European policymakers gave a bold signal that they want to boost bio-based plastic products this week. On Tuesday, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee adopted a Report which calls on Member States to promote the use of bio-based recyclable packaging via “economic instruments”, “improving market conditions” and “reviewing existing legislation”. This was followed by the publication, on Thursday, of the European Commission’s “Strategy on Plastics in a circular economy“, which addresses the “high dependence on fossil feedstock” as one of its three priority areas.
It might be tempting to herald the dawn of a new era for bio-based plastics. It’s not. There’s a good deal of work that still needs to be done before we see a really significant shift to these materials. Bioplastics make up barely 1% of total plastic production and there’s certainly a need to increase production capacities in Europe, which are still very low. Fostering responsible growth in the industry is a key area, which depends on sound sustainability criteria, robust standards, and access to feedstock.
There is now however, perhaps for the first time, some tangible momentum within the policy field. Pull measures for the use of bio-based plastics, which until recently were considered a pipedream, are now much more realistic. Some Members States have made firm commitments to explore incentives through the participation fees of EPR schemes. Others are keen to promote bio-based materials within certain product categories. But it remains to be seen whether the Council will support the European Parliament’s position outlined in the Bonafe Report.
But all this needs to be underpinned by life-cycle thinking, as mentioned in a recent article I posted here. Bio-based materials and products that undergo LCA can demonstrate the GHG emissions savings and other sustainability benefits they possess. LCA increases the ability to accurately compare the environmental impacts of different materials, something which will feed into the forthcoming discussions on eco-design.
Braskem, producer of I’m Green™, a renewable, recyclable plastic made from sugarcane, is the leading biopolymer producer in the world.
Source: Linked.in, 2017-01-27.
Author: Henri Colens