Bio-based polymers have been used for man-made products for thousands of years. After the development of the first artificial thermoplastic polymer in the 1860’s, many innovations were made with compounds derived from renewable resources. However, most of these developments faded away after the application of crude oil for the creation of synthetic polymers in the 1950’s. Bioplastics have recently enjoyed a renewed interest mainly because they are a more sustainable alternative to traditional plastics. The reexamination of old processes and the development of new ones in the past decade have made bioplastics suitable for a wider range of applications and generally more useable. Bioplastics have now passed from the research and development phase to the commercial production phase. There are two main concepts underlying bioplastics: the first is that they are biodegradable and the second is that they are created from renewable resources. Production is now placing more emphasis on the second attribute rather than the first.
France is among the top five European countries that have the most developed bioplastics industry and the highest utilization of bioplastics. While France’s production of bioplastics is relatively low compared to its European neighbors, its demand is still higher than the United States and the global average. By 2030 bioplastics should comprise nearly 25 percent of the French plastics market. The market has started to place more importance on non-biodegradable plastics and it will continue to favor these in the future. Bio-based polyethylene and PVC are expected to experience the fastest growth in the next couple of years.
The world produced around 700,000 tons of bioplastics in 2010. According to European Bioplastics (the association of the bioplastics industry in Europe), the production capacity of bioplastics will probably pass the million ton mark in 2011 based on figures from the first half of the year. World production is expected to increase to around 1.7 million tons by 2015.
Europe currently has the highest capacity for the production of bioplastics. Given all the factors, Frost & Sullivan forecasts that the European bioplastics market will grow at a volume of 24.6 percent between 2006 and 2013. France produced 7,000 tons in 2008 and there was demand for 8,000 tons. France is expected to produce 11,000 tons in 2013 and 20,000 tons in 2018. France imports most of its bioplastics from other Western European countries including Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.
The world demand for bioplastics was just over 225,000 tons in 2008 and it is projected to increase to 890,000 tons by 2013 and 2 million tons by 2018. The demand in Western Europe was 77,000 tons in 2008 and it is expected to grow to 295,000 tons in 2013 and 575,000 tons in 2018. The demand in France is expected to remain around 10.4% of the demand in Western Europe through 2018.
In 2008 the total demand for bioplastics in France was 8,000 tons. By 2013 the demand for bioplastics is expected to quadruple to 29,000 tons as bioplastics products become more widely accepted and their prices become more competitive with traditional plastic products. France’s demand is will remain significantly above its production level through 2018. The excess demand in France is projected to increase from 1,000 to 18,000 in 2013 and 40,000 by 2018.
When examining the French market, starch-based resins stand out immediately because they were responsible for half of the total bioplastics demand in France in 2008. However, when compared to other European markets, France has a significantly larger demand for PLA which accounted for 25 percent of the demand. PLA is projected to grow steadily through 2013 when it is projected to have around doubled the demand of 2008. Demand for non-biodegradable bioplastics is rapidly increasing and will continue to dominate the market. Starch-based bioplastics and PLA will continue to be the two major biodegradable bioplastics in terms of demand in France. Demand for other biodegradable bioplastics is becoming a small minority and is expected to remain so in the next 7 years.