WAGENINGEN, NETHERLANDS (June 28, 2:30 p.m. ET) — Total global production of bio-based plastics will reach 1 million metric tons annually within a few years, up from about 700,000-800,000 metric tons today, according to Michael Carus, managing director of the Nova-Institut GmbH.
Manufacturers are increasingly turning towards biomaterials not only to reduce carbon dioxide (current emission reductions average 20-30 percent), but also to save fossil resources, Carus said at the Biobased Based Materials Symposium, held June 21 in Wageningen.
Carus estimates that bio-based polymers currently account for about 7.7 percent of the market — an estimate that's higher than others', but it includes some materials that are often overlooked.
“When we talk about bioplastics and bioproducts, we can also think about elastomers, man-made fibers, even some sustainable rubber products,” he said. “These can all help with sustainability.”
Carus quoted an analysis of life cycle assessments carried out by Hürth, Germany-based Nova-Institute on behalf of Proganic GmbH & Co. KG, which revealed that the biggest greenhouse gas emission savings can be found when comparing bio-based polymers to polycarbonate. The lowest savings are to be found when comparing bio-based polymers to polypropylene.
In 2010, bio-based polyethylene accounted for the largest share of the biopolymers market (28 percent of total production capacity). That was followed by starch blends (16 percent), PLA (15 percent), polyhydroxyalkanoate (12 percent) and bio-based polyesters (8 percent).
One of the fastest-growing biomaterials is wood plastic composite, Carus said. The European market for WPCs has been growing at an average annual rate of 35 percent since 2005, he said.
Further WPC growth is expected in every sector in the coming years and will be helped, he added, by rising plastics prices.