and the amount of waste produced by the bioplastic machinery. The higher the production speed and lower the amount of waste, the pricier will be the equipment.
Marketing plays a vital role in the sale of bioplastics. Experts believe the main markets for biobased disposables products are corporations and restaurants seeking to use their own brands on kitchenware.
In the United States and many European countries, many chains tend to customize plant-based dishes to advertise their own brands, given the popularity of biodegradable plastics.
Manufacturing 1,000 tons of plant-based disposable products requires about $900,000 annually. The establishment of a typical firm would also need 2,000 square meters of space and 20 employees, including factory and office workers. Some 10 personnel are also needed for marketing and transportation.
The body in charge of issuing the required permits is the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade. Nonetheless, a certificate from the Department of Environment is also needed for starting a business.
The biggest advantage of bioplastic production includes incentives provided by the government for protecting the environment. These range from providing the manufacturers with finance and land to a shorter process for issuing the permit.

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