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Bioplastics innovations lagging behind public sentiment for sustainable plastics alternatives, according to new patents report from Clarivate

Bioplastics innovations lagging behind public sentiment for sustainable plastics alternatives, according to new patents report from Clarivate

April 30, 2020
Press Release: Clarivate

Clarivate Analytics (CCC) has released From the Plastics Present to a Sustainable Future, a new report unveiling the bioplastics innovation landscape

Some of the key findings in the report include how bioplastics packaging is at an early developmental stage with no dominant company or entity. It also reveals that 40% of all inventions are held by organizational applicants with just a single invention and less than a tenth hold 10 or more inventions.

With growing consumer, governmental and organizational awareness of the need to radically change our approach to plastic usage and disposal, bioplastic has emerged as one of the potential solutions to a more sustainable future. Biodegradable and compostable packaging is a key issue for consumers and regulators. One recent survey revealed almost three quarters of global consumers want to see single-use plastic banned, and 63% are prepared to change where they shop if it meant using less packaging. From a patented invention perspective, however, it is not fast growing. Patent volume increases in bioplastics packaging for food, beverage and cosmetics sectors of between 58% and 70% from 2012 to 2017 simply keep pace with overall patent volumes that similarly grew 70% over the same period, according to the Derwent World Patents Index (DWPI).

Only 7% of bioplastics packaging in food, beverage and cosmetics patent applicants hold 10 or more inventions. The innovation profile is spread across the supply chain of packaging, from academia through to fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) firms performing and patenting research.

Durability of traditional petrochemical-based plastics means innovation in bioplastics packaging is focused on the material’s mechanical properties. Around 488 inventions cite mechanical strength as the motivation for the invention compared to 331 for biodegradable properties.

There is no shortage of exciting bioplastics innovations, including bioplastic containers made from rice starch with a high degree of thermal resistance and mechanical strength and edible bioplastic food wrappers made from corn and shellfish by-products. However, bioplastics is still a relatively small and nascent market; its global production of 2.11 million tons last year is just a fraction of the more than 359 million tons of plastic produced annually today. From a patent perspective, bioplastics packaging only constituted 0.02% of all patent output according to DWPI, compared with 5% for pharmaceuticals (not including biotechnology) in 2017. Factors such as bioplastics’ lack of mechanical strength compared to its petrochemical-based counterpart and the economics of production are holding back its growth and development.

From a commercial and trademarks perspective, biodegradable or recyclable plastics are not yet commercially attractive options. They currently comprise just 8% of total plastics trademark applications filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Until the economics of production for bioplastics improve, the adoption of bioplastics will continue to be slow.

“Our report reveals plastic is, and will continue to be, a part of our daily life,” said Jeff Roy, President, IP Group at Clarivate. “However, investments in the further development of bioplastics, rethink of traditional plastics design or responsible usage and disposal, will help reduce dependence on traditional plastics. At Clarivate, we operate at the heart of the innovation life-cycle and deliver vital information and insights to organizations that are seeking alternative solutions to the world’s most complex problems, such as plastic waste. With our industry-leading solutions, organizations can continue to bring life-changing and environment-saving plastics innovations to market, faster.”

Plastic Free World Conference & Expo North America 2020 will take place at the Cobb Galleria Centre, Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday 27 October and Wednesday 28 October. To register for this highly focused, solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email peter@trans-globalevents.com

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