Bioplastic, studies and reports

Strong bioplastic growth led by bio-PET

Another delayed post is this press release last week from the industry trade group, European Bioplastics, on their annual report on the global bioplastic capacity/production status and five-year growth projections.

The report, which is published in cooperation with the Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites from the University of Hannover (Germany), noted a fivefold growth of the global bioplastics production capacity — from 1.2m tonnes in 2011 to 5.8m tonnes projected for 2016.

The strongest growth will be led by bio-based, non-biodegradable bioplastics group such as bio-PE (polyethylene) and bio-PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which are dubbed “drop-in” solutions. Remember our bioplastic cheat sheet here?

According to the European Bioplastic report, biobased PET is already accounting for 40% of the global bioplastics production capacity. Partially biobased PET will continue to grow to more than 4.6m tonnes by 2016, which will accoount for 80% of the total bioplastics production capacity in that time frame.

Following PET is biobased PE with 250,000 tonnes, accounting for more than 4% of total production capacity.

Biodegradable plastics such as PLA (polylactic acid) and PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) are also contributing to the growth, says Hasso von Pogrell, managing director of European Bioplastics. PLA global capacity is projected to grow to 298,000 tonnes (up by 60% from 2011), and PHA capacity to 142,000 tonnes (up by 700% from 2011 baseline).

Production trend in terms of location, however, seems to be shifting to Asia and South America. Europe and North America are reportedly still hotspots for research and development as well as sales markets.

Because of this shifting production trend, European Bioplastics is calling European policy makers to do something about it and make biobased product markets as key priority in their industrial policy highlights.

In other recent bioplastic market reports, Transparency Market Research also released its new study stating that the global synthetic and bio-based biodegradable plastics market was worth $2.3bn in 2011 and is expected to reach $7.8bn in 2018, growing at an aggregate growth rate of 19.5% within the period.

Europe is said to continue leading the market in terms of revenue, and will account for 37% of the global market revenue share in 2018. Asia Pacific, meanwhile is expected to grow at 26% from 2011 to 2018 in terms of market share.

I guess this next study will dampen bioplastic’s good news as according to Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA), the overall ecological benefits of renewable-based biodegradable plastics used in packaging  is no better than traditional petroleum-based plastics.

The study, according to UBA, was commissioned to determine whether the special provisions for biodegradable plastic packaging introduced by the German Packaging Ordinance –which are due to expire at the end of this year — are still defensible from an ecological viewpoint.

“The bottom line is that packaging made of so-called bioplastics are not better for the environment. The climate impact of bioplastics may score better, but they are negative in a number of other environmental areas,” said Jochen Flasbarth, President of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA).

“The study results make a case for ending the special regulations for this type of packaging, which include exemption of retailers from the take-back obligation.”

The use of fertilizers is the culprit as according to the study, the farming and processing of the plants used in packaging cause more severe acidification of soil and eutrophication of water bodies than the production of common plastic packaging. This also leads to higher level of particulate emissions.

“Reusable bags made of fabrics and other durable materials are in fact the real ecological alternative.” – UBA

This should be an interesting topic to follow up at the upcoming 7th European Bioplastics Conference on November 6 and 7 to be held in Berlin. I wish I could attend!

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.

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