Bio-Based Polymers' Market Continues to Grow
According to a market study from nova-Institute, Hürth, Germany, the worldwide production capacity for bio-based polymers grew by 4% to 6.6 million t from 2015 to 2016. This represents a share of 2% of the global polymer market. The bio-based polymer turnover was about EUR 13 billion worldwide in 2016 compared to EUR 11 billion in 2014. Production capacity of bio-based polymers is forecast to increase from 6.6 million t in 2016 to 8.5 million t by 2021.
The development of the bio-based polymer market aligns to the overall growth rate of the polymer market as a whole. In contrast to a 10% annual growth between 2012 and 2014, the capacity growth data now show a 4% annual growth rate from 2015 to 2021. This is almost the same as for the overall global polymer capacity. The main reasons for this slower increase in capacity are low oil prices, poor political support and a slower than expected growth of the capacity utilization rate.
Not all bio-based polymers are biodegradable, but some important ones are, e.g. polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), polylactic acid (PLA) and starch blends. Strong political support can only be found in Italy and France for biodegradable solutions in the packaging sector. In this sector, the global demand for biodegradable packaging still shows a double digit growth. Additional demand could come from the increasing microplastic problem (marine littering), but so far biodegradable plastics have not benefited from this debate.
The study foresees most dynamic development for the new bio-based polymers polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), which belong to the big family of different polymers. PHA production capacity was still small in 2016 and is projected to almost triple by 2021. The second most dynamic development is foreseen for polyamides (PA), whose production capacity is expected to almost double by 2021. Bio-based drop-in PET and new bio-based polymer PLA are showing approximately 10% annual growth rates.
Most investment in new bio-based polymer capacities will take place in Asia because of better access to feedstock and a promotive political framework. Europe’s share and North America’s share are projected to decrease slightly. Most bio-based polymers are consumed by the packaging industry. The major part of this is rigid packaging (bottles and others) and the rest as flexible packaging (films and others). This is not surprising since bio-based PET (mostly used to produce bottles) is one of the biggest bio-based polymers in terms of capacity.
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