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An Overview of the Bioplastics Industry

An Overview of the Bioplastics Industry2019.07.01

What are the differences between bioplastics and conventional plastics?


Bioplastics are the plastics derived from plant-based sources, such as sugar cane, corn, and some plant byproducts like wood bark and corn husks. Bioplastics can be non-biodegradable and biodegradable.


While regular plastics are made through petrochemical processes. In other words, they start out as the chemical byproducts of oil refining, which are turned into a variety of plastics through chemical processes that form long molecular chains known as polymers.


Due to a growing awareness of the impact on the environment and the need to reduce the dependency on fossil resources, as well as the continuous advancements and innovations of the bioplastics industry with improved properties and functionalities, the use of bioplastics is increasing rapidly in the recent years.


How many types of bioplastics are there?


In the field of bio-based, biodegradable plastics, PLA (polylactic acid) and PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates) are the main drivers. PLA is very versatile with excellent barrier properties, it can be an ideal replacement for PS, PP, and ABS. PHAs are an important polymer family that has been in development for a while and has finally entered the market at commercial scale.



(Data Source: European Bioplastics)


In terms of bio-based, non-degradable plastics, the bio-based PE (polyethylene) and bio-based PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and bio-based PA (polyamides) account for about 48% of the global bioplastics production capacities. In the future, the bio-based PEF and bio-based PP are expected to enter the market at commercial scale in 2023.


What can bioplastics be used for?


Bioplastics are used in an increasing number of markets, from packaging, catering products, consumer electronics, automotive, agriculture/horticulture and toys to textiles, etc. Packaging remains the largest field of application for bioplastics with almost 65 percent (1.2 million tonnes) of the total bioplastics market in 2018.


How is the market of bioplastics?


According to European Bioplastics, bioplastics represent roughly one percent of the 335 million tons of plastic produced annually. In 2018, global bioplastics production capacity is about 2.11 million tons.



(Data Source: European Bioplastics)



Europe is the major hub for the entire bioplastics industry and ranks the highest in the field of research and development. On the aspects of the actual production of bioplastics, Asia is the major production hub, and accounts for about 55% in the global production capacity in 2018, followed by Europe and America.

 

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