Consumer attitudes and concerns on bioplastics use: an international study

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The problems posed by conventional plastic

Plastics have become one of the most ubiquitous materials used globally, and global production has on average increased by about 9% per year since 1950 and reaching 359 million tonnes per annum in 2018 (Plastics Europe, 2019). This rapid growth (Figure 1) has been driven by two underlying trends: one is the continued growth in population and consumer demand exhibited in all markets and the second is the replacement of other materials (e.g. paper, metals, glass) because of the superior cost: performance ratio of plastics, and by the addition of new applications.

barchart, Plastic production from 1950-2019
Figure 1. Plastic production from 1950-2019 (adapted from Nova-Institut GmbH, 2020)

There is a faulty practice in many countries to use the term “bioplastics” for two different things: bio-based plastics (plastics made at least partly from biological matter) and biodegradable plastics (plastics that can be completely broken down by microbes in a reasonable timeframe, given specific conditions). However, not all the bio-based plastics are biodegradable, and not all biodegradable plastics are bio-based. Also, even biodegradable plastics might not biodegrade in a not suitable environment. Therefore, many issues still remain unsolved. Another very important issue is that “end of life” in plastic chain does not mean “end of impact”. In fact, because plastic materials persist and pollute long after their intended use, it has become clear that there is no such thing as “end of life” for plastics. Regardless of the disposal method, it may pose a significant threat to the environment and to the climate when it reaches the waste phase of its life-cycle.

Bioplastics and their use

Bioplastics can be defined as a bioplastic that is either biobased or biodegradable or having both of these properties (European-Bioplastics, 2016c). Biobased plastics are those that are derived from plant based biomass or organic material whereas biodegradable plastic refers to the environmental fate of the bioplastic. This suggests that the plastic will break down within a certain timeframe whilst leaving no toxic residues behind. Bioplastics are considered to be sustainable environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional plastics. Bioplastics can be broken down into three main types based on the material they are made from. The first group is the biobased or partly biobased bioplastics that are not biodegradable such as PP, PET and PP and biobased technical performance polymers. The second category are bioplastics that are biobased and biodegradable which include your PBS and PLA. Lastly, there are biodegradable bioplastics that are derived from fossil resources.


A questionnaire was used to collect the level of information and attitudes about bioplastics, using a sample of individuals from a set of 42 countries located mostly in Europe and Asia. The method of data collection was a survey, taking the form of a self-administered questionnaire, consisting mainly of closed questions, covering the following sections: (i) demographics (country of residence, gender, age, highest level of education, income in the last month, and occupation; (ii) questions regarding the knowledge level of bioplastics, bio-based and biodegradable products; (iii) questions related with the usage and buying of bioplastics (frequency and type of products); (iv) questions regarding the concerns about bioplastics (for instance impacts of bioplastic to human and environmental health); and finally a set of (v) wrapping questions asking for the opinion of respondents (e.g. replacing of conventional plastic, ways to encourage the use of bioplastics).

Result and Discussion

Demographic characteristics

A total of 384 participants from 42 countries completed the online survey from October 2020 till February 2021 (Figure 2). Most of the respondents were from Malaysia (53), Estonia (43), Nigeria (34), Lithuania (29) and Germany (29). Figure  gives a broad breakdown of countries participated in the study and their color gradation according to the number of participants. According to the regional distribution of survey participants, most of them were from Europe (59.6%), then from Asia (23.2%), Africa (10.7%), North America (3.9%), Latin America (2.3%) and Oceania (0.3%).

Map diagram, Survey participating countries and number of respondents
Figure:2 Survey participating countries and number of respondents

General knowledge of bioplastics

The results of the survey show that respondents have good understanding of the basic concepts regarding bioplastics. The majority of respondents selected at least one correct answer (multiple answers were possible) to the question: “What are the bioplastics” (Figure 3), despite the fact that it is a complex topic to understand and refers to a plastic that is bio-based and/or biodegradable. Most of respondents identified bioplastics as: “polymers based on biological materials including plants and/or plants waste”.

