Bio-composites: Capacities to grow by four percent by 2023
Bio-based polymers are on the advance. In 2018, the total production volume reached 7.5 million metric tons - already two percent of the production volume of conventional plastics, according to the market and trend report of the nova Institute (Bio-based Building Blocks and Polymers - Global Capacities, Production and Trends 2018-2023). The potential is even higher, but is currently being held back by low oil prices and a lack of political support.
The term bioplastics is divided into biodegrable plastics and biobased plastics (plastics produced from renewable raw materials). While biodegradable plastics account for the smaller share of global demand at around 43 percent, they are characterized by more dynamic volume growth of more than 11 percent annually.
Overall, the production of bio-based polymers has become much more professional and differentiated in recent years. "In the meantime, there is a bio-based alternative for practically every application," said the report. The capacities and production of bio-based polymers will continue to grow by four percent annually until 2023, almost as fast as petrochemical polymers and plastics. For this reason, the market share of bio-based polymers on the entire plastics market will remain constant at around two percent.
The reasons for the increase in capacity are mainly due to the expansion of polylactic acid (PLA) production in Thailand and the expansion of polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT) and starch blends in the USA. Experts predict that PLA and starch mixtures in particular will continue to grow significantly until 2023.
Vacancies through Bio-Composites
Experts at the nova Institute and European Bioplastics expect global production capacity of bio-based plastics to reach 2.44 million tonnes by 2022. Up to 300,000 highly qualified jobs could be created in the industry in Europe alone by 2030. The market research institute Ceresana also confirms that bioplastics have significantly higher growth rates than conventional standard plastics. In view of the increasing demand and an ever broader range of applications, this trend will even intensify. The market analysis for 2016 assumes total worldwide sales of "green" plastics of more than USD 2.6 billion.
The prohibition of many products made of conventional plastics in numerous countries (drinking straws and plastic bags) is boosting biological alternatives. An important step, because by far the most important sales sector for "green" composite materials is the packaging industry - especially bottles, films, bags and pouches - with a share of around 58 percent, followed by textiles (11 percent), consumer goods (7 percent) and automotive (7 percent). However, at 2.05 million tonnes in 2017, the global production capacity of bioplastics is still relatively modest, in addition to the approximately 320 million tonnes of petroleum-based plastics per year. However, increasing sustainability requirements, more demanding applications and an increasing number of materials and manufacturers promise continuous growth in the future.
Bio-based replaces conventional products
Bioplastics and bio-based composites are increasingly replacing conventional petroleum-based products in many areas. In addition to the good image, numerous better properties are also responsible for this. Due to their higher breathability, they are suitable for fresh products and perishable foods, as fruit and vegetables stay fresh longer.
According to the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR), it is not yet to be feared that the quantities of raw materials required for the growth of the bioplastics market will come at the expense of urgently needed agricultural land. According to the FNR, only about 0.02 per cent of the world's agricultural land is used to provide renewable raw materials for the production of biocomposites. Rather, experts are calling for the establishment of a sustainable cycle that extends from production, through production and use - if possible naturally in the form of multiple use - to recycling the waste produced.