European Bioplastics conference details market

By Susanne Retka Schill
Europeans are expecting a period of sustained growth in the bioplastics industry with worldwide capacity growing from 150,000 tons in 2006 to 2 million tons by 2011. Approximately 300 delegates from 26 countries heard speakers addressing different facets of bioplastic development at the third annual European Bioplastics Conference in Berlin on Nov. 5-6, sponsored by industry association European Bioplastics.

Two keynote speakers highlighted the industry's growth and potential. "The bioplastics market has already become a considerable market, both on a retail and resin level," said Michael Stumpp, group vice president for BASF Corp. "I am convinced that the market will grow quickly and sustainably within the next few years." Armand Klein, Europe business director of applied biosciences at DuPont, added, "We have to reduce our environmental footprint drastically. Renewably sourced materials, which are already available today, can provide a step in the right direction."

How that direction may affect land use and whether there is enough land for bioplastics production was addressed in a panel discussion. "Already in 2006, the European Commission assessed the anticipated impact of a 10 percent biofuel target on needed land and grain prices, and ascertained that the production of biofuels would only have a moderate impact," said Andreas Pilzecker, the European Commission's directorate-general for agriculture. "Bioplastics require a significantly smaller share of agricultural production and are therefore even less responsible for a price increase." Michael Carus, director of the Nova Institute, underscored that statement by telling conference attendees that only
0.05 percent of European agricultural land is used to produce bioplastics.

The panel also called for the European Common Agricultural Policy to be more aligned with the industrial utilization of renewable raw materials. "It is high time that the industrial and energy utilization of biomass is equated in Brussels," Carus said. Udo Hemmerling of the German Farmers' Association added, "We don't have to distinguish between the use of crops for food or industrial raw materials. The farmers are flexible and can respond to every demand for more food or more biobased products."

Other speakers addressed the themes of certification and labeling. In additon, more than 25 companies presented their latest products and services in the bioplastics sector, including new packaging solutions featuring plastic film combinations for improved barrier properties and a longer shelf life, improvements in compounds and additives, and developments in technical products.