2016 has been another eventful, promising, and successful year for bioplastics. While the discussions around the EU Circular Economy Package and first regulatory changes in the Members States reshape the legislative and economic landscape for businesses involved in the bioeconomy in Europe, the bioplastics industry continues to drive innovation in new bioplastics solutions and the development of bio-based materials for a more circular and sustainable future. A future in which, according to our recent market forecast, global production capacities of bioplastics will grow by 50 percent between 2016 and 2021 from 4.2 million tonnes to 6.1 million tonnes.

With the year drawing to a close, we want to revisit some of the highlights and innovations of 2016 that shaped the bioplastics industry (in no particular rank order):

The vision of a ‘New Plastics Economy’ by Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation

Foundation_New-Plastics-Economy_1At the beginning of 2016, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation published their report ‘New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics’ at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which attracted the attention of many opinion and industry leaders around the globe. The report arguably provides the first comprehensive, overarching vision of a global circular plastics economy in which bioplastics play an essential role in decoupling the economy from fossil resources and help to return nutrients to the soil. The report demonstrates very clearly how bioplastics can help to deliver better economic and environmental outcomes by replacing fossil with bio-based feedstock, while developing the many benefits of plastic packaging. The report acknowledges that ‘feedstock from renewable sources helps decouple plastics production from finite fossil feedstocks and reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of plastic packaging

[…] and potentially act as a carbon sink throughout their life cycle’.

Building on the recommendations of the report, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the ‘New Plastics Economy’ initiative, bringing together 40 leading companies and cities to take on the challenge of the transformation towards a global plastics system that applies the principles of the circular economy.

French decree supports bio-based and home-compostable bags

As part of the new law on Energy Transition and Green Growth, and in line with the EU Directive on the reduction of plastic bags, France banned single-use plastic bags at cash registers in France as of July 2016 except for bags that are bio-based and home-compostable. From 1 January 2017 on, single-use plastic bags for other uses than at the cash register, including fruit and vegetable bags, that are below a thickness of 50 microns, will have be home-compostable and feature a bio-based content of at least 30 percent as well. In September 2016, France went yet another step further and banned disposable plastic plates, cups, and utensils by 2020, except for ones made from bio-based and home-compostable plastics.

Disposable tableware made from compostable MATER-BI (c) Novamont

Disposable tableware made from compostable MATER-BI (c) Novamont

Even though the bioplastics industry did not actively promote or ask for a ban, European Bioplastics supports measures that promote bio-based and biodegradable materials and products. These decisions present an important opportunity for the French and European bioplastics industry, which has invested greatly in the development of innovative materials over the past decades, and appropriate bio-based and biodegradable materials for products such disposable tableware are readily available on the market.

PHA is the ‘new kid on the block’

PHA (polyhydroxalkanoates) is a new polymer family that has been in development for a while and has now finally entered the market at commercial scale. As more and more players (currently around 30 companies) are getting involved in the production of PHA prod