Bioplastics still have the wind in their sails. Consumers are indeed more and more alert on the origin of the product that they buy as well as in favor of sustainability and protection of the environment.
The transition to a circular economy and a low carbon and the bioeconomy which is receiving a strong policy support are as many factors that contribute to a growth by 20% of the global bioplastics production for the five years to come. According to the last predictions, it will reach 2.44 million tons in 2022.
Among the biobased and biodegradable plastics, polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalcanoaltes (PHAs) generate a lot of interest today. PLA is very versatile and can be use for numerous applications like in the medical field or the packaging industry thanks notably to its barrier properties. PHA’s being a large polymer family, it is possible to obtain very diverse mechanical and physical properties depending to their chemical composition. If the estimation for the production capacities of PLA is set to be multiplicated by 1.5 by 2022, the ones for PHA should be multiplicated by 3.
On the non-biodegradable polymers side, the biobased polyethylene (PE), the biobased polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and the biobased polyamides (PA) represent today 50% of the biobased polymers market meaning approximately 1 million tons produced. Although the growth of the biobased PE seems to continue on the same rhythm, the growth of PET should be slowed down to the profit of the polyethylene furanoate (PEF). The PEF is a new material having similar properties to PET but having the benefit to be 100% biobased and having more performing barrier and thermal properties. Currently at the end of its development, its upcoming on the market should be in 2020.
Bioplastics for all the fields
Bioplastics can be found in numerous sectors as in packaging, textile, consumer goods, automotive and transportation, agriculture and horticulture. The packaging field is the one with the biggest market share in 2017 with almost 60% and this trend will not slow down in the next five years. If Asia still own more than 50% of the biobased plastics global production capacities, Europe will improve its bioplastics industry and thanks notably to a transition to a circular economy, increase from 18 to 25% its production capacity.
Contrary to some beliefs, lands used to cultivate the renewable feedstock for the production of bioplastics are not in competition with arable lands. Indeed, only 0.02% of the soils are used for the production of new material for the biobased plastics against 37% for the grazing land and 25% for the agricultural land. The rise of the bioplastics will not increase the area of necessary land for its production. Furthermore, with the use of second and third generation biomass currently industrialized raw materials from wood, micro-algae or waste will need less and less lands for its production.
Source: European Bioplastics