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Issue 02/2016

  • Text
  • Bioplastics
  • Plastics
  • Marine
  • Biodegradable
  • Biobased
  • Products
  • Materials
  • Packaging
  • Polymers
  • Environmental
bioplasticsMAGAZINE_1602

Basics Bioplastics

Basics Bioplastics packaging: design for a circular plastics economy By: Hasso von Pogrell Managing Director European Bioplastics Berlin, Germany Applying the principles of a circular economy from the onset to the design stage of bioplastic materials and packaging solutions offers a competitive edge for the bioplastics industry. Today, packaging is the single largest field of application for bioplastics with currently 70 % (1.2 million tonnes) of the global bioplastics production capacity, forecast to reach 80 % (6.5 million tonnes) in 2019. The increase in demand is mainly driven by a growing awareness of society’s impact on the environment as well as the continuous advancements and innovations in new materials and applications. Yet, their true value lies in their characteristic of being derived from renewable resources and being recyclable as secondary raw materials that reenter the circular economy by design. Renewable feedstock Biobased plastics have the unique advantage over conventional plastics to reduce the dependency on limited fossil resources and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or even be carbon neutral. Biobased plastics are partly or fully derived from biobased resources that are sustainably sourced and regrow on an annual basis, such as sugarcane, corn, or sugar beet. Moreover, first successful projects explore the possibilities to create bioplastics from non-food crops and waste products that promise to become an efficient resource in the mid- and long-term. By replacing the fossil content in plastics with plant-based content, carbon is taken from the atmosphere and bound in the material. These biobased materials are then used to manufacture a broad range of products with a potentially neutral or even negative carbon footprint, many of which are durable and can be reused or easily recycled many times. Consequently, biobased plastics can help the EU to meet its 2020 targets of greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Closed resource cycle Bioplastics can make a considerable contribution to increased resource efficiency through a closed resource cycle and use cascades, especially if biobased materials and products are being either reused or recycled and eventually used for energy recovery (i.e. renewable energy). Bioplastics are suitable for a broad range of endof-life options with the overwhelming part of the volumes of bioplastics produced today already being recycled alongside their conventional counterparts where separate recycling streams for certain material types exist (e.g. biobased PE in the PE-stream or biobased PET in the PET stream). Furthermore, compostability is an add-on property of certain types of bioplastics that offers additional waste treatment options at the end of a product’s life. Biodegradable products, such as compostable biowaste bags, food packaging, or cutlery can easily be treated together with organic waste in industrial composting plants and are thus diverted from landfills and turned into valuable compost. This way, bioplastics can contribute to higher recycling quotas in the EU, a more efficient waste management, and the transition to a circular economy. Improved product performance The bioplastics industry has come up with numerous innovative technical and material solutions. Besides being biobased and therefore reducing the carbon footprint of a product, biobased plastics also offer new material properties for an improved performance, including enhanced breathability, increased material strength, and improved optical properties. Some new materials offer multiple functionalities combined in one material, such as PBS-based materials or functional biodegradable coating materials for example, where only one film will be needed to protect the good or food. Bioplastics are essential for the transition to a circular economy Our industry strongly supports the principles of the European Commission’s Circular Economy Proposal, which for the first time links the bioeconomy and circular economy, and which aims to treat waste as a valuable resource and make Europe’s economy cleaner and more competitive. The proposal outlines measures to cut resource use, reduce waste, and to enable true circularity across Europe by setting clear measures, methodologies, and standards. The European Commission’s Action plan ‘Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy’ in particular aims to incentivise the production of more durable, easier to repair, reuse, and recycle products. A corresponding revision of the Ecodesign Directive is already underway and a proposal is soon to be expected. In this context, European Bioplastics supports the position of the Ellen MacArthur foundation and the World Economy Forum in their report on the ‘New Plastics Economy’, which states that recyclability alone is not sufficient enough to create circularity and resource efficient products. Ecodesign requirements should also take efficient use of feedstock and efficient waste management solutions into account. True ecodesign is only possible if the notion of circularity is implemented. Focussing only on recyclability falls short of what it desired to achieve. Given the still too high quota of landfilling in the EU and the comparatively low quota of recycling, there is an urgent need for a more comprehensive approach to the problem: In order to provide an incentive to drastically reduce waste, while at the same time support renewable energy (e.g. biogas) and increase secondary raw 42 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/16] Vol. 11

Basics materials (i.e. compost), separate waste collection has to become binding for all EU Member States as soon as possible, including and in particular separate biowaste collection. Secondly, we need legal measures to reduce and eventually phase-out landfill, the earlier the better. The European Commission’s Circular Economy Proposal addresses all stages of the product life cycle and a range of responsible economic sectors, including product design. Yet, in order to be able to harness the many benefits of the ‘design for circularity’ it is essential to acknowledge the contributions of biobased materials to the circular economy by promoting biobased and biodegradable packaging and facilitating a level playing field and equal access for all sectors using biomass. Secondly, we need to drastically improve the waste collection infrastructure across Europe and to get better at diverting valuable material streams away from landfills. www.european-bioplastics.org Life cycle of bioplastics (EUBP) BIO MEETS PLASTICS. The specialists in plastic recycling systems. An outstanding technology for recycling both bioplastics and conventional polymers CHOOSE THE NUMBER ONE. bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/16] Vol. 11 43

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