Today, bioplastics are being developed as more sustainable alternatives to conventional plastics — some biobased, some biodegradable, and some both — and have garnered interest for their potential to reduce fossil fuel dependence, decarbonize supply chains, and contribute to a circular economy. Yet, they still only contribute about 1% to 2% of the overall volume of plastics produced per year. Are bioplastics really a solution to the plastic sustainability crisis or are they just going to repeat past failures? In Lux’s report, “Bioplastics Vision 2030: Forecasting Capacity Growth,” we address the reasons for the historically slow growth in capacity, drivers creating new opportunities for the development of the bioplastics market, and the specific bioplastics we expect to have the most success in the next 5–10 years. The three key takeaways from the report:
- Drop-ins will outscale novel bioplastics: Chemically identical drop-in bioplastics such as biobased polyethylene terephthalate, biobased polyethylene, and biobased polypropylene will see the largest capacity growth due to biomass balance approaches and scaling of biobased-monoethylene glycol capacities. End-of-life (EoL) bioplastics such as polylactic acid, polyhydroxyalkanoates, and thermoplastic starch will dominate the market landscape in APAC. As the region combats plastic waste accumulation due to poor waste management infrastructure, EoL bioplastics can offer solutions to reduce the waste accumulation burden.
- Regulations will drive a major divergence between regions: Policy will continue to play a key role in determining the fate of bioplastics and the bioeconomy. Countries like China and Thailand have leaped to the support of bioplastics with market rules that exempt bioplastics from restrictions on single-use plastics. Upcoming policies like the Bold Goals for U.S. Biomanufacturing and Biotechnology will play a role in growing bioplastics capacity and demand in the U.S.
- Sustainability is not a good enough value proposition: While sustainability is the biggest value proposition for bioplastics, these materials are not always sustainable when weighing other environmental factors such as water and land use. Each bioplastic type will have varying benefits and limitations that will be dictated by production processes and end-applications.
Strategic partnerships and identifying downstream demand, as well as regulatory support, will strengthen the growth of bioplastics and related innovations. Still, despite the more positive outlook, bioplastics alone won’t be enough for chemicals companies — they will need to adopt a multipronged technology strategy to avoid losing market share in the plastics space. If you want to learn more about the different bioplastics types, the key players developing technologies, and the capacity growth in the next seven years, check out the Bioplastics Vision 2030: Forecasting Capacity Growth report here.