A Green Future for Plastics? The Formation of the Market for Bioplastics from an Economic Sociology Perspective
The politically driven future scenario of a "bioeconomy" promises to reconcile economic growth and environmental protection by promoting biotechnological innovations, renewable resources, and efficient material cycles. Bioplastics, which are either biodegradable or based on renewable resources, are a part of this envisioned transformation. They promise to save resources, lower CO2 emissions, and help to reduce plastic waste. While prospects of renewable sources and biodegradable plastics were already discussed in the 1970s and 1980s, market structures for bioplastics did not emerge until the 1990s. Despite their ecological as well as economic promise, however, bioplastics are still niche products today. The project examines the tension between anticipated technological advances and processes of market formation, exploring how technological visions are constructed, which social mechanisms contribute to their persuasive power, and which conflicts and material challenges hinder the development of market structures. The project contributes to the sociological understanding of how future prospects influence processes of market formation. The single case study draws on content and discourse analysis and semi-structured interviews. Project duration: October 2015 to March 2019.