Bioplastics boom: Global production will triple in five years as Asia dominates, finds EUBP
01 Dec 2021 --- European Bioplastics (EUBP) has revealed global bioplastics production will more than triple over the next five years (2021-2026), according to market data compiled in cooperation with the nova-Institute. Notably, Asia is predicted to surpass 70% market share by 2026.
“The importance of a more than 200% growth rate within the next five years cannot be overstated,” says François de Bie, EUBP chairman, speaking at the ongoing European Bioplastics Conference in Berlin, Germany.
“Before 2026, the share of bioplastics in the total global production of plastics will surpass the 2% mark for the first time. Our formula for success is a strong belief in the abilities of our industry, the aspiration for continuous innovation, and the courage to make the necessary financial investments.”
The global bioplastics production capacity is set to increase significantly from around 2.4 million tons in 2021 to 7.5 million tons in 2026.
EUBP identifies biodegradable PBAT (polybutylene adipate terephthalate), the production of which will almost quadruple, but also PBS (polybutylene succinate) and bio-based PAs (polyamides), as the main growth drivers.
Polylactic acid (PLA) production will also continue to grow due to further investments in PLA production sites in Asia, the US, and Europe. Production capacities of bio-based polyolefins, such as PE (polyethylene) and PP (polypropylene), are likewise predicted to increase.
Biodegradable plastics, including PBAT, PLA, and polybutylene succinate (PBS), currently account for slightly over 64% (1.5 million tons) of the global bioplastics production capacities.
Bio-based, non-biodegradable plastics, including the drop-in solutions bio-based PE and bio-based PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and bio-based PA (polyamides) make up for almost 36% (0.8 million tons).
Packaging remains the largest field of application for bioplastics, with almost 48% (1.2 million tons) of the total bioplastics market in 2021.
The data also confirms bioplastics materials are already being used in many other sectors, and the portfolio of applications continues to diversify. Segments, such as consumer goods, fiber or agriculture and horticulture products, continue to increase moderately in their relative share.
With a view to regional capacity development, Asia further strengthened its position as a major production hub, with almost 50% of bioplastics currently being produced in the region.
Presently, almost a fourth of the production capacity is still located in Europe. However, EUBP predicts Europe’s share and the share of other world regions will significantly decrease within the next five years as Asian production strengthens. Asia is expected to surpass a 70% market share by 2026.
“We will see an impressive increase in bioplastics production over the next few years. This [production increase] also requires the expansion of production facilities,” explains Hasso von Pogrell, EUBP managing director. “This way, our industry will be able to respond to the growing demand for bioplastics. Like last year, this year we have seen the announcement of additional production sites.”
European bioplastics producers have long argued for more favorable EU legislation to support market growth. Notably, the EU Single Use Plastics Directive fails to differentiate between biodegradable or compostable plastics and petrochemical plastics.
Moreover, at the European Bioplastics Conference, EUBP expressed concerns the European Commission Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, comparing the environmental impact of fossil-based to bio-based feedstocks for plastics production, lacks essential elements unfavorable to the bioplastics market.
“Together with other bio-based industries, we support LCAs as a valuable instrument to measure environmental sustainability. Unfortunately, the approach of the JRC in this study lacks important elements crucial for a fair, comparative assessment of bio-based and fossil-based plastics,” argues von Pogrell. “As a result, it [the methodology] clearly favors conventional plastics made from fossil resources.”
No competition with food
The land used to grow the renewable feedstock for bioplastics production is estimated to reach 0.7 million hectares in 2021 and accounts for just over 0.01% of the global agricultural area of 5 billion hectares.
Moreover, in line with the estimated bioplastics production growth over the next five years, land use will increase but remain below 0.06 percent of total land share.
“In relation to the available agricultural area, this share is still minimal,” von Pogrell points out. “Thus, there is no competition between the renewable feedstock for food and feed and the production of bioplastics. Over 90% of the global agricultural area is used for pasture, feed and food.”
By Joshua Poole
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