Published On: Thu, Apr 7th, 2016

Biodegradable plastic products market in Europe to reach 300 KT in 2020

The consumption of biodegradable and compostable plastic products in Europe is anticipated to grow from 100,000 tonnes in 2015 to more than 300,000 tonnes or 300 kilo tonne (KT) in 2020, according to a study of Germany-based Nova-Institute.

“Compostable plastic bags dominate the market for biodegradable plastics in Europe. They not only carry goods and bio-waste but also the hopes of the bio-plastics industry for huge markets in years to come. The legal framework and composting infrastructure of EU member states were found to be either the bottleneck or the key driver for market development. The market of compostable and biodegradable plastic products could grow to beyond 300,000 tonnes in 2020 – if the legal framework were to be set more favourably,” said Nova-Institute in a press release.

plastic products

Biodegradable plastic products market in Europe to reach 300 KT in 2020

The study found that about two thirds of all products on the market are compostable bags, mainly used for shopping or the collection of bio-waste. All other sectors show a wide variety of different products but most of them are still small in volume. “It was amazing to see that businesses have found a real market and product focus. The value proposition for biodegradable polymers has become much clearer now,” commented Michael Carus, managing director, Nova-Institute.

The research team analysed the consumption of biodegradable polymers such as PLA (polylactic acids) or starch-based plastics by application, geography and polymer type.

“We were surprised that policies and legislation have such a strong impact on market development today,” said Harald Kaeb, author of the study and chief-analyst. In 2015, Europe enacted legislation to reduce the number of single-use carrier bags. Italy, for example, was the first country to encourage compostable plastic bags. Legislation does not only affect shopping bags but also other types of plastic bags. Implementation of bag reduction measures by EU member states could also promote innovations in the area of bio-based and biodegradable plastics. Projections on market growth by 2020 were found to be heavily dependent on what policy scenario will be applied.

Italy has become the geographical market leader due to ‘bagislation’, whereas German markets have been seriously hampered by an unfavourable legislation on bio-waste. Markets react sensitively to the framework conditions in each country, as shown by volumes and types of product.

Disposable, short-life products marketed as waste management solutions and made of compostable polyester films are today’s bestsellers. Nova-Institute researchers also found that a variety of bio-based PLA cups and containers used for service and retail packaging are sold in significant volumes. PLA is used for a broad spectrum of applications, ranging from non-woven fibre products or apparel, to beverage bottles and packaging foams. Starch-based materials are also pushing into new markets as, for example, coffee capsules or auxiliaries in aquaculture.

“Functional products such as barrier packaging and various biodegradable outdoor uses are low volume today but have a significant potential for market breakthrough. Several types of polyesters build the core of the biodegradable polymers market. These could also provide the increased health- and safety-related benefits consumers are asking for in applications such as toys and other children’s goods,” said Nova-Institute in the press release.

With suitable and solid European standards for compostability and biodegradability and a more favourable legal framework, the demand in Europe can grow to more than 300,000 tonne in 2020. Incentives to avoid non-biodegradable microplastics in the environment and for strengthening the circular economy could work as additional drivers for increasing demand.