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The global production of bioplastics will be able to grow by 400% in 2016

News International-French

25 Feb 2014

As Mr. Miguel A. Sibila states, researcher of the Department of Sustainability and Industrial Valorisation of AIMPLAS, bioplastics are a big potencial business.

According to Mr. Sibila (in the image), the current global production capacity of bioplastics, including both biodegradable and bio-based plastics is about 1.5 million tonnes, which supposes a total revenue of about 4,400 million Euros. In addition, for the upcoming years, a significant growth of the bioplastic market growth is expected. Some sources estimate an increase of the global production capacity by 400%, reaching values of about 5,8 million tonnes in 2016 In terms of renevue, this bioplastics market would reach more than 13,700 million Euros.

According to Mr. Sibila, these growth rates are mainly due to two factors: their high technical substitution potential compared to conventional materials and their environmental benefits.

From an environmental point of view, bioplastics are an attractive and sustainable alternative to conventional materials. On the one hand, the use of natural raw materials reduce both the dependence on fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases emissions to the atmosphere at the end of life (30%-80% depending on the material and application). On the other hand, biodegradable plastics can be jointly managed at the end of life with other organic waste.

Although bioplastics are found in a wide range of market segments (Packaging, Agriculture, Construction, Automotive), Packaging and Transport Automotive are currently leading the bioplastics market. According to Mr. Sibila, in 2011 the global bioplastic production capacity for packaging and technical applications (including the Transport and Automovile segment) amounted to around 810,000 tonnes and 104,000 tonnes, respectively.

Types and challenges of bioplastics
Non-biodegradable plastics from renewable raw materials, also known as durables, are currently leading the bioplastic market. According to some sources the current global production capacity of these materials is about 930,000 tonnes, compared to the estimated 543,000 tonnes of biodegradable plastics. In addition, a strong growth of both durables and biodegradable plastics is expected in the upcoming years, reaching a global production capacity of about 5 million tonnes of durables and 0.78 million tonnes of biodegradable plastics in 2016.

Despite bioplastics market is emerging, there are still some aspects that bioplastics industry shall deal with to overcome their limitations. From a structural point of view, biodegradable plastics show certain limitations in terms of  physical, chemical and mechanical properties. On the other hand, its current production capacity is significantly lower than production capacity of conventional plastics, which reduces its substitution potential and increases the price of the final product. In some cases, this final price is they are considerably lower than those for conventional plastics.

Nowadays, a large number of research projects are being developed in order to overcome the limitations of these materials. These projects are aimed at improvement of mechanical properties by using synthetic fibres, improvement of barrier materials, enhancement of multifunctional properties, development of  high added value products in the Automotive and Consumer Electronic segments and increase of the renewable content of the final product.