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Development Status and Trend of Biodegradable Plastics

Jun. 28, 2020

In 2014, the industry produced 311 metric tons of plastic, and this number is expected to triple by 2050. However, less than 15% of the products are recycled. Most of the rest is incinerated, lying in landfills or abandoned in the environment, where it can survive for hundreds of years due to resistance to microbial digestion. Plastic debris that accumulates in the ocean can cause a variety of problems, from accidental ingestion of wild animals to the release of toxic compounds. It can even enter our bodies through contaminated fish. Biodegradable plastics can alleviate these problems and help achieve the goal of "recycling" plastics economy, where plastics come from and are converted back to biomass. Like standard plastics derived from petrochemical products, the biodegradable version consists of polymers (long-chain molecules) that can be molded into various forms in their fluid state. The currently available options-mainly made from corn, sugar cane, or waste fats and edible oils-usually lack the mechanical strength and visual characteristics of standard foods. Recent breakthroughs in the production of plastics from cellulose or lignin (dry matter in plants) are expected to overcome these shortcomings. For additional environmental benefits, cellulose and lignin can be obtained from non-edible plants, such as giant reeds growing on marginal lands where food crops are not suitable for growth, or from waste wood and agricultural by-products, otherwise, these plants will not Play any role.

At present, the capacity utilization rate of China's biodegradable plastics companies is basically less than 50%, and the average capacity utilization rate of the industry's biodegradable plastics industry is about 30%. In 2018, China's biodegradable plastics output was about 135,000 tons, most of which was exported to the European market. With the sharp increase in demand for biodegradable plastics in Europe, Australia, and South Korea, China's exports of biodegradable plastics will maintain rapid growth in the future, and capacity utilization will increase rapidly.

Biodegradable Plastics

Biodegradable Plastics

At present, the price of PLA and starch-based biodegradable plastics in the Chinese market is 20-30 yuan/kg, while the price of PP raw material particles is about 10 yuan/kg, the price of recycled pp particles is lower, and the price of biodegradable plastics is about 3% of the price of ordinary plastics. -5 times.

Affected by the cost, the promotion of biodegradable plastics is more difficult, and it is necessary to implement policies and regulations to be effective. Currently, the only provinces in China that are gradually implementing the “plastic ban” policy are Jilin, Henan, and Hainan. In November 2015, China’s Jilin Province became the first province to ban non-degradable plastic bags and plastic tableware. In February 2019, the Hainan Provincial Government issued the "Implementation Plan for the Comprehensive Prohibition of the Production, Sale, and Use of Disposable Non-Degradable Plastic Products in Hainan Province."

At present, there are still fewer pilot provinces and cities in China to ban plastics, resulting in a smaller consumer demand market for biodegradable plastics in China. According to the calculation of China's biodegradable plastic output and import and export market, in 2018, China's biodegradable plastic consumer demand market size was about 42,000 tons, an increase of 13.5% year-on-year.

According to preliminary statistics on the production capacity of major biodegradable plastics companies in China, the annual production capacity of biodegradable plastics in China will exceed 520,000 tons in 2019, and China's biodegradable plastics production capacity is expected to double by 2021.

In recent years, developed countries and regions such as Europe, the United States, and Japan have successively formulated and promulgated relevant regulations to restrict the use of non-degradable plastics through measures such as local bans, restrictions, mandatory collection, and collection of pollution taxes, and vigorously develop new biodegradable materials In order to protect the environment and protect the soil, for example, on December 31, 2018, the Korean Ministry of Environment confirmed that large supermarkets in South Korea will ban the use of disposable plastic bags from 2019 to further reduce "white pollution." In addition, the European Parliament has also passed a proposal called "the most strictly prohibited plastic order in history". From 2021, the EU will completely ban all disposable plastic products that can be produced from alternative materials such as cardboard.

Driven by the promulgation of the "plastic restriction" and "plastic restriction" laws in the EU, South Korea, Australia and other regions, the global demand for biodegradable plastics continues to grow.

In 2012, the global demand for biodegradable plastics was 269,000 tons. In 2018, the global demand for biodegradable plastics was 360,000 tons, corresponding to a market size of 1.1 billion US dollars, with a compound annual growth rate of 5%. In 2023, the global demand for biodegradable plastics will grow to 550,000 tons, corresponding to a market size of US$1.7 billion. From 2018 to 2023, the compound annual growth rate of demand for biodegradable plastics will be 9%.

Global bioplastics have an annual production capacity of 2.11 million tons, of which biodegradable plastics (including PBAT, PBS, PLA, PHA, starch-based degradable plastics, and other biodegradable plastics) account for 43.2%, at 911,000 tons. Starch-based degradable plastics amounted to 384,000 tons, accounting for 42.1% of global biodegradable plastics production capacity.

At present, biodegradable plastic bags are still used in fewer fields, and the market share is still low, mainly due to the high price of biodegradable plastics, and the overall performance is not as good as ordinary plastics. With further in-depth research on biodegradable plastic technology in the future, the cost will be further reduced, and its application market is expected to expand further.


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