On October 19, 2021, the European Patent Office (EPO) released a study entitled “Patents for tomorrow’s plastics: Global innovation trends in recycling, circular design and alternative sources”. This study, covering the years 2010 to 2019 by analysing international patent families, demonstrates that Europe and the US are at the forefront of innovation when it comes to recycling plastic and alternative plastics. Europe and the US indeed represent about 60% of the patents filed in these sectors.
In Europe, Germany is the country with the highest number of patent applications filed (8%), while France, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium shine thanks to their higher specialisation in these areas of expertise.
Among all these recycling technologies, chemical (cracking or pyrolysis for example) as well as biological (which can degrade polymers to produce plastics that are as good as brand new plastics) methods are the ones that spawned the largest number of patent applications. The study moreover highlights that, in chemical and biological recycling, fundamental research is way more important than other recycling methods.
When it comes to bioplastic inventions, the study also highlights the healthcare, cosmetic and detergent fields as being at the forefront of innovation.
The EPO President declared: “plastics are essential to the economy, but plastic pollution is threatening ecosystems all over the planet, The good news is that innovation can help us to address this challenge by enabling the transition to a fully circular model. This study offers key insights into a range of promising new technologies that foster the reusability, recyclability and bio-degradability of plastic products. It highlights Europe’s contribution to innovation in this sector, but shows that much more can be done to turn pioneering European research into inventions and to bring them to market.”