Based on recent company announcements the production capacity of bio-based plastics is projected to increase from 360,000 tons in 2007 to about 2.3 mln tons by 2013. This corresponds to an annual growth of 37%. Potential for up to 90% substitution of total plastics consumption by biopolymers is technically possible. The associations European Bioplastics and the European Polysaccharide Network of Excellence (EPNOE) published a jointly commissioned study on bio-based plastics. How fast this substitution will occur depends on a multitude of factors.
Bio-based polymers have been available in the market for approximately a decade. Recently, standard polymers like polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC or PET, as well as high-performance polymers like polyamide or polyester have been totally or partially substituted by their renewable raw materials equivalents. The starting raw materials are usually sugars or starches, partially also recycled materials from food or wood processing. This study demonstrates that up to 90% of the current global consumption of polymers can technically be converted from oil and gas to renewable raw materials. Bio-based plastics will not substitute oil-based polymers in the near future for several reasons including low oil price, high production cost and restricted production capacity of biomass-based polymers that limit the technically possible growth of these plastics in the coming years.