01. Feb 2021

Growth rate for bio-based polymers far above overall polymer market growth

Growth rate for bio-based polymers far above overall polymer market growth

A new report from, compiled by the international biopolymer expert group of the nova-institute, called the year 2020 a promising year for bio-based polymers.

As the authors note: “Sold out PLA in 2019 has led to the installation of increased capacities, PE and PP made from bio-based naphtha are breaking ground and future expansion for bio-based polyamides as well as for PBAT, PHAs and casein polymers is on the horizon. A lower production is only observed for bio-based PET.”

According to the report, several global brands are already expanding their feedstock portfolio to include, next to fossil-based, sources of renewable carbon, CO2, recycling and especially biomass, increasing the demand for bio-based as well as biodegradable polymers. Nevertheless, at the same time, there is a lack of support from politics, which still only promotes biofuels and bioenergy.

The new market and trend report “Bio-based Building Blocks and Polymers – Global Capacities, Production and Trends 2020–2025” from the international nova biopolymer expert group shows capacities and production data for all bio-based polymers in the year 2020 and a forecast for 2025.

In 2020, the total production volume of bio-based polymers was 4.2 million tonnes, which is 1 % of the total production volume of fossil-based polymers. For the first time in many years, the CAGR is, with 8 %, significantly higher than the overall growth of polymers (3–4 %) – this is expected to continue until 2025.

The increase in production capacity from 2019 to 2020 is mainly based on the expansion of polylactic acid (PLA) and poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT) production in Asia and the worldwide epoxy resin production. Also, increased and new production capacities for polybutylene succinate and copolymers (PBS(X)) and bio-based polyethylene (PE) and polyurethanes (PUR) were reported in 2020. Especially polyamides (PA) and polypropylene (PP) will continue to grow significantly (about 36 %) until 2025. While capacities for polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) will grow in Asia and North America, casein polymers in Europe will increase by 32 % until 2025, followed by increases in PE in South America and Europe, PLA mainly in Europe and PBAT in Asia with about 8 %.
Overall, the global land requirement for bio-based polymers is only 0.006 % of the global agricultural land. The major biomass feedstock used for bio-based polymer production is glycerol as a biogenic by-product (37 %). This glycerol is mainly used for epoxy resin production via epichlorohydrin as an intermediate. The utilised biomass also comprises 24 % starch and 16 % sugars, both feedstocks are derived from high-yielding crops, such as maize, sugar beet or sugar cane, having a high area efficiency. 12 % of the biomass are from non-edible plant oil, such as castor oil, 9 % from cellulose (mainly used for cellulose acetate) and 2 % from edible plant oil.

In the annually updated market report for the year 2020, a total of 17 bio-based building blocks and 17 polymers are described, in addition to comprehensive information on the capacity development from 2020 to 2025 and production data for 2020 per bio-based polymer. Furthermore, it includes analyses of market developments and producers per building block and polymer, so that readers can quickly gain a comprehensive overview of current developments that goes far beyond capacity and production figures. As an additional bonus the report provides a detailed, comprehensive expert view on bio-based naphtha. Finally, the deep insight into manufacturing companies introduced in 2018 has been comprehensively updated and now shows 174 detailed company profiles – from start-ups to multinational corporations.

The 2020 report is now available for € 3,000 at www.renewable-carbon.eu/publications – in addition to further market studies on renewable carbon. A short version of the report will soon be available here, also.

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