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European study forecasts big potential for bio-based plastics

The production capacity of bio-based plastics is projected to increase from 360,000 tons in 2007 to about 2....


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November 9, 2009 by Canadian Plastics

The production capacity of bio-based plastics is projected to increase from 360,000 tons in 2007 to about 2.3 million tons by 2013, representing an annual growth of 37 per cent.

The conclusion is part of a new, jointly-commissioned study on bio-based plastics from the European Bioplastics Association and the European Polysaccharide Network of Excellence (EPNOE).

Entitled “Project Overview and Market Prediction of Emerging Bio-Based Polymers”, the study estimated that up to 90 percent of the current global consumption of polymers could technically be converted from oil and gas to renewable raw materials, although this is not expected to happen anytime soon.

“Bio-based plastics will not substitute oil-based polymers in the near future for several reasons including low oil price, high production cost and restricted production capacity of biomass-based polymers that limit the technically possible growth of these plastics in the coming years,” the report said.

But the potential of bio-based plastics remains enormous, the study said, as the role that lightweight conventional plastics played in the past – substituting durable materials like iron and steel – could soon be taken over by bio-based plastics.

“Recently, standard polymers like polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC or PET, but also high-performance polymers like polyamide or polyester have been totally or partially substituted by their renewable raw materials equivalents,” the report noted. “The starting raw materials are usually sugars or starches, partially also recycled materials from food or wood processing.”