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European Patent Office: Europe and the United States are in a leading position in global plastic recycling and alternative plastic innovation

European Patent Office: Europe and the United States are in a leading position in global plastic recycling and alternative plastic innovation

2021-11-16

A new study published by the European Patent Office (EPO) shows that from a global perspective, Europe and the United States are leading the way in plastic recycling and alternative plastic technologies.


The research report entitled "Patents for Future Plastics: Global Innovation Trends in Recycling, Recycling Design, and Alternative Sources" comprehensively analyzes the innovation trends that promote the transformation of plastics to a circular economy from 2010 to 2019.

The report looks at the number of international patent family (IPF), each patent family representing an invention (so-called high-value invention) that has been filed in two or more patent offices around the world. It aims to provide guidance for business leaders and policy makers, use resources on technologies with development potential, and evaluate the comparative advantages of the technologies at different stages of the value chain, and at the same time, to find innovative companies and institutions that can promote long-term sustainable growth .


From 2010 to 2019, Europe and the United States each accounted for 30% of global patent activity in these industries (60% in total). In Europe, Germany has the highest share of patent activity in plastic recycling and bioplastic technology (8% of the global total), while France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium stand out because of their high degree of specialization in these fields.


"Although plastic is vital to the economy, plastic pollution is threatening the global ecosystem." said Antonio Campinos, president of the European Patent Office. "The good news is that innovation can help us by achieving a transition to a fully circular model. Responding to this challenge. This study provides key insights into a series of promising new technologies that promote the reusability, recyclability, and biodegradability of plastic products. The study highlights Europe’s commitment to this The contribution made by innovation in one area also shows that more work can be done in translating pioneering research in Europe into inventions and bringing them to the market."


Chemical and biological recycling technology with the most patents

The study emphasized that among all the recycling technologies, the chemical and biological recycling methods had the most active patent activities during the review period. These methods have 9,000 IPFs in 2010-2019, which is twice the number of mechanical recycling applications (4,500IPFs), which is currently the most commonly used solution for converting plastic waste into new products. Although patent applications for standard chemical methods (such as pyrolysis and pyrolysis) peaked in 2014, emerging technologies such as biological methods using living organisms (1500IPFs) or plastic-to-monomer recovery (2300IPFs) are degrading polymers and producing The original plastic aspect offers new possibilities.


The commercialization potential of European university research is yet to be developed

The report also found that in the field of chemical and biological recycling, the role of basic research is much more important than other plastic recycling technologies. Nearly 20% of inventions come from universities and public research institutions. In terms of the geographic location of these universities and public research institutions, Europe and the United States have obvious leading advantages, with 29% of IPF each coming from research institutions.


The report shows that Europe is the only major innovation center, and its share of chemical and biological recycling inventions in basic "upstream" research (29%) is higher than the overall number in the field (26%). In contrast, the contribution of the United States and Japan to upstream IPF (29% and 11%) is lower than their respective share of all IPF (36% and 17%).


At the same time, US start-ups and large-scale companies produce IPF in chemical and biological recycling four times that of their European counterparts (338 v. 84). This shows that although Europe is particularly active in basic research, it has not fully realized its potential when transferring these technologies to the industrial field.


Healthcare, cosmetics and detergent industries

Leading bioplastics innovation

In the field of bioplastic inventions, the study found that although it only accounts for less than 3% of the total demand for plastics in Europe, the total number of patent activities in the healthcare industry is by far the largest (more than 19,000 IPFs in 2010-2019). However, the cosmetics and detergent industries account for the largest share of patent activities in the bioplastics field. The ratio of bioplastics IPF to traditional plastics IPF is 1:3, and the ratio in the healthcare industry is 1:5. Packaging, electronics and textiles are also important contributors to bioplastics innovation.


Plastic innovations that are easier to recycle are rapidly emerging

Looking to the future, the study highlights the great potential of new plastic designs for easier recycling. This is an alternative plastic field that has developed exponentially in recent years and has been growing at a rate of 10% since 2010.


These technologies have application potential in the fields of aerospace, construction, transportation, wind turbines and microelectronics. The rapid growth of patent applications in these fields is almost entirely driven by the innovative technology of dynamic covalent bonds-dynamic covalent bonds make it possible for durable plastic materials to self-repair a novel design.


Although Japan is a leader in this field, most of the inventions from universities and public research organizations in this field come from research institutions in Europe and the United States.


[Source: EPO)

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