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Julio de 2022 Página 2 de 2

Bioplastics, where is the market heading?

Dr.-Ing. Laura Flórez, directora de contenido

The global bioplastics industry aims to supply 2% of the world's demand for plastic raw materials by 2026. Regulations, certifications and adequate buyer education are essential for these materials to reach their full potential.

With a view to regional capacity development, Asia further strengthened its position as the main production center with almost 50% of the bioplastics currently produced in the region. Currently, almost a quarter of the production capacity is still located in Europe. However, the share of Europe and other world regions will decline significantly over the next five years. In contrast, Asia is expected to exceed 70% by 2026.

The land used to grow renewable feedstock for bioplastics production is estimated to be 0.7 million hectares in 2021 and still represents only slightly more than 0.01% of the global agricultural area of 5 billion hectares. Along with the estimated significant growth in global bioplastics production over the next five years, the share of land use for bioplastics will, however, still increase to below 0.06%. This clearly shows that there is no competition between renewable feedstock for food, cereals and bioplastics production.

Biodegradation standards

Compostability claims on plastic products are hardly verifiable by the consumer. In this case, certification becomes essential to achieve transparency, and proper communication through certification logos.

The EN13432 standard, for example, describes that a product can be destined for industrial composting, and that all its components (such as lids, labels, adhesives and/or packaging waste) are compostable. Within this standard, chemical tests are performed to understand the content and potential presence of heavy metals. Biodegradability under controlled composting conditions, measuring oxygen consumption and CO2 production. Under this standard, at least 90% of the organic material must be converted to CO2 within 6 months. In three months, it is important to verify disintegration, which implies that the material must pass through a 2 mm mesh, and no more than 10% of the original material must remain. An ecotoxicity test is also performed, examining the effects of the resulting compost on plant growth.

It is recommended that brand owners or large surface areas ask distributors for their product certification and demand the certification number. This ensures high product safety and also allows the use of certain brands, making the information more transparent for the end user.

Contamination by bioplastics

One of the main challenges in the use of bioplastics is that there is no special category to identify them within the recycling stream. It is possible that these types of materials, especially those that are biodegradable, can become confused within the established recycling stream of materials, contaminating them. In fact, in Europe and the United States, alarms have already been raised in the recycling guilds against the use of bioplastics, since they can end up contaminating the use of PET bottles, for example, or flexible films.

It is also important to understand that, although the use of bioplastic compounds with other conventional plastics can reduce the carbon footprint and dependence on non-renewable sources, in general they are mixtures of materials, something against which the Ellen McArthur Foundation has warned us within the guidelines of the new circular economy of plastics.


Palabras relacionadas:
bioplastics, packaging, packaging, market, sustainability, sustainable solutions, sustainable materials, renewable sources, PET, biodegradation, sustainability, compostability, raw material

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