Bar chart, What are bioplastics?
Figure 3: What are bioplastics?

Use of bioplastic products in daily activities

Nowadays, conventional plastics are used regularly in daily activities throughout the world. Out of 377 respondents, about half use plastic products and plastic packaging in their every-day activities. At the same time 42.7% of respondents mentioned that they try to avoid using plastic products and packing in some activities. In comparison, the use of bioplastic products is much more modest, only 9.9% of respondents use the bioplastic in the daily life and 45.8% participants use bioplastic products and packaging sometimes. 39.7% of participants try to avoid use of bioplastic products and packing. The survey results indicated that the main reasons limiting the use of bioplastics in daily life activities are: limited availability (64.8%), lack of information about the products (37.2%), high cost (25.5%) and limited awareness (21.9%) (Figure 4 and 5).

Bar chart, Use of plastics in daily activities
Figure 4&5: Use of plastics in daily activities

Low awareness of the respondents was reported by participants for the question about main modalities of the use of bioplastics: 42.2% of respondents selected N/A. Main uses of bioplastics were reported for food packaging 40.6%, packing (bags and boxes) 35.9%, cutlery 12.5% and 6.8 % for toys and baby bottles (Figure 6).

Bar chart, Main modalities of bioplastics used
Figure 6. Main modalities of bioplastics used

Perceptions and expectations towards bioplastics

 In general the respondents have positive expectations regarding future of bioplastics. In total, 95.1% of all respondents believe that bioplastics can fully or partly replace the conventional plastics.

The participants also mentioned the increased availability of bioplastics as the main driver to encourage them to buy more bioplastics products. Regarding the question of possible applications of bioplastics, the respondents mentioned the food packaging as the main area where use of bioplastics should be increased. Finally, in order to use more bioplastics in everyday life, respondents pointed out that they need to be sure that they are safe and also to increase the availability on the market (Figure 7).

Bar chart, What encourages participants to use bioplastics more frequently?
Figure 7. What encourages participants to use bioplastics more frequently?


Bioplastics are increasingly gaining momentum because of the human and ecological risks of using conventional plastics, which are non-biodegradable and highly polluting. However, the success of largescale diffusion and adoption of bioplastic is contingent upon gauging the attitudes and addressing the concerns of bioplastic consumers. The study found that the participants have a good understanding of and the links between the concepts of bioplastics and biodegradable, implying a positive view about bioplastics.


bioplastics, consumers, attitudes, plastics


Walter Leal Filho¹, Jelena Barbir*¹, Ismaila Rimi Abubakar², Arminda Paço³, Zaneta Stasiskiene4, Marie Hornbogen¹, Maren Theresa Christin Fendt¹, Viktoria Voronova5, Marija Klõga5

  1. Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences, Research + Transfer Centre “Sustainable Development & Climate Change Management” (FTZ-NK), Ulmenliet 20, 21033 Hamburg, Germany 
  2. College of Architecture and Planning, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (formerly, University of Dammam), P.O. Box 1982, Dammam 31441, Saudi Arabia
  3.  University of Beira Interior, Department of Management and Economics, Núcleo de Estudos em Ciências Empresariais (NECEUBI), Rua Marquês d'Ávila e Bolama, 6201-001 Covilhã, Portugal
  4. Kaunas University of Technology, Institute of Environmental Engineering, Gedimino str. 50, 44239 Kaunas, Lithuania 
  5. Tallinn University of Technology, Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Ehitajate tee 5, 19086, Tallinn, Estonia


European-Bioplastics (2016). What are bioplastics? - Material types, terminology, and labels – an introduction. Fact Sheet- European Bioplastics. Retrieved 24 September, 2020, from

Nova-Institut GmbH (2020): Plastic production from 1950 to 2018. Retrieved from Accessed on 12/03/2021

PlasticsEurope (2019). Plastics - the Facts 2019. Retrieved from

Last modified: 2022-08-03