New bio-based polymers have been available in the market for approximately one decade. Recently, standard polymers like polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC or PET, but also high-performance polymers like polyamide or polyester have been totally or partially substituted by their renewable raw materials equivalents. The starting raw materials are usually sugars or starches, partially also recycled materials from food or wood processing. In their study, Martin K. Patel, Li Shen and Juliane Haufe demonstrate that up to 90 percent of the current global consumption of polymers can technically be converted from oil and gas to renewable raw materials. "Bio-based plastics will not substitute oil-based polymers in the near future for several reasons including low oil price, high production cost and restricted production capacity of biomass-based polymers that limit the technically possible growth of these plastics in the coming years", explains Patrick Navard, Chairman of the Governing Board of EPNOE.
The study discusses for all major groups of bio-based plastics the production process, the material properties and the extent to which they could substitute petrochemical polymers from a technical point of view. Further aspects covered are the prices of these novel materials and their main producers. Three scenarios are distinguished to establish potential future growth trajectories, i.e. a baseline scenario, an optimistic and a conservative scenario. The results for these scenarios are also compared to the findings of a previous study made in 2005. The new study confirms that substantial technological progress has been made in bio-based plastics in the past five years. Innovations in material and product development, environmental benefits as well as the gradual depletion of crude oil increasingly call for polymers made from renewable raw materials.
Read full Study: Product overview and market projection of emerging bio-based plastics