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Dutch companies and research institutes account for 11.5% of all international patents (IPFs) for plastic recycling technologies within the EU and 6.3% of all European patents for bioplastics. Although Germany, France and Italy score higher in absolute terms, the Netherlands has the most plastic recycling patents per million inhabitants.
Editorial office / Munich

This is evident from the report published today (19 October) by the European Patent Office (EPO) entitled Patents for tomorrow’s plastics: Global innovation trends in recycling, circular design and alternative sources.

Between 2010 and 2019, Europe and the United States each accounted for 30% of global patent activity in the aforementioned sectors. The Netherlands distinguishes itself by a very high degree of specialisation in the field of plastic recycling technologies. Worldwide, it occupies the second place after Belgium. In this sector, the Netherlands also shows the highest specialisation in several sub-sectors of biological and chemical recycling. Chemical and biological recycling accounted for 9,000 IPFs in the period 2010-2019. This is double the number submitted for mechanical recycling, the most widely used solution so far to convert plastic waste into new products.

Almost 20% of inventions in this field are made by universities and public research institutes. Geographically, universities and public research institutes in Europe and the United States have a clear lead, each with 29% of patents coming from research institutes. However, US start-ups and scale-ups apply for four times more patents in chemical and biological recycling than their European counterparts (338 versus 84). This suggests that the valorisation of these technologies by industry in Europe is lagging behind.


The study also shows that in the field of bioplastic inventions, the healthcare sector is by far the most patentable (over 19,000 over the period), while accounting for less than 3% of total plastic demand in Europe. The cosmetics and detergent industry has relatively the largest share of its patenting activity in bioplastics. Packaging, electronics and textiles also contribute significantly to bioplastics innovation.

The top 3 of leading patent applicants based in the Netherlands in the field of plastic recycling are Sabic (a Saudi company with European headquarters in the Netherlands), Shell and DSM. For bioplastics, the top 3 consists of Unilever, Schlumberger and DSM.

The full report can be found on the website of the European Patent Office.

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