The amount of packaging, products and other items produced with bio-based plastics is expected to more than quadruple over the next five years, from 1.4m metric tons of annual production capacity in 2012.
However, resources could be stretched by the surge—for example, only about 0.02% of the world’s agricultural land currently is dedicated to bio-material production.
François de Bie, chairman of the board for European Bioplastics said growth in demand for bio-based plastic likely will continue to exceed expectations.
“Continuous growth can be expected with regard to all bioplastic material types and in a range of very diverse market segments, from packaging to fibres to consumer electronics,” he said.
Packaging is the leading segment of bioplastic production. This field boasts a significant range of mature applications, geared toward minimizing carbon footprint and cutting dependence on fossil-based materials.
The strongest growth likely will be in non-biodegradable bioplastics, such as PET and PE. Such material is attracting interest of CPGs such as Heinz and Coca-Cola, both of which pour their products into the recyclable, bio-based Plantbottle.
However, biodegradable plastics also are expected to increase, thanks to the increased attraction to materials that help increase waste-stream efficiency.
The planet isn’t the only party benefiting from increased use of bio-based materials. Development and production of bio-based packaging and other items is helping create jobs around the world, particularly in the EU. This is a particular boon to agricultural areas, which have seen employment decline in recent years.
The European Bioplastics study indicates that South America and Asia are the favoured centers of production activity. de Bie said that in order to remain competitive and fuel the European economy, officials will need to step up.
“We call upon the European Commission to establish a level-playing field for the biobased industries in Europe and a clear-cut policy framework for promising markets such as bioplastics,” he said.