Review of the 11th European Bioplastics Conference 2016

Denise Neves Gameiro, editor for Labiotech.eu

Denise Neves Gameiro, editor for Labiotech.eu

By Denise Neves Gameiro, editor for Labiotech.eu, the new leading digital media platform covering news from the European Biotech industry

Where are bioplastics going? At the end of November, 300 experts came together in Berlin to “rethink Bioplastics” and their role in the much-hailed circular economy.

The diversity of speakers and exhibitors at the 11th edition of the European Bioplastics Conference offers, in itself, an overview of the different fields and players that make up the bioplastics industry. Participants ranged from the producers of the biobased chemical “building blocks” and biopolymers like Biotec, which uses potato peels to make biodegradable plastics, to famous brands like Renault.

Outside this normal “supply chain”, representatives for politics, certification, academia, waste management and even the traditional chemical industry found their way to the conference.

Peter O’Sullivan, Manager Packaging at Henkel, presenting Henkel’s sustainable packaging solutions for anaerobic adhesives at the 11th European Bioplastics Conference 2016.

Peter O’Sullivan, Manager Packaging at Henkel, presenting Henkel’s sustainable packaging solutions for anaerobic adhesives at the 11th European Bioplastics Conference 2016.

How are Bioplastics doing now?

The conference organizer, European Bioplastics, took the opportunity to disclose the latest market data. The core message was clear: despite the low prices of oil, the production capacity for bioplastics is growing. Maybe this isn’t so surprising. As it was mentioned during last Labiotech Refresh‘s Global Bioenergies fireside chat, the low price of fuel made companies shift away from biofuels and into added-value chemicals. For example, Neste (Finland) is a leader in renewable fuels but is now expanding to biobased materials – most famously with its Ikea deal.global-prod-market-segment_circle_2016_en

Globally, bioplastics production reached 4.1 million tons in 2016, growing 5% from last year. Similarly upbeat are the predictions for the next 5 years. Production capacity should go up 50%! Kristy-Barbara Lange, who presented the data, stressed that more and more materials are gaining a market share and that there’s a demand for material innovation. There’s also a growth of bioplastic in areas requiring performance materials, such as construction.

Policies and Challenges for Bioplastics Future

Policy played a big role in the conference, with the first keynote presentations going over the EU‘s new environmental agenda and Circular Economy package, which defined plastics and biobased products as priorities. The key politic motivation is job growth and investment, and closely related fields like industrial Biotech have good numbers to show.

Another popular point of debate was recycling. This appears to be one of the main challenges for the introduction of novel bioplastics, like the versatile PLA or Avantium’s PEF, of Coca-Cola fame. Because these plastics are relatively rare, it’s not economical to recycle them. For th