Worldwide bioplastics production is expected to more than triple within the next five years, according to new data compiled by bioplastics association European Bioplastics (EUBP) in cooperation with the Nova Institute in Germany.

EUBP presented the outlook at the 16th EUBP Conference on 1 December.

“The importance of a more than 200% growth rate within the next five years cannot be overstated,” EUBP chairman François de Bie said.

“Before 2026, the share of bioplastics in the total global production of plastics will pass the 2% mark for the first time.”

Globally, bioplastics production was set to increase significantly from around 2.4M tonnes in 2021 to 7.5M tonnes in 2026, the report said.

The main drivers of the growth were biodegradable polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT), polybutylene succinate (PBS) and bio-based polyamides (PAs), according to the data, with production of polylactic acid (PLA) also continuing to grow due to further investments in PLA production sites in Asia, Europe and the USA.

Production capacities of bio-based polyolefins, such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), also increased, the report said.

Biodegradable plastics, including PBAT, PLA, and polybutylene succinate (PBS) currently account for slightly over 64% (1.5M tonnes) of global bioplastics production, according to the report.

Bio-based, non-biodegradable plastics – including the drop-in bio-based PE, bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and bio-based polyamides (PA) – accounted for almost 36% (0.8M tonnes) of production.

Packaging remained the largest field of application for bioplastics, accounting for almost 48% (1.2M tonnes) of the total bioplastics market in 2021, according to the data.

The report showed that bioplastics materials were also being used in many other industries, with some sectors such as consumer goods, fibre, agriculture and horticulture products continuing to moderately increase their relative share.

Asia has further strengthened its position as a major production hub, according to the data, with almost 50% of bioplastics currently being produced in the region.

While almost a fourth of capacity remained in Europe, the region’s share and the share of other world regions would decrease significantly within the next five years, the report said.

In contrast, Asia’s share was forecast to pass 70% by 2026.

“We will see an impressive increase in bioplastics production over the next years. This also requires the expansion of production facilities,” EUBP managing director Hasso von Pogrell said.

“This way, our industry will be able to respond to the growing demand for bioplastics.”

Land used to grow renewable feedstock for the production of bioplastics was estimated to be 0.7M ha in 2021, the report said, and continued to account for only just over 0.01% of the global agricultural area of 5bn ha.

Along the estimated growth of global bioplastics production in the next five years, its land use share for would remain below 0.06%, according to the data.

“In relation to the available agricultural area, this share is still minimal. Thus, there is no competition between the renewable feedstock for food and feed and the production of bioplastics,” von Pogrell said. “Over 90% of the global agricultural area is used for pasture, feed and food.”

European Bioplastics represents the interests of the bioplastics industry and its members produce, refine and distribute bioplastics.