ASIACHEM: Development Status of Degradable Plastics and Opportunities for Petrochemical/Coal Chemical Enterprises
l Degradable Plastic Technology and Market Forum 2019 will be held on April 24-25 in Kunming, Yunan, China
l Degradable plastics policy development trends and market opportunities will be an important topic of the forum
l This forum will also discuss petrochemical/coalization routes for the production of biodegradable plastics ——PGA, PBS, PCL, etc.
Degradable plastics can be divided into destructively degradable plastics and fully degradable plastics. The former is easy to decompose by adding a certain amount of additives in the traditional petroleum-based plastics production process, but only decomposes into smaller petroleum bases, plastics cannot be completely returned to nature, and their degradation characteristics are gradually denied. Currently, the degradable plastics mainly refer to fully degradable plastics.
Fully degradable plastics can be completely degraded under certain circumstances. The raw materials can be 100% biomass resources or traditional fossil energy sources.
The degradable materials produced from biomass are mainly including polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), whole starch based, cellulose and the like. The degradable materials prepared from fossil energy mainly include dibasic acid glycol copolyester series (including PBS, PBAT, PBSA), polycaprolactone (PCL), polyglycolic acid (PGA), and poly vinyl alcohol (PVA) and CO2 copolymers, etc. Biomass-based PBS degradation materials are also under investigation.
The traditional disposable plastic products have a short service life, but the physical and chemical properties are stable, and natural degradation is difficult. The various environmental problems caused by a large number of disposable plastic wastes have frequently jeopardized the health and safety of land, water, animals and humans. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) survey, at least 67 countries and regions have imposed restrictions on disposable plastic bags. Degradable plastics are considered to be an effective way to solve the problem of disposable plastic waste pollution.
Ø Italy has banned the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags since 2011.
Ø In 2016, France passed a comprehensive “ban on plastics”, announcing that by 2020, all disposable non-degradable plastic bags and plastic tableware will be banned except for degradable plastic products.
In April 2018, Australia's eight states, territories, and federal environmental ministers signed a joint agreement that set the goal of 100% recyclable, reusable, or degradable packaging nationwide by 2025.
In May 2018, Spain passed a royal decree on the restriction of the use of plastic bags, stipulating that Spanish merchants will not be able to provide plastic bags for free from July 1st. And from 2021, all non-biodegradable lightweight plastic bags will be banned.
Ø In December 2018, the Associated Press reported that Austria had initiated legislation to ban all plastic bags that could not be completely degraded.
Ø In April 2017, the Ministry of Science and Technology issued the “Special Plan for Scientific and Technological Innovation in the ‘13th Five-Year Plan’ Material Field”, and fully biodegradable materials were shortlisted.
Ø In November 2017, the State Administration of Posts, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Science and Technology and other 10 departments jointly issued the "Guiding Opinions on Collaboratively Promoting Green Packaging in the Express Delivery Industry", and proposed from the national level to promote resource conservation and waste pollution prevention in the express delivery industry. The measure proposes that “by 2020, the proportion of degradable green packaging materials will increase to 50%”.
Ø In November 2017, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the “Regulations for Agricultural Film Industry (2017)” to encourage the development and production of biodegradable mulch films.
Ø In February 2018, the new version of the "Express Package Supplies" series of national standards was released. The new version of the national standard was implemented on September 1, 2018. For the first time, it was clearly stated that “express packaging bags should use biodegradable plastics”.
At present, China's measures on plastics at the national level are still in the “plastic limit” stage, but encourage qualified areas to explore “forbidden plastics”. Since 2014, Jilin Province, Henan Nanle County and Hainan Province have successively issued “bans”, prohibits the production, sale and use of non-degradable disposable products.
Based on the current production costs of fully biodegradable plastics, legislation is still the most important factor driving demand growth. Western Europe has the world's most stringent legislation on disposable plastics, and is currently the region with the most demand for degradable plastics, accounting for more than 50% of the global market. The main application areas of degradable plastics are food packaging, disposable tableware and plastic bags. For Asia, agricultural mulch film is also its main end market.
In addition to the support of countries in policy, the company's awareness of environmental protection is also enhanced, which will effectively promote the growth of the biodegradable plastics market. In 2016, Alibaba launched the “Green Plan”, aiming to replace 50% of the Alibaba platform's parcels with fully degradable packaging materials by 2020; in 2017, Jingdong launched the “Clearstream Plan”, aiming to reach 2020, Jingdong Logistics 50% or more of plastic packaging will use biodegradable materials; in 2018, Starbucks, McDonald's, and IKEA have announced that they will completely deactivate plastic straws.
Promising policies around the world and increased environmental awareness among companies and individuals have created new market opportunities for biodegradable plastics. Whether it is based on biomass or petrochemical routes, degradable materials are expected to make new breakthroughs.
Bio-based degradable plastics, mainly from grain and micro-organisms, are renewable and have no pollution to the environment after use. They are in line with the national sustainable development strategy. Although the current cost of raw materials, technology and equipment are high, the further development of the technological level and production scale will definitely drive down the cost, the development prospects are bright; the petrochemical/coalization system have multi routes to product degradable plastics, and the petrochemical/coal chemical industry has mature experience in device amplification, through large-scale installations, it has improved energy comprehensive utilization efficiency and has huge potential for cost reduction. And petrochemical/coalization projects have often been built on a scale of 100k tons or even million tons . It is an important part of the growth of biodegradable plastics.
Degradable Plastic Technology and Market Forum 2019 will be held on April 24-25 in Kunming, Yunan, China. The upcoming conference will discuss degradable plastics policy development trends and market opportunities, production technology and cost reduction of eight major degradable plastics - PLA, PSM, Dibasic acid glycol copolyester (PBS/PBSA/PBAT), PHA, PCL, PGA, PVA and CO2 copolymers, diversification of degradable plastic raw materials and expansion of downstream applications, development and application of seawater degradable materials, etc.