Arches Trend Column Vol.7 “Bioplastics”: Initiatives in Japan, Brazil, and Thailand
- Amidst the global push to reduce CO2 emissions, the innovation of mass-produced plastic materials from plant-based sugar-derived bioethanol is gaining momentum.
- In Japan, the shipment volume of plant-based plastics was approximately 90,000 tons as of 2021.
- Braskem – A major Brazilian chemical company, successfully produced 260,000 tons of bioplastics in 2022 through a new innovation.
- In Thailand, there is a policy focus on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) that aims to support the production of bioplastics.
As global efforts to reduce CO2 emissions intensify, the innovation for mass production of plastic materials derived from plant-based ethanol is gaining attention. What is the course of action taken globally in this regard? This time, let’s focus on noteworthy cases in Japan, Brazil, and Thailand.
＜Japan’s Vision of Bioplastics＞
Japan is currently in the process of developing the technology to produce fundamental chemicals from bioethanol, with the goal of achieving commercialization by 2027. The process involves subjecting ethanol to catalysts under high-temperature conditions.
By subjecting it to a reaction under high-temperature conditions, this process enables the one-step production of ethylene, propylene, and toluene, which are raw materials for plastics.
There is a pursuit of significant efficiency improvements in recycling and recovery by utilizing bio-based materials produced using this technology in components and adhesives that are challenging to recycle.
Furthermore, there are plans to adapt this technology to products such as plastics used in automobiles, car seats, airbags, and coatings, which were previously considered difficult to replace with fossil-based materials.
In Japan, the shipment volume of bioplastics was approximately 90,000 tons as of 2021.
The government has formulated the Resource Circulation Strategy aimed at reducing the environmental impact of plastics. They have set a target to utilize approximately 2 million tons of plant-based plastics annually by 2030.
Asahi Kasei – a Japanese prominent science manufacturer, is progressing toward developing efficient catalysts and manufacturing processes for ethanol reactions.
However, Japanese companies are lagging significantly behind their overseas competitors.
＜Brazil’s Braskem: Ethanol Innovation＞
Braskem – a major chemical company in Brazil, possesses the technology to produce ethanol from sugarcane pulp, which is used for the production of plastic materials.
Since 2010, they have successfully operated the world’s first mass-production plant using exclusively plant-based raw materials. In 2022, they achieved a successful production of 260,000 tons of bioplastics, and are considering introducing some production to Japan from 2026 onwards.
Furthermore, proactive efforts towards bio-based products are notably observed in Thailand.
＜Thailand: Bioplastics Policy Boost＞
The Revenue Department of Thailand has implemented tax exemptions on bioethanol as a means of supporting bioplastic production.
The tax exemption measures apply to the entire supply chain, resulting in reduced capital costs and, consequently, the production of cost-effective bioplastic products. The same department is also preparing for legal amendments to enable entrepreneurs to utilize ethanol.
By focusing on ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) policies and transforming bioplastic production into a beneficial industry for entrepreneurs and the industrial sector, Thailand aims to lead its economy in a positive direction.
On the other hand, despite such efforts, the price of bioplastics remains 50 to 55 times higher than petroleum-based chemical products, posing a barrier to widespread adoption.
As a result, bioplastics currently account for less than 1% of the total plastic production volume.
For the global adoption of bioplastics, it is crucial not only to enhance technological capabilities but also to establish regulatory frameworks that prioritize market implementation.
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