top of page

Global Bioplastics Production to Exceed 2.2m Tonnes This Year

After a stagnation in overall plastics production in 2020, mainly due to challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is now a new momentum for global bioplastics production according to industry association European Bioplastics. Output of biopolymers is set to increase significantly from around 2.23 million tonnes in 2022 to approximately 6.3 million tonnes in 2027. The market data was compiled in cooperation with nova-Institute (Hürth, Germany).

Bioplastic alternatives exist for almost every conventional plastic material and corresponding application. Due to a strong development of polymers, such as PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates), polylactic acid (PLA), bio-based PAs (polyamides) as well as a steady growth of bio-based polypropylene (PP), production capacity [and shipments] will continue to increase significantly and diversify within the next 5 years according to the latest data

Packaging remains the largest field of application for bioplastics with 48 percent (1 million tonnes) of the total bioplastics market in 2022. The data also confirms that bioplastic materials are already being used in many other sectors, and the portfolio of applications continues to diversify. Segments, such as automotive and transport, agriculture and horticulture as well as electrics and electronics continue to increase moderately in their relative share over the next years.

Land used to grow the renewable feedstocks for the production of bioplastics is estimated at 0.8 million hectares in 2022 and continues to account for only just over 0.01 percent of the global agricultural area of 5 billion hectares. Accompanying the estimated growth of global bioplastics production over the next five years, the land use share for bioplastics will increase but still remain below 0.06 percent. “In relation to the available agricultural area, this share is still minimal. Thus, there is no competition between the renewable feedstock for food and feed and the production of bioplastics” says Hasso von Pogrell, Managing Director of European Bioplastics. “Over 90 percent of the global agricultural area is used for pasture, feed, and food. This is also of crucial importance in the political debate regarding land used for bio-based industries.

EU gives cold shoulder to bio-based plastics

On 30 November, the European Commission adopted the first parts of its long-awaited proposal for the second Circular Economy Package including a policy framework for bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics as well as a proposal for a new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR). European Bioplastics said it welcomed the included new rules on packaging and bioplastics. “The industry appreciates the Commission’s first comprehensive policy framework on innovative bioplastic materials as it acknowledges their potential to provide genuine environmental benefits. In particular commends the Commission’s endorsement of the important role of compostable plastic packaging in the proposed packaging rules in reaching the ambitious waste and climate targets,” it said in a written statement. “However, we would have expected stronger support for the use of bio-based feedstock,” commented von Pogrell.

However, the proposals also led to criticism from the bioplastics industry: “Unfortunately, a few persistent misconceptions remain in the Communication on the policy framework for bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics with regards to land-use, the methods used to evaluate environmental benefits, alleged risks of cross-contamination of waste streams, as well as biodegradability in different environments,” said von Pogrell. All these misconceptions have prevented the Commission from fully embracing the shift to bio-based products that would enable Europe to reduce its dependency on fossil resources and achieve its ambitious climate and circularity goals.

Notably, the PPWR falls short on promoting bio-based content equally to recycled content through targets. This would help to secure feedstock availability, to achieve recycled content targets, and to meet the strict requirements for contact-sensitive materials. Prioritizing recycled content and mechanical recycling, according to the industry, will not be enough to replace the EU’s dependence on fossil resources and to stop the current trend of over-packaging and excessive waste in the EU.

bottom of page