With a growing number of materials, applications, and products, the number of manufacturers, converters, and end-users also increases steadily. Significant financial investments have been made into production and marketing to guide and accompany this development.
The latest market data does not only demonstrate the contributions of the industry on moving towards a sustainable future with a reduced environmental impact. The forecast also predicts the budding bioplastics industry to unfold an immense economic potential over the coming decades. According to a job market analysis conducted by EuropaBio (2016), the European bioplastics industry could realise a steep employment growth. In 2013, the bioplastics industry accounted for around 23,000 jobs in Europe. With the right framework conditions in place, this number could increase more than tenfold by 2030, with up to 300,000 high-skilled jobs being created in the European bioplastics sector.
The factors driving market development are both internal and external. External factors make bioplastics the attractive choice. This is reflected in the high rate of consumer acceptance. Moreover, the extensively publicised effects of climate change, price increases of fossil materials, and the increasing dependence on fossil resources also contribute to bioplastics being viewed favourably.
From an internal perspective, bioplastics are efficient and technologically mature materials. They are able to improve the balance between the environmental benefits and the environmental impact of plastics. Life cycle analyses demonstrate that bioplastics can significantly reduce CO2 emissions compared to conventional plastics (depending on the material and application). Furthermore, the increasing utilisation of biomass in bioplastic applications has two clear advantages: renewability and availability.
European Bioplastics focuses and promotes its activities on European and Member States’ level. Numerous countries outside the European Union are actively pursuing the development of bioplastics. Europe in particular offers excellent general conditions to compete globally for future markets and technologies. These include:
- A highly developed economy and educated society
- Leading global companies in the chemical and plastics industries
- Industrial users with the aim of promoting sustainable development
- Consumers with strong purchasing power and a high degree of environmental awareness
It is essential for the further development of the market that products are marketed profitably even at this early stage. A secure investment framework and support from policy makers will foster the framework needed to nurture this pillar of a sustainable future. Unfortunately, the European Commission still lacks a clear position on bioplastics. Research on the bio-based economy is already supported by several national governments as well as by various EU programmes, especially by “Horizon 2020” and its successor “Horizon Europe”. Horizon Europe, which will run from 2021 to 2027, enables a significant increase in funding for bio-economic research. European Bioplastics supports all efforts to strengthen R&I activities in Europe. However, in other areas, EU entities still display a rather critical view on bioplastics, which often diminishes the investment that has been made in the research field. Thus, EUBP welcomes any measures that facilitate the market introduction of bioplastics.