22. Feb 2017

Worldwide growth bio-based polymers despite difficult market environment

Worldwide production capacity for bio-based polymers grew by 4% to 6.6 million tonnes from 2015 to 2016, representing a share of some 2% of the global polymer market, and capacity is forecast to expand further to 8.5 million tonnes by 2021.

Sales of bio-based polymers amounted globally to about €13 billion worldwide in 2016, compared to €11 billion in 2014.

The development of the bio-based polymer market parallels the overall growth rate of the polymer market. Whereas annual growth stood at 10% between 2012 and 2014, the capacity growth data now show a 4% annual growth rate for the period 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.


Bio-based polymers that are also biodegradable include polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), polylactic acid (PLA) and starch blends. Of these, the most dynamic development is foreseen for the PHA family. PHA production capacity was still small in 2016 and is projected to almost triple by 2021.
Of the bio-based plastics that are not biodegradable, the future looks bright for the new drop-in materials, bio-PA and bio-PET. The production capacity of the former is expected to almost double by 2021. Bio-based drop-in PET is expected to grow at a rate of 10% per year, as is, for that matter, that of thenew bio-based polymer PLA.

Bio-based building blocks show vivid market development
In addition to bio-based polymers, the nova market report studies seventeen bio-based building blocks as precursor of bio-based polymers. The total production capacity of the bio-based building blocks reviewed in the report was 2.4 million tonnes in 2016 and is expected to reach 3.5 million tonnes in 2021, which means an annual growth of 8%.
The building block market shows a more vivid development than the bio-based polymer market. The bio-based building block annual capacity growth rate is twice as high. The most dynamic developments are spearheaded by succinic acid and 1,4-BDO, with monoethylene glycol (MEG) as a distant runner-up. Bio-based MEG, L-lactic acid (L-LA), ethylene and epichlorohydrin are relatively well established on the market.

Market outlook on bio-based polymers in several market fields
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.
Bio-based plastics find application in various sectors, including construction and the auto industry. However, the lion’s share is 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.
The packaging industry has a considerable interest in biodegradability since packaging is only needed for short time use but in big quantities. This contributes to the accumulation of waste. Biodegradable polymers could offer a possible solution to this problem. However, strong political support can only be found in Italy and France for biodegradable solutions in the packaging sector. In this sector, global demand for biodegradable packaging still shows double digit growth. Additional demand could come from the increasing microplastic problem (marine littering), but so far biodegradable plastics have not benefitted from this debate.

The nova report provides insight into the future developments of the bio-based building block and polymer markets worldwide. Companies benefit from solid data and market analyses of renowned experts with specialist knowledge and long years of expertise.
The report contains more than 50 figures and 140 tables, production capacities in North and South America, Asia and Europe from 2011 to 2021 for seventeen bio-based building-blocks and thirteen polymers, and the different application sectors per polymer. In addition, the report shows detailed company profiles of 104 companies, which produce 70 different bio-based building-blocks and polymers.
In total, the report has 249 pages and is available for 2,000 € at http://www.bio-based.eu/reports

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