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04 | 2010

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Opinion The Bio-Based

Opinion The Bio-Based Discussion A contribution to the discussion by Jeremy Tomkinson, CEO, Adrian Higson, Chemicals and Healthcare Manager, and John Williams, Polymers and Materials Manager, NNFCC, York, England Lately, methods for determining the renewable content of bio-based materials and products have been the subject of debate. In the May/June issue, Michael Carus put forward a good argument for determining bio-based content by measuring all the renewable components (carbon, oxygen and hydrogen) contained in a material (i.e. mass-based). However, measuring the renewable carbon content ( 12 C to 14 C ratio) has been suggested as a more appropriate alternative (i.e. carbon-based). To determine the best solution we must ask what are we trying to achieve by labelling something as bio-based? Bio-based materials should offer a unique opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, displace fossil fuels and provide sustainable solutions to feedstock procurement. However, it is not clear how best to report these attributes to the consumer. The argument for using carbon-based labelling is clear. Plants remove CO 2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and this biogenic carbon is stored in the bio-based product. Energy can be recovered from the product at its ‘end of life’ as heat or power irrespective of the amount of oxygen and hydrogen. In this way bio-based products provide a more sustainable option than fossil derived equivalents. This carbon content can be determined by a single physical measurement independent of secondary information, allowing simple regulation of schemes. However, in certain circumstances promoting biogenic carbon-dense materials may be inappropriate and use energy inefficiently. For example, fossil-based plastics can be substituted with starch or organic acids, like lactic acid. These natural materials contain oxygen and hydrogen which contribute to the product’s energy balance and assist in the biodegradation. Here, the carbon-based approach may show a lower bio-based content than the mass-based approach, but mask a smaller carbon footprint in the production process. There is obvious value in both measurement methodologies. Carbon-based labelling measures the biogenic carbon contained in a material, which is important in understanding the ‘end of life’ energy recovery. While mass-based labelling provides a more complete measure of fossil fuel displacement. Our recommendation Ultimately, a life cycle assessment is the most complete way to understand the overall carbon footprint of a material. However, reporting both the biogenic carbon content and mass of bio-based material present will take us a long way towards developing a wide range of sustainable materials. Table 1. Overview of the pros and cons of using mass- and carbon-based labelling of bio-based materials Pros Mass-based Oxygen and hydrogen can be important elements in a product’s fossil fuel displacement Oxygen and hydrogen benefit material biodegradation Carbon-based Carbon is the most important element in renewable energy production and GHG mitigation at ‘end of life’ Simple single measurement Cons Requires secondary information Could promote resource inefficient products Does not describe how much carbon has been sequestered 38 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/10] Vol. 5

New Series Personality In the last issue, bioplastics MAGAZINE started a new series of ‘Personality Interviews’. We want to introduce well known personalities from the bioplastics industry from a slightly different point of view. We hope to provide some information about these people that our readers most probably have not known before. Catia Bastioli bM: Dear Mrs. Bastioli, if I may ask, when and where were you born? CB: In October 1957 in Foligno, close to Perugia in the center of Italy. bM: Where do you live today? CB: I live in Novara, in the Piedmont Region, Italy. bM: What is your education? CB: I have a degree in Pure Chemistry from Perugia University and a diploma in Business Administration from Bocconi University in Milan. bM: What is your professional function today CB: In addition of being the CEO of Novamont, I am a Board Member in different public and private institutions dealing with innovation. I also teach Biopolymers as Contract Professor at the University of Eastern Piedmont Amedeo Avogadro. bM: How did you ‘come to’ bioplastics? CB: In the late Eighties when I was a Project leader of the strategic project ‘Composites’ in Donegani Institute, Corporate Research Center of Montedison. The Company was acquired by Ferruzzi group, a leading agroindustrial player in Europe. The need to create a bridge between agroindustry and chemistry brought the Group to establish a new reseach center completely dedicated to renewable resources. I was asked to deal with the strategic aspects and the creation of an interdisciplinary team on Material Science starting from the renewable materials and biomass available in Ferruzzi. bM: What do you consider more important: ‘biobased‘ or ‘biodegradable‘? CB: Both are of interest. Biobased is a more general concept, it relates to the origin of a product and to the reduction of fossil carbon; the assessment of the real environmental benefits of a biobased product, however, requires a systemic approach involving life cycle thinking. Biodegradability relates to the end of life scenarios, it is an important property for short life products, for products where recycling is difficult and has low probability to happen or when plastics are contaminated with organic waste such as food residues. bM: What was your biggest achievement (in terms of bioplastics) so far? CB: I feel the biggest achievement up to now is to have transformed the results of our technical research into an industrial reality, involving a new interaction with the agricultural world and the local areas. The biorefineries dedicated to bioplastics and chemicals integrated into the local areas from my point of view have a great potential with relevant environmental, economical and social implications. bM: What are your biggest challenges for the future ? CB: To transform our Company, which evolved from a research center, to a small/medium, up to a significant size reality, into a worldwide player, interconnected with other actors in a fast growing market, without loosing the peculiarity of our initial approach. Meaning to use bioplastics and bio-products as tools to build relevant cases of what I call a system based economy, involving the local areas. My dream is to bring a contribution to the valorisation of the territories with their biodiversity and cultural heritages, in terms of reindustrialization, competitiveness, quality jobs, environmental attention. I mean an industry, able to put human being and its environment in the centre. bM: What is your family status? CB: I’m not married and I have no children, but I have a fantastic partner. We have been together since the time of university. bM: What is your favourite movie? CB: I love movies, and my current favourite is Woody Allen’s latest one ‘Whatever works’. I also liked a lot ‘Invictus’ on Nelson Mandela. bM: What is your favourite book? CB: I read a lot of scientific literature, but I also like books. Some of my current favourite ones, however, are ‘The periodic System’ of the Jewish-Italian author (and chemist) Primo Levi. ‘One Thousand Splendid Suns’ of Khaled Hosseini and ‘The Same and not the Same’ of the ‘Nobel Prize’ Winner Roald Hoffman, on Chemistry. bM: What is your favourite (or your next) vacation location? CB: Whenever I can afford to take a few days off, I like to be alone in nature... bM: What do you eat for breakfast on a Sunday? CB: I like boiled eggs, yoghurt and - if possible - different types of berries. bM: What is your ‘slogan’? CB: I don’t like slogans. They transform people into ‘supporters’ like in football games reducing their ability to go in depth and to be free. bM: Thank you very much. MT bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/10] Vol. 5 39

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