2020 spike in biodegradable plastics innovation ends two decades of decline in patent applications

Appleyard Lees’ Inside Green Innovation: Progress Report 2022 revealed that after almost two decades of decline, there has been a sharp spike in biodegradable plastics-related patent applications. Technology innovation in this area peaked in 2020, when 423 priority patent applications were filed – an almost 130% increase on 2018 (186) and the most prolific patent filing year since 2000 (294).

The largest sub-group within biodegradable plastics patent applications was related to butylene-based bioplastics. Many of these applications focused on improvements to biodegradable packaging and single-use items. Butylene-based polymers are biodegradable and as such, are anticipated to become more important in the global transition to bioplastics because they have properties that are parallel to conventional plastics.

In the case of monomers, patent data research reveals that pyrolysis – a process for decomposing plastic feedstock into smaller hydrocarbons – is currently taking the top spot among regeneration recycling technologies. In 2020, this technology accounted for about 70% of patent filings among the four most common decomposition recycling approaches.  

Innovation activity is dominated by Eastman Chem Co., with more than 70 patent applications for plastics recycling technologies in 2019-20 alone, followed by Sabic Global Technologies, whose applications include technology to process plastic waste by hydrotreatment and pyrolysis. 

Read the full report on bioplastics here.

Inside Green Innovation: Progress Report

In November 2021, we published the first edition of our report, examining global progress in green innovation, and what it might mean to countries, commerce and the planet.

For 2022, we’ve refined the scope of the report.  We have revisited the innovation areas of plastics, batteries and food production, and for the first time included analyses of technological developments in carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS), hydrogen, heat pumps and solar energy, all of which are grouped into the categories of food, materials, and energy.

Read the full report. 

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