European Bioplastics, a trade group, has jumped on the bandwagon, and confirms a report I did earlier this year predicting growth in bioplastics well in excess of most forecasts. We’re in agreement for a major reason: the development of sugar-based polyolefins and bio-based precursors for PET soda bottles is explosive. The early biodegradable versions of bioplastics for packaging are growing at a slower pace.
The European Bioplastics study projects a compound annual growth rate in production capacity of 37% from 2011 to 2016. A study I did for BCC Research, released in February, projects growth in market demand of 34.3%. The starting points for both studies are very different, partly because of the significant excess production capacity for many types of bioplastics in the world today.
The current production forecast, which European Bioplastics develops in cooperation with the Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites at the University of Hannover, states that the worldwide production capacity for bioplastics will increase from around 1.2 million metric tons in 2011 to approximately 5.8 million metric tons in 2016.
Strongest growth is coming in “drop-in” plastics such as biobased versions of PE and PET. Partially biobased PET already accounts for approximately 40% of the global bioplastics production capacity, according to the EP study. That will grow to 80% of total bioplastics production capacity in 2016. Bio PE (250,000 metric tons) accounts for more than 4% of the total bioplastics production capacity.
Most new capacity is coming in South America and Asia.
“European Bioplastics invites European policy makers to convert their declared interest into concrete measures. We are seeing many general supportive statements at EU level and in the Member States,” says Andy Sweetman, chairman of European Bioplastics. “There is, however, a lack of concrete measures. If Europe wants to profit from growth at all levels of the value chain in our industry, it is high time the corresponding decisions are made.”