“Bioplastics have potential for being truly sustainable”

“Bioplastics have potential for being truly sustainable”

“Bioplastics made from bio-feedstock, and reintegrated into the biosphere as a nutrient, or recycled together with conventional plastic, clearly have a potential for being a truly sustainable material. And it could reduce fossil fuel consumption,” stated EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik in his opening speech to the 8th European Bioplastics Conference on the 10 and 11 December in Berlin, Germany. In his video message he pointed to the crucial role, bioplastics can play in Europe‘s transition towards a circular biobased economy.

Potočnik encouraged the bioplastics industry “to continue their work on making bioplastics a truly sustainable material, neutral in its impact on food production and biodiversity.” However, he also pointed out that the industry needs to continuously and transparently inform the public about their products and processes in order to clarify its position and prosper in the future.

These recommendations were picked up directly by a group of experts in a panel discussion on sustainability criteria investigating the most relevant question: How to assess the sustainability of bioplastics in a fair way?. The panel started with a presentation by Professor Matthias Finkbeiner from the Technical University Berlin on ‘Perspectives of Life Cycle Assessