The bioplastics market

Definition of bioplastics

As of now, there is no standardised definition of a bioplastic. Within the currently most widely accepted meaning, a bioplastic is a biobased material and/or biodegradable . There are three major categories of bioplastics:
  • Biosourced (obtained from renewable resources) and biodegradable materials
  • Materials made using fossil fuels (oil) and biodegradable ressources
  • Biosourced and sustainable materials (non biodegradable)

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BIODÉGRADABLE PBAT, PCL, PBSA PBS, TPS, Compound base amidon, TPE biosourcé PLA, PHAs, TPS
NON BIODEGRADABLE PE, PP, PS, PET, PVC, PUR, PC, ABS, PA, etc. Biosourced PET, biobased PA 6-10, biobased PC, biobased PUR, biobased TPE, PTT, biobased Copolyesters, Cellulose esters, Hybrids Biosourced PE, biobased PP, biobased PA-11, biobased PA 10-10
Non biobased Partially biobased Biosourced
In addition to their origin and end-of-life properties, bioplastic materials may be split into two categories.
Certain bioplastics are chemically similar to currently used polymers. Thus, by definition a PE manufactured using sugarcane (also called biobased PE and a PE obtained using traditional fossil fuels will have the same technical characteristics. The biobased PE thus has the advantage here in that it is obtained from a renewable resource and no longer from fossil fuels. They can thus easily and immediately replace their petrochemical equivalents. Thus, in this category there are only biobased and non biodegradables polymers such as biobased PEbiobased PETbiobased PAbiobased PU, etc.
Despite styrene-based plastics (PS, ABS), today it is possible to obtain almost all useful polymers at least partially through biosourcing.
In the second case, bioplastics have new chemical structures. In this case there are mostly biodegradable polymers of which most are also biobased. The materials from this category have different properties, and thus it is necessary to select them depending on the characteristics expected from the final product. These materials are also recent to industrial scale operations (less than 10-20 years for most of them) and thus need sustained research and development efforts to improve their properties and adapt them to market expectations.
MaterialsOrigin / End of lifeResourcesPropertiesApplications
Equivalents to oil-based versions (BioPET, BioPE, BioPA, BioPP, etc.)20 to ≈ 100 % biobased, not biodegradable nor  compostableSugar cane, molasses, vegetable oilsEquivalent to standard polymers, remain recyclable and not biodegradable, easy to processAll kind of applications
PLA≈100% biobased and 100% biodegradable and compostableCorn starch, sugar cane, sugar beet, etc. 

Transparent, rigid, low thermal resistance, low barrier properties

Food and cosmetic packaging, consumer goods, fibres , 3D printing

PHAs≈100% biobased and 100% biodegradable and compostableCorn starch, sugar cane, sugar beet, other biomasses  

Opaque to translucent, rigid to very soft, good thermal resistance  and barrier properties

Consumer goods, agriculture, packagings, water treatment
BiopolyestersPartially biobased and 100% biodegradable and compostableCorn starch, sugar cane, sugar beet, etc.Opaque to translucent, rigid to very soft, good thermal resistance , low barrier properties

Bags, agriculture, packagings, consumer goods

Cellulose basedMainly biobased and could be biodegradable and compostableWood pulpTransparent, rigid, low thermal resistance, low barrier propertiesTransparent, rigid, good thermal resistance and barrier properties

Packagings, consumer goods, cosmetic and luxury

Biobased elastomersMainly partially biobased Biobased polyols (vegetable oils, sugars, etc.)

Very soft, low hardness, good mechanical properties

Consumer goods, construction, automotive, sport and leisure
Starch basedPartially biobased and could be biodegradable and compostableStarch (corn, potatoes, tapioca, etc.)

Soft, sensitive to moisture, controled biodegradation

Bags, agriculture, packagings, consumer goods
BiocompositesPartially biobased and could be biodegradable and compostableNatural fibers with standard or biopolymers Rigid, good mechanical properties, natural aspectConsumer goods, automotive, construction

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