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Fast Growth of Bio-Based Polymers

According to a market study by nova-Institute, Hürth, Germany, production capacity of bio-based polymers will triple from 5.1 million t in 2013 to 17 million t in 2020, representing a 2% share of polymer production in 2013 and 4% in 2020. Bio-based drop-in PET and the new polymers PLA and PHA show the fastest rates of market growth.

Two years after the first market study was released, Germany’s nova-Institute is publishing a comprehensive 500 page-market study and trend reports on “Bio-based Building Blocks and Polymers in the World – Capacities, Production and Applications: Status Quo and Trends Towards 2020”. Authors are experts from the German nova-Institute in cooperation with ten renowned international experts.

The production capacity for bio-based polymers boasts very impressive development and annual growth rates, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 20% in comparison to petrochemical polymers, which have a CAGR between 3-4%. The 5.1 million t bio-based polymer production capacity represent a 2% share of overall structural polymer production at 256 million t in 2013 and a bio-based polymer turnover of about EUR 10 billion (5 million t (production capacity) x 2.50 EUR/kg (estimated average bio-based polymer price) x 0,8 (capacity utilization rate)).

Worldwide shares of bio-based polymers production in different market segments in 2013 and 2020 (figure: nova-Institute)

This bio-based share of overall polymer production has been growing over the years: it was 1.5% in 2011 (3.5 million t bio-based for a global production of 235 million tonnes). Current producers of bio-based polymers estimate that production capacity will reach 17 million t by 2020. With an expected total polymer production of about 400 million t in 2020, the bio-based share should increase from 2% in 2013 to more than 4% in 2020, meaning that bio-based production capacity will grow faster than overall production.

The most dynamic development is foreseen for drop-in bio-based polymers, but this is closely followed by new bio-based polymers. Drop-in bio-based polymers are chemically identical to their petrochemical counterparts but at least partially derived from biomass. This group is spearheaded by partly bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) whose production capacity was around 600,000 t in 2013 and is projected to reach about 7 million t by 2020, using bio-ethanol from sugar cane. Bio-based PET production is expanding at high rates worldwide, largely due to the Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC) initiative launched by The Coca-Cola Company.

Most investment in new bio-based polymer capacities will take place in Asia because of better access to feedstock and favorable political framework. Asia is predicted to experience most of the developments in the field of bio-based building block and polymer production, while Europe and North America are slated to lose more than a half and just over three quarters of their shares, respectively.

The forecast of a total production capacity of 17 million t of bio-based polymers suggests that the market is definitely well established and growing. It is also shown that the development of bio-based polymers is still very dynamic.

Company profile

nova-Institut GmbH

Industriestraße 300
DE 50354 Hürth
Tel.: 02233 481440
Fax: 02233 481450


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