Are bio-based plastics a viable alternative to fossil-based plastics?

The escalating issue of environmental pollution caused by plastics has garnered significant attention from global entities such as the European Union, the United Nations, and the World Economic Forum.

Bio-based plastics, manufactured from renewable biomass resources, present a potential avenue for a more sustainable commercial plastic life cycle within the framework of a circular economy. Furthermore, bio-based plastics offer distinct advantages over fossil-based counterparts, exhibiting a potentially lower carbon footprint and favorable material properties.

Approximately 10% of the world's fossil fuels are utilized in plastic production, prompting substantial interest in bio-based plastics as an ideal replacement. However, despite strong attention, bio-based plastics currently represent only 0.46% of the annual production of over 390 million tons of plastics. According to recent market data, compiled by European Bioplastics in collaboration with the nova-institute, global bio-based plastics production capacities are projected to increase from around 2.2 million tons in 2022 to approximately 6.3 million tons in 2027.

Challenges to the viability of bio-based plastic alternatives in the future arise from current limited production capacities and the anticipated surge in demand driven by new sustainability regulations (e.g., the Green Deal of the EU) and ambitious customer targets (e.g., CPG companies setting goals for the use of recycled or bio-based plastics). HSBC Global Research analysis suggests that the combination of customer targets and new policies will create a substantial demand for recycled and bio-based plastics over the next decade, resulting in a significant supply/demand gap.

The KnowledgeAgent Chemicals & Agriculture team assists clients in understanding and monitoring the latest developments, trends, and opportunities in bio-based plastics and the broader plastics industry. Among its various projects, the team:

  1. Conducts targeted analyses of the bio-based and biodegradable plastics value chain, examining the activities of companies across all value chain steps. This includes agricultural production, bio-monomer and bio-polymer production, compounding, conversion, and waste management. The focus is on assessing the positioning of key players in each of these stages of the value chain and their level of integration.
  2. Identifies key players with a noteworthy bio-based plastics portfolio and compares their capabilities in terms of feedstocks and end products.
  3. Aggregates geographic information on bio-based plastic capacities, analyzing current and announced capacities globally to identify expansion trends and market developments.
  4. Analyzes global biodegradable plastics legislation, examining current and upcoming laws, regulations, and policies of countries, with a special focus on Europe, North America, and Asia.

For a comprehensive understanding of recent changes and developments in your market, contact our Chemicals & Agriculture team to inquire about our research services.


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