The global market for bioplastics is expected to grow way beyond earlier forecasts as advances in production technologies render previous predictions “obsolete”.
Trade body European Bioplastics said in its annual report that the current volume figure of 1.2 million tonnes is likely to grow fivefold between now and 2016.
Bio-based PET is likely to be a big contributor to this figure, with capacity expected to grow 10 times during the next four years.
However policy makers were urged to back words of support for the sector with "concrete measures", lest production drifts to emerging markets.
Driving the capacity increase will be the biobased, non-biodegradable bioplastics group, the association’s report said, “especially the so-called ‘drop-in’ solutions, such as biobased versions of bulk plastics like PE and PET, that merely differ from their conventional counterparts in terms of their renewable raw material base, are building up large capacities.
“Leading the field is partially biobased PET, which is already accounting for approximately 40% of the global bioplastics production capacity. Partially biobased PET will continue to extend this lead to more than 4.6 million tonnes by 2016.”
European Bioplastics said this would correspond to 80% of the total bioplastics production capacity. Following PET came biobased PE on 250,000 tonnes, constituting more than 4% of the total production capacity, the organisation said.
Hasso von Pogrell, managing director of European Bioplastics, said: “The enormous growth makes allowance for the constantly increasing demand for sustainable solutions in the plastics market.
“Eventually, bioplastics have achieved an established position in numerous application areas, from the packaging market to the electronics sector and the automotive industry.”
European Bioplastics warned of what it called a “disturbing trend”: the geographic distribution of production capacities away from Europe and towards South America and Asia.
Andy Sweetman, the trade association’s chairman, said: “European Bioplastics invites European policy makers to convert their declared interest into concrete measures.
“We are seeing many general supportive statements at EU level and in the Member States. There is, however, a lack of concrete measures.
“If Europe wants to profit from growth at all levels of the value chain in our industry, it is high time the corresponding decisions are made.”