Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Bioplastics Capacity Growing Fast; Most Plants in Asia, South America

The global bioplastics forecast released last week by the European Bioplastics trade group calls for total bioplastics production capacity to take a radical jump, from 1.2 million tonnes in 2011 to almost 6 million tonnes by 2016. The trade group said this forecast makes past projections obsolete.

That is certainly good news for the bioplastics sector and its customers, however European Plastics also noted what it termed a “disturbing trend”: The establishment of new bioplastic production facilities is taking place largely in Asia and South America. Europe and North America are interesting for R&D and their sales markets, they noted. Andy Sweetman, chairman of European Bioplastics pointed out that while many EU member states have issued supportive statements, “There is, however, a lack of concrete measures.”

There is sure to be much conversation about that at the European Bioplastics Conference on November 6-7 in Berlin, as

well as about the growth of specific bioplastic materials and types included in the trade group’s forecast.

The forecast says the strongest growth will be in the biobased, non-biodegradable bioplastic materials, especially those called drop-in solutions. The most prominent examples of drop-ins are the polyethylene (PE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) made from raw materials derived from renewable sources.

That comes as no surprise to those inside the bioplastics sector. The term “drop-in” means the biobased material can be used in the existing production process with no or minimal changes to the system. Both resin makers and their largest customers have been open about favoring drop-ins for some time.

European Bioplastics says biobased PET is in the lead with about 40% of global bioplastics production capacity. Partially biobased PET is forecast to have more than 4.6 million tonnes of production capacity by 2016, or 80% of the total bioplastics capacity. Biobased PE will have 250,000 tonnes of capacity in 2016, more than 4% of the total.

The trade group said biodegradable plastics also are showing impressive growth rates, with production capacity set to grow by two-thirds by 2016. The leading production capacities for biodegradables in 2016 will be 298,000 tonnes for polylactic acid (PLA) and 142,000 tonnes for Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). Hasso von Porgrell of European Bioplastics said this growth allows for the constantly increasing demand for sustainable solutions and that bioplastics have established positions in applications within the packaging, automotive, and electronics sectors.

Reflecting this anticipated growth, the Bioplastics Council of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, has been focusing on educating the industry, government, and stakeholders on bioplastics, articulating clear terminology for bioplastics, strategically advising all parties involved, and being the go-to source for bioplastics

information.

The Council has begun publication of SPI Bioplastics Connect, a quarterly update for the North American bioplastics industry on markets, global initiatives, educational materials, and more. The first issue is available as a free download.

The Bioplastics Council has also published two new industry guides: Understanding Biobased Carbon Content, and Life Cycle Analysis Primer—What, Why and How. Both are available now as free downloads. And the Council’s comprehensive 2012 Bioplastics Industry Overview is available free to SPI members and to others for $99.

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