Bioplastics market data

Currently, bioplastics still represent less than one percent of the more than 367 million tonnes of plastic produced annually*. However, contrasting a slight decrease in the overall global plastic production, the market for bioplastics has continuously grown. This development is driven by a rising demand combined with the emergence of more sophisticated applications and products.

According to the latest market data compiled by European Bioplastics in cooperation with the nova-Institute, global bioplastics production capacities are set to increase from around 2.42 million tonnes in 2021 to approximately 7.59 million tonnes in 2026. Hence, the share of bioplastics in global plastic production will bypass the two percent mark for the first time.

Biodegradable PBAT (polybutylene adipate terephthalate), but also PBS (polybutylene succinate), and bio-based PAs (polyamides) are the main drivers of this impressive growth. The production of polylactic acid (PLA) will also continue to grow due to further investments in PLA production sites in Asia, the US, and in Europe. Production capacities of bio-based polyolefins, such as PE (polyethylene) and PP (polypropylene), increased as well.

Currently, biodegradable plastics altogether, including PLA, PHA, starch blends and others, account for more than 64 percent (over 1.5 million tonnes) of the global bioplastics production capacities. The production of biodegradable plastics is expected to increase to almost 5.3 million in 2026 due to a strong development of polymers, such as PBAT (polybutylene adipate terephthalate) and PBS (polybutylene succinate), but also a steady growth of polylactic acids (PLAs).

Bio-based, non-biodegradable plastics altogether make up for about 36 percent (more than 865 thousand tonnes) of the global bioplastics production capacities. These also include drop-in solutions like bio-based PE (polyethylene) and bio-based PET (polyethylene terephthalate), as well as bio-based PA (polyamides). Their relative share is predicted to further decrease to slightly over 30 percent in 2026. However, in absolute numbers the production capacities for bio-based polymers are still going to increase over the next five years to about 2.3 million tonnes. While production capacities for bio-based PET continue to decline, the focus has shifted to the development of PEF (polyethylene furanoate), a new polymer that is expected to enter the market in 2023. PEF is comparable to PET but 100 percent bio-based and is said to feature superior barrier and thermal properties, making it an ideal material for the packaging of drinks, food, and non- food products.

Bioplastics are used in an increasing number of markets, from packaging, catering products, consumer electronics, automotive, agriculture/horticulture, and toys to textiles and several other segments. Packaging remains the largest market segment for bioplastics with 48 percent (1.15 million tonnes) of the total bioplastics market in 2021. However, the portfolio of applications continues to diversify. Segments, such as automotives & transport or building & construction, remain on the rise with growing capacities of functional polymers.

With a view to regional capacity development, Asia further strengthened its position as major production hub with almost 50 percent of bioplastics currently being produced in the region. Presently, almost a fourth of the production capacity is still located in Europe. However, Europe’s share and that of of other world regions will significantly decrease within the next five years. In contrast, Asia is predicted to have passed the 70 percent by 2026.

The land used to grow the renewable feedstock for the production of bioplastics is estimated to be 0.7 million hectares in 2021 and continues to account for only just over 0.01 percent of the global agricultural area of 5 billion hectares. Alongside the estimated significant growth of global bioplastics production in the next five years, the land use share for bioplastics will increase to, however, still below 0.06 percent. This clearly shows that there is no competition between the renewable feedstock for food, feed, and the production of bioplastics.

*Source: World plastics production 2020, Plastics Europe, 2021.

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