By Sheri Kasprzak

The desire for eco-friendly and resource-efficient packaging will help buoy the global bioplastic packaging market over the next seven years, according to Hexa Research, a market research organization. Grand View Research, another market research firm, estimates the bioplastics market will grow at a 20 percent compound annual growth rate over the eight years between 2016 and 2024.

Market value is expected to reach $34.24 billion by 2024. Europe is the largest supplier of bioplastic packaging, accounting for 32.7 percent of the volume share in 2016. North America and Asia-Pacific trail Europe’s efforts, but the regions combined will contribute $3.26 billion by 2024, Hexa says.

Bioplastics are made from renewable plant sources like sugarcane, sweet potatoes, hemp oil, corn starch, and soybean oil.

In an effort to keep up with this demand, BASF and Avantium entered into a joint venture last October to form Synvina JV, which will manufacture and market 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid, an organic compound used in polyamides and polyurethanes, as well as Polyethylene 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid, a bioplastic material. Synvina has the capacity to produce 50,000 metric tons of FDCA and PEF per year.

“Synvina is engaged in the production and marketing of furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) and the marketing of the polymer polyethylenefuranoate (PEF),” says Tobias Berg, spokesman for Synvina.

“PEF is a promising bioplastic, particularly for the food and beverage industry, and holds huge potential for both the industry and the consumer. It offers a better barrier for carbon dioxide and oxygen, is stronger but thinner, allows for a longer shelf life of packaged goods, and can be manufactured in a similar way as PET. PEF helps to reduce emissions and the consumption of non-renewable energy by being 100 percent recyclable. This results in a commercial benefit for the packaging industry and added value for the products of our partners. We expect the market share of PEF to show constant growth in the upcoming years. Bio-based PEF is perfect for the circular economy.”

As this demand grows, manufacturers are ramping up the R&D efforts to best utilize raw materials like polybutylene succinate (PBS), a biodegradable aliphatic polyester, and polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from plant-based materials like corn starch or sugarcane.

 

Synvina is currently conducting research to just such an end.

“But Synvina continues to conduct research to create additional value with innovations,” says Berg. “For example, the company plans to innovate the use of feedstock. First-generation raw materials, such as bio-based carbohydrates from corn, wheat, or other crops will be used at first. The long-term goal, however, is to use second-generation biomass (lignocellulosic biomass) from wood and wood residues, pulp, and agricultural by-products.”

Earlier this year, U.K.-based Biome Bioplastics developed a compostable and recyclable coffee cup from bioplastic materials.

Despite these new innovations, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) still dominated the global market at $1.84 billion of market share in 2016. PET is primarily used in the production of beverage bottles. It’s also the most commonly recycled plastic.

Berlin-headquartered European Bioplastics e.V., an association representing the interests of the bioplastics industry in Europe, says bio-based and non-biodegradable plastics made up 76.8 percent of global plastic production in 2016. The remaining 23.2 percent were biodegradable.

Polyurethane (PUR) was the most commonly produced plastic in 2016, making up 41.2 percent of the 4.16 million tons of plastic produced last year, according to European Bioplastics. Starch blends, which are biodegradable, made up an impressive 10.3 percent in 2016.

Increasing demand for flexible packaging due to their size and weight for food applications coupled with rising demand for biodegradable films is anticipated to boost the growth of the market. The segment is expected to grow at a volume CAGR of 20.6 percent between 2017 and 2024, according to Hexa.