NanoMarket report forecasts growth in bioplastics market

By NanoMarkets | December 13, 2012

Industry analyst firm NanoMarkets has published an in-depth analysis of worldwide markets for bioplastics, covering all major bioplastics including starch-based bioplastics, biopolyesters, cellulose-based bioplastics and biopolymers.  The report titled “Bio-Plastics Markets –2013,” claims that revenues from bioplastics will reach $6.1 billion by 2018, with 8.6 million tons of bioplastics shipped.

The report also discusses new feedstocks, such as seaweed and carbon dioxide.  Applications analyzed include food and pharma packaging, waste bags, medical implants, diapers, mulch foils, electronics, and tires/automotive.  Eight-year forecasts with breakouts by materials type, applications and region are included.

The report discusses the activities of many firms pioneering the use of bio-plastics including Arkema, Avantium, BASF, Braskem, Bridgestone, Cargill, Casda, Coca Cola, Cooper Tire, Danone, Dow Chemical, Faurecia, FKuR, Gevo, Green Dot, Heinz, Hisun Biomaterials, Innovia Films (UK), Invista, LanzaTech, M & G, Metabolix, Mitsubishi Chemical, Mitsui, Nike, Novamont, P&G, PTT, Purac, Showa Denko, Solvay, Teijin, Toray and Uhde Inventa-Fischer

While bio-plastics represent only 1 percent of the total plastics market today, NanoMarkets’ report projects that amount will grow to 7 percent by 2020.  Market drivers include recyclability of biobased PA, PE and PET and the biodegradability/compostability of other bioplastics.  The sector will benefit from European and Japanese mandates favoring compostable/recyclable materials, also the involvement of big name firms such as BASF and Dow Chemical which are investing billions of dollars into bioplastics.

To reach full potential, bioplastics must come down in price; today they are two-to-three times the price of fossil-based plastics. This sector is also highly capital intensive.  For every one million tons of bioplastics production capacity, at least $1.25 billion is invested. 

Cost reductions will be achieved through economies of scale and by using less expensive feedstocks; switching to cassava for bio-PLA will reduce feedstock cost by 70 percent.  Another factor that will help bio-plastics will be ongoing technical improvements such as better barrier coatings.

The consumption of bioplastics by the packaging industry will amount to 1.3 million tons in 2013; almost 75 percent of bioplastics shipped.  Packaging will still hold a 65 percent share of the bioplastics market as late as 2020.  For plastic bottles, bio-PET is expected to replace fossil-based plastics entirely and PLA foamed structures are expected to take a noticeable share of the food container segment.

The other big bioplastics opportunity lies in the automotive segment, which is expected to consume just 75 million tons of bioplastics in 2013 but more than 10 times that amount in 2018.  Bridgestone and Cooper Tire are developing bioplastic tires and biobased butadiene tires will be retailing by 2014.  Mitsubishi is doing R&D work on bioplastics for automotive interior parts. Bioplastics that are expected to be used in the automotive segment include PLA blends, bio-PA, bio-PE, and bio-PET.

Bioplastics product is shifting to Asia and South America, closer to where feedstocks are grown. By 2020 nearly 80 percent of bioplastics will be produced in these regions.  Chinese companies are already making bioplastics and firms such as Arkema and BASF are investing in the Chinese bioplastic sector.  Chinese domestic consumption for bioplastics will also grow rapidly, but will be constrained by Chinese government concerns with using food crops for feedstocks.