1. Bioplastics are a family of different resin types, which are either bio-based or compostable or both. Bioplastics add new properties and performance characteristics to the huge family of plastics. So-called oxo-biodegradable polymer products, which fragment into small pieces, are not considered to be a bioplastic.
2. Bioplastics have been developed to address a range of sustainability issues. The use of renewable raw materials instead of fossil sources and where applicable, their biodegradability can also make a difference. Like with every other (plastic) product, claims about sustainability need an individual assessment and a differentiated approach.
3. Considerable investments have been made by the global bioplastics industry and high growth rates result from a continually increasing market interest. This has continued even through the currently difficult economic situation and is expected to continue. (see graph 1)
4. The term “bioplastic” today can also cover commodities like PE or PET which can be fully or partially bio-based and perfectly recyclable – in exactly the same way as fossil-based PE or PET. However the bio-based content can lead to an increased degree of sustainability.
5. “Older” bioplastics have been in the market place for decades due to their excellent application performance, e.g. certain types of polyamides and PUR or cellulosics – without causing any significant issues for recyclers.
6. The recycling industry has found workable solutions to handle a huge variety of post-industrial and post-consumer plastic waste. The existing sorting and processing technology can handle bioplastics either without or with slight adaptation to specific material characteristics.
7. In reality Bioplastics represent a high growth business opportunity rather than a threat to the plastic recycling industry. One example is PLA, a polyester which can be recycled in a similar way to PET. Separation technology allows high value recycling of both resin types. The establishment of an infrastructure for the recycling of PLA has started recently.
8. Organic recycling of compostable polymers – e.g. in composting plants – adds new efficient recovery options to the world of plastics recycling and has significant advantages where heavy contamination with food waste or soil is unavoidable, e.g. catering products, tableware, mulching film, etc.
Bioplastics are used for plastic molded parts, like injection blow molding, injection molded products, vaccum molding. etc
9. Energetic recovery is a viable and useful solution until volumes allow the operation of more sophisticated ‘back-to-plastics’ recycling schemes. When renewable raw materials have been used for the production, renewable energy can be recovered.
10. European Bioplastics calls on the traditional plastic and recycling industries, industrial plastic users, NGOs and governmental institutions to develop and establish workable solutions, in legislation as well as in practice, which support the increase of plastics recycling and the use of recyclates – whether from conventional, bio-based and/or biodegradable plastics.