nova-institute GmbH recently published a study on the consumption of biodegradable and compostable plastic products in Europe, which reportedly grew to 100,000 tons in 2015. Consumption is expected to grow beyond 300,000 tons in 2020 if the legal framework were to be set more favorably. This is based on an assumed annual growth rate of about 27% for the 5-year period.
An in-depth analysis of markets along with policies and current legislation was carried out for Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries. Italy, for example, was the first country to encourage compostable plastic bags. German markets, however, have been hampered by unfavorable legislation on biowaste.
The study found that about 2/3 of all products on the market are compostable bags, mainly used for shopping or the collection of biowaste. The top five bestsellers at EU markets in 2015 are shopping bags, biowaste bags, rigid packaging, disposable tableware and flexible packaging. A variety of bio-based PLA disposable tableware or packaging used for service and retail packaging goods are said to be sold in significant volumes, driven by big event caterers and very active internet-based distributors reacting to convenience and street sale trends.
PLA is said to be used for a broad spectrum of applications, ranging from non-woven fiber products or apparel, to beverage bottles and packaging foams. Starch-based materials are also pushing into new markets such as coffee capsules or auxiliaries in aquaculture. Functional products such as barrier packaging and various biodegradable outdoor uses are low volume today but have significant potential for market breakthrough. They could also provide the increased health and safety-related benefits consumers are asking for in applications such as toys and other children’s goods.
Other uses include applications such as agriculture mulch films, which have only a very small market share today in contrast to future market potential. The report does not cover loose-fill packaging foams based on extruded starch, which is estimated to have a maximum market volume of 6,000 tons in Europe last year for this application.