Europe’s bioplastics industry needs a level playing field

Written by Hasso von Pogrell on 6 July 2018 in Thought Leader
Thought Leader

Europe’s bioplastics industry needs a level playing field, writes Hasso von Pogrell.

Bioplastics are a fast-growing, innovative sector. Many of the world’s leading companies are turning to bioplastics to meet the growing demand for more sustainable products without having to compromise on performance or profitability. 

For almost every conventional plastic material and application, an equivalent, or even superior, alternative made from bioplastics is readily available on the market. The bioplastics industry is able to meet the increased demand as a result of substantial investments in R&D and new production capacities.

With Europe’s commitment to transitioning to a circular economy, bioplastics are high on the political agenda thanks to their potential to close the carbon loop and decouple economic growth from depleting our planet’s natural resources. Despite this, the bioplastics industry in Europe is still hampered by the lack of a level playing field.


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Bioplastics fulfil the same strict requirements and standards on product safety as conventional plastics, while meeting a number of additional standards and sustainability criteria and they are more closely scrutinised for their environmental footprint and use of resources. 

While a life-cycle-approach is crucial in driving the transition to a circular economy, current tools to assess and compare the environmental impacts of conventional and bio-based plastics are imbalanced and distort the calculated effectiveness of both sectors.

European Bioplastics calls on the members of the European Parliament to introduce substantive regulatory measures for improving market penetration for bio-based materials and ensuring long-term investment security. 

In particular, measures such as extended producer responsibility and product design rules connected to a minimum bio-based content in plastic products, or a carbon pricing mechanism incorporating the external costs of climate change into product prices would help boost bioplastics, further stimulating bio-based materials production in Europe, helping create additional revenue streams for European farmers.

Additionally, measures to support biodegradable and compostable plastics for specific applications such as bio-waste bags, fresh food packaging, disposable catering items and agricultural mulch films would help make waste management more efficient, deliver increased recycling targets, reducing plastic leakage into the environment. 

Compostable plastics adhere to strict European standards with regard to their complete biodegradability, product safety, and impact on ecosystems. By creating secondary raw materials, organic recycling helps keep resources within the loop. 

At the same time, research into biodegradation in alternative environments and evaluating the potential benefits is another path being continuously pursued and backed up by comprehensive standardisation efforts.

The transition to a low-carbon circular economy requires systematic change in the entire value chain. The bioplastics industry is doing its part to offer sustainable and safe plastic solutions by designing materials and products with circularity in mind. We urge MEPs to ensure a level playing field for bioplastics to deliver on their potential for better social, economic and environmental outcomes.

 

About the author

Hasso von Pogrell is the Managing Director of European Bioplastics (EUBP)

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