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Issue 01/2014

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  • Bioplastics
  • Plastics
  • Biobased
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  • Biodegradable
  • Germany
  • Carbon
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Highlights: Automotive Foam Pharmafilter Land use

People Report Facts on

People Report Facts on land use for old and new biobased plastics Methodology of land use calculation – using the example of PLA 0.37 ha 1.04 ha 0.18 ha 0.16 ha Fermentation CO 2 H 2 O H Hydrolysis 2 O H 2 O Enzymes Dextrins Sugar beet Sugar cane Corn Wheat 9.19 t 11.31 t 2.39 t 3.54 t ferment. Sugar Starch 1.47 t 1.67 t Lactic Acid* 1.25 t Dehydration Lactide 1.00 t H 2 O Glucose 1.47 t Fermentation Lactic Acid* 1.25 t CO 2 H 2 O Step 3 Step 2 Step 1 By: Hans-Josef Endres and co-workers IfBB - Institute for bioplastics and Biocomposites Hanover, Germany Current discussions on land use requirements for bioplastics, or of the amount of renewable resources needed, are often centered on rather irrational estimates and groundless reservations. To counteract the widespread scepticism towards bioplastics and return to a more fact-based debate, the following contribution is made to show the relevant data on current and future land use for bioplastics and to support these data by drawing various comparisons. Catalyst Polymerization PLA 1.00 t * Conversion Rates Sugar – Lactic Acid 85% Catalyst Dehydration Lactide 1.00 t Polymerization PLA 1.00 t H 2 O Step 3: To calculate land use in this bottom-up approach, the producer-specific productioncapacities of a type of bioplastics were multiplied by the output data of the corresponding process routes Step 2: Feedstock requirements were calculated for the use of different crops. For final land use calculation only the most common used crop was taken into consideration. Yield data from FAO statistics served as a basis for calculation (global, nonweighted, average over the past 10 years). Step 1: Process routes show the manufacturing steps involved from the raw material to the finished product, specifying the individual process steps, intermediate products, and input-output streams. The mass flows were first calculated using a molar method based on the chemical process, with the introduction of known rates and conversion factors. The routes so established were confirmed with polymer manufacturers and the industry generally as far as possible. In so far as no loss rates due to the chemical processes or the process stages were included, the calculations were made basically assuming no losses. The mass flows differ depending on which of the following two aspects is considered: feedstock and/or land use requirements for the production of one metric ton of bioplastics, bioplastics output from one metric ton of feedstock, or per hectare or square kilometre. Bioplastics production capacities 2012 (by material type) Bioplastics production capacities 2017 (by material type) 56.6%** Biobased/non-biodegradable 43.4% Biodegradable 83.8%* Biobased/non-biodegradable 16.2% Biodegradable 1.1 % Other (biobased/ non-biodegradable) 2.4 % Bio-PA 14.3 % Bio-PE 38.8 % Bio-PET 30 * Only hydrated cellulose foils ** Comprises drop-in solutions and technical performance polymers in % total: 1.4 million tonnes 13.4 % PLA 13.7 % Biodegradable polyester 11.4 % Biodegradable starch blends 2.4 % PHA 2.0 % Regenerated cellulose* 2.0 % Other (biodegradable) 1.6% Other (biobased/ non-biodegradable) 1.4% Bio-PA 4.4% Bio-PE 76.4% Bio-PET 30 in % total: 6.2 million tonnes * Comprises drop-in solutions and technical performance polymers Source European Bioplastics / Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (December 2013) 13.4 % PLA 6.9% PLA 3.6% Biodegradable polyester 2.7% Biodegradable starch blends 2.4% PHA 0.6% Other (biodegradable) 34 bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/14] Vol. 9

Report The importance of transparency for generating clear-cut estimates of land use Two sources of information served as a basis for an accurate estimate of land use. First, the production process of various biobased plastics including their feedstock conversion rates for individual process steps, and second, official data on agricultural yields as feedstock. See the example of PLA, as shown in Fig.1. When considering these process routes and the respective market volumes of the various bioplastics, the feedstock and land use requirements for these bioplastics can be derived in a clear and understandable way. Defining the scope of biopolymer materials under consideration Another essential aspect in the discussion is to clarify, or concretize, which biobased materials are considered and in particular also which ones are excluded. • For example, do the data for land use or feedstock refer to the resources required specifically for new types of bioplastics, i.e., those developed within the last 20 - 30 years (New Economy)? What about traditional biopolymers such as cellulose derivatives (cellulose acetate, cellophane, etc.), rubber, linoleum, etc. (Old Economy) – are they also considered? • Are ready-to-use polymers the only ones covered? What about biobased polymer raw materials (bio-acids, alcohols, etc.) and functional oligomers or other polymers (plasticizers, etc.)? • Are biobased synthetic fibres, or even natural fibres, also included? • Are composites with biobased reinforcements (starch-filled polymers, natural-fibre reinforced composites, etc.) also covered? If no clear distinction is made regarding whether certain materials are included or excluded, this will result in a wide spread of values and lack of clarity in the assessment of land use and resource consumption for bioplastics. Eventually, there will be confusion on all sides. Resource consumption for biobased plastics: New Economy (2012 and 2017) When, based on these pre-considerations, New Economy bioplastics, with their annual production capacity of currently 1.4 million tonnes are taken into focus, and it turns out that their land use is as low as 0.4 million tonnes per hectare. This is equivalent to only 0.008 % of the global agricultural area (5 billion hectare) or 0,03 % of the global arable land (1.4 billion hectare) Even though global forecasts predict a rapidly growing market for these novel bioplastics in the next few years, the need for agricultural areas will be kept at a very low level. While the market for new bioplastics has been growing by around 15 % annually during the last three years and a sustained growth is anticipated for the future it can be assumed that land use for New Economy bioplastics by 2017 (6.2 million tonnes), for example, will be as low as 0.02 % of the global agricultural area or less than 0.4 % of the arable land. Regardless of the significant growth rates, it should be mentioned that the market share of these New Economy bioplastics is still hovering at less than 1 % of the global plastics market and is likely not to exceed 2 - 3 % in the near future. Global production capacities of bioplastics 6,185 6,000 1,000 Biobased (partly or completely) Durable (and biobased) Chemically novel z.B. PLA, starch, PTT, PBS, PBAT Thermoplastics „New Economy“ Bio-Polymers Petroleum based (and biodegradable) Biodegradable (compostable) Biobased „Drop-Ins“, e.g. Bio-PE, Bio-PET, Bio-PA Thermoset resins Elastomers, TPE „Old Economy“ e.g. caoutchouc, Viscose, Linoleum, CA, Cellophane 1,000 metric t 5,000 4,000 3,000 5,185 2,000 1,395 1,161 1,016 1,000 342 674 486 675 604 791 0 2010 2011 2012 2017 Biodegradable | Biobased/non-biodegradable| Total capacity Forecast bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/14] Vol. 9 35

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