Compostable Plastics for the Circular Economy
So far, there is no generally accepted definition and no uniform labeling for bioplastics. The European Union Commission published conditions for bioplastics in November 2022. They should have “a positive impact on the environment, rather than exacerbating plastic pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss”. According to this, the biomass for bioplastics should “come from sustainable sources,” preferably organic waste and by-products. Products that “could be carelessly discarded” should not be allowed to be labeled as “biodegradable”. Petrochemical oxo-degradable plastics, which break down into small pieces when exposed to air and light, have already been banned in Europe since 2021.
Ceresana’s current bioplastics market study primarily examines thermoplastics made from renewable raw materials that are biodegradable, i.e. can be decomposed by microorganisms in nature or at least composted in industrial plants. PHA from sugar and TPS from starch, for example, are biobased and biodegradable. However, there are also plastics made from biogenic raw materials that are not compostable, for example PEF made from fructose or bio-polyethylene based on sugar cane. The market study also covers petrochemical biodegradable plastics – such as PCL, PBAT or PBS. Not included here, however, are biobased elastomers, thermosets, natural fiber-reinforced plastics (NFRP), and composites such as wood-plastic composites (WPC).
Sustainable Packaging Made from Polylactic Acid and Starch
According to the EU Commission, bioplastics should preferably be used in durable products. However, today they are commercially successful mainly in applications where compostability is important: The most important sales market for biopolymers is the packaging industry, which currently processes almost 60% of all bioplastics. Ceresana expects the highest growth over the next few years in the bags, sacks and pouches division. Biodegradable plastics, particularly polylactic acids (PLA) and starch polymers, currently account for 68% of the total bioplastics market. For this product group, Ceresana’s current market study forecasts further growth of 11.7% per year up until 2032. Biobased but non-biodegradable plastics, such as bio-polyethylene, PET or PA, are expected to increase at lower rates of 7.8% per year.
The Study in Short:
Chapter 1 of the study provides a comprehensive presentation and analysis of the global market for bioplastics – including forecasts up to 2032: For each region, the development of demand (tonnes), revenues (USD and EUR) and production (tonnes) is indicated.
In addition, the application areas of bioplastics are examined individually:
- Rigid packaging
- Flexible packaging (bags, sacks and pouches)
- Other flexible packaging
- Consumer goods
- Automotive and electronics
- Other applications
For the regions Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific and “Rest of the World”, the production of bioplastics is divided into product groups:
- Polylactic acid (PLA)
- Other biodegradable plastics
- Non-biodegradable plastics.
The demand for bioplastics per region is broken down into different types of plastics:
- Polylactic acid (PLA)
- Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA)
- Polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT)
- Other non-biodegradable plastics