In its latest market and trend report, which appeared under the title Bio-based Building Blocks and Polymers – Global Capacities, Production and Trends 2020–2025, German research institute, nova-Institute strikes an upbeat note. With contributions from expert authors from Asia, Europe and North America, the report offers a balanced, global view of the most recent developments in the field of bioplymers.
According to the authors, 2020 was a ‘promising’ year, one in which PLA production capacities were expanded, after PLA completely sold out in 2019, and the year in which PE and PP derived from bio-based naphtha gained momentum. 2020 also saw production of bio-based polyamides, PBAT, PHAs and casein polymers starting to emerge, with expansion on the horizon. Only bio-based PET showed a decrease in production capacity.
A number of global brands have expanded their feedstock portfolio to include renewably-sourced carbon, CO2, recycled plastic waste and biomass, which has served to raise the demand for bio-based as well as biodegradable polymers. In this context, the report also stresses the fact that overall, the global land requirement for the production of bio-based polymers is only 0.006 % of all arable land. globally. Some 37% of the biomass feedstock used for bio-based polymer production is glycerol, a biogenic by-product. This glycerol is mainly used for epoxy resin production, via epichlorohydrin as an intermediate.
The report also argues that the only way for polymers, plastics and chemicals to become sustainable, climate-friendly and part of the circular economy ‘is the complete substitution of fossil carbon with renewable carbon from alternative sources’, such as those mentioned above. The market, however, remains challenging from a political perspective and in terms of crude oil prices. Despite increased demand, government support for bioplastics continues to be weak, as politics continue to promote only biofuels and bioenergy.
This most recent report offers an overview of capacities and production data for all bio-based polymers in the year 2020 and a forecast for 2025. The report covers a total of 17 bio-based building blocks and 17 polymers,
According to the report, bio-based polymers reached a total production volume of 4.2 million tonnes, representing 1 % of the total production volume of fossil-based polymers. For the first time in many years, the CAGR, at 8 %, is significantly higher than the overall polymer production growth of 3-4%. This situation is expected to continue until 2025.
The increase in production capacity from 2019 to 2020 was mainly due to the expansion the production of of polylactic acid (PLA) and poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT) in Asia and the worldwide epoxy resin production. The study also reported that existing capacity had been expanded and new capacity added for polybutylene succinate, copolymers (PBS(X)), bio-based polyethylene (PE) and polyurethanes (PUR) in 2020. Moreover, significant growth of some 36% was forecast for polyamides (PA) and polypropylene (PP) 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 %.
The report demonstrates that bio-based polymers can be used in almost all market segments and applications, but that the various applications per polymer can be very different.
In 2020, fibres and packaging each had a 24 % share of the total market, followed by automotive and transport that accounted for 16 % (mainly epoxy resins, PUR and aliphatic polycarbonates), building and construction with a share of 14 % (mainly epoxy resins and PA), consumer goods with 9 % (mainly starch-containing polymer compounds, PP and casein polymers). Other segments, including agri- and horticulture, the electrical and electronics sector, as well as the category of functional and others, represented under 5 %, respectively.
Included in the report are analyses of market developments and producers per building block and polymer, so that readers can quickly gain a comprehensive overview of current developments beyond just capacity and production figures. As an added bonus the report provides a detailed, comprehensive expert view on bio-based naphtha.