Area analysis of bio-based plastics

The area analysis is concluded (carried out between January and June 2023). 

Read the report (in Swedish)

Fossil-based plastics and composites have many advantages such as price, availability, properties and mouldability. However, they are also made from non-renewable raw materials, they release carbon dioxide when burned and they often have a long degradation time in nature, therefore contributing to environmental problems rather than to a sustainable society. From this starting point, there is a broad desire in society to increase the use of so-called bio-based plastics. 

We currently use about 300 million tonnes/year of various types of plastics of fossil origin, while the total amount of bio-based plastics is only about 3 million tonnes/year, that is, about 1 percent of the total tonnage of plastics. Production capacity is expected to increase by up to 50 per cent by 2025, but it is still a vanishingly small part of the total consumption of plastics. 

BioInnovation has identified the production and use of bio-based plastics as an area where there is a considerable need for increased knowledge, and for basic understanding. What research needs exist and what obstacles can be identified for the use of a bioplastic? What is needed in order to increase the use of bio-based plastics? 


The aim with this area analysis has been to map the current state of knowledge and ongoing initiatives within the field of biobased plastics and, based on the outcome, define the need for research within the area.  

Design Exeecution 

In part of the project, an investigation was to be made of various concepts and their significance. In another part, a deeper analysis of the state of knowledge in Sweden in relation to Europe through literature studies and interviews with academia, organisations, companies and other stakeholders in the value chain would be made. The aim was to identify which bio-based raw materials are being used, how this affects the direction of research or industrial development, and whether there is a skills and/or resource gap in Sweden when taking the next step. An analysis of the skills gap in comparison to Europe was also included. 

To analyse the challenges that exist for a transition to bio-based plastics, as well as what is needed to increase the pace of the transition, the project group convened three different round table discussions. One focused on stakeholders in the value chain and another invited researchers to get an in-depth picture of the research situation, and the challenges of industrialising the results of the research. The third discussion was used to consolidate the conclusions drawn, as well as the need for research initiatives involving all stakeholders linked to the value chain. 

Furthermore, there are already various general regulatory instruments in the form of laws and policies for the purpose of setting targets for a sustainable transition. Through literature studies and dialogue with relevant authorities and organisations, the project reviewed whether there are any instruments that affect a transition to bio-based plastics, or whether work is underway to introduce any such targeted regulatory instruments in the future. One important starting point for the analysis was the recently published communication from the European Commission on bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics, including the underlying synthesis report. 

Based on the information gathered, the intention was to propose actions on development needs in the field of bio-based plastics in order to bridge the potential gap, and to accelerate a sustainable transition where bio-based plastics constitute part of the solution. 

Implementation of the project 

The project consisted of three work packages. 

  1. State of knowledge & mapping  

Purpose and goal: Mapping of the current state of knowledge, the research front, policy instruments, stakeholders and the real or perceived obstacles that exist. 

  • Mapping of the state of knowledge and the development needs. 
  • Mapping and compilation of academic and business perceptions of ongoing national and international initiatives and projects, regarding bio-based plastics. The research front, trends and key stakeholders are in focus. 
  • Identifying the decisive parameters for company investments in bio-based plastics. What is needed for companies to take steps towards more bio-based plastics? Are there any new national and international (EU) directives on circularity targets that are expected to help or hinder future research efforts?
  • Mapping of which technologies, materials, and so on already exist, which raw materials and raw material streams exist, and which need to be developed. 

2. Round table discussions 

A round table discussion took place on 16 May 2023 (link in Swedish).

Purpose and goal: Discussion of the research situation in academia and industry as well as obstacles preventing faster development. Identify and establish research needs, the need for policy instruments and directives, and create an understanding of the need for new stakeholder constellations in order to move forward. 

  • Based on the information gathered from the first work package, two round tables will be organised. People from the chemical industry as well as other relevant sectors and organisations, will be invited to discuss and consolidate the development needs and obstacles that have been identified during the project including the need for research initiatives as well as identified obstacles. The second round table is planned to further strengthen the conclusions regarding a possible knowledge gap as well as the need for research initiatives and the promotion of new stakeholder constellations.

3. Report & closing seminar 

Purpose and goal: Analysis and summary of results into recommendations on the need for future research initiatives, and the areas in which these should be made in order to create increased industrial value for bio-based plastics. 

  • The results were compiled in a written report (link in Swedish). It summarises the established strategic development needs based on literature studies, interviews and round table discussions. The main emphasis was on analysing the collected material and drawing clear conclusions about the current situation in the field of bio-based plastics, as well as identifying barriers to increased production and transition. 
  • A summary seminar, on how the results should be taken forward, was organised for a limited group. 

Stakeholders, budget and timetable 

The assignment was carried out by Chalmers Industriteknik. The project had a total budget of 400 000 SEK. 

Steering Committes

Ulrica Edlund – Fibre and Polymer Technology, Royal Institute of Technology.
Henrik Oxfall – IKEM.
Åsa Stenmarck – Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.
Sören Östlund – Royal Institute of Technology & BioInnovation Team of Experts.
Sverker Danielsson – Chairman, BioInnovation.