Among the highlights of the 8th European Bioplastics Conference, which was held on the 10 and 11 December in Berlin, was the annual market data update by European Bioplastics and the Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (IfBB - University of Applied Arts Hannover, Germany). The data emphasised the success of bioplastics industry with production capacities multiplying from around 1.4 million tonnes in 2012 to more than 6 million tonnes in 2017.
“Our market data update once more affirms above average growth in the bioplastics industry around the world", said François de Bie, Chairman of the Board of European Bioplastics. “Continuous growth can be expected with regard to all bioplastic material types and in a range of very diverse market segments - from packaging to fibres to consumer electronics.”
All material types are gaining ground with biobased, non-biodegradable solutions, such as biobased PE and biobased PET, leading the field. Biodegradable plastics, including e.g. PLA, biodegradable polyesters and starch-blends, are also demonstrating impressive growth rates. Production capacity will gain around 60 percent by 2017. European Bioplastics also highlighted that the packaging market will remain the leading segment for bioplastics applications.
European Bioplastics’ current data shows that Europe and North America remain interesting as locations for research and development and also important as sales markets. However, the association highlights that the establishment of new production capacities is favoured in South America and Asia.
The environmental benefits of bioplastics were also underlined during the conference.
“Bioplastics made from bio-feedstock, and reintegrated into the biosphere as a nutrient, or recycled together with conventional plastic, clearly have a potential for being a truly sustainable material. And it could reduce fossil fuel consumption,” stated EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik in his opening speech. In a video message, he pointed to the crucial role bioplastics can play in Europe‘s transition towards a circular biobased economy.
Even if considering the forecasted growth rates, the actual land used for sourcing renewable feedstock for bioplastics will amount only to approximately 0.02 percent of the global agricultural area, says European Bioplastics.
Panel discussions and presentations during the conference highlighted that Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) remain the best available tool to assess the environmental performance of bioplastics as fact-based as possible. However, panellists also stressed the need to use state of the art and valid methodologies and to provide easy to use tools to consumers to understand these assessments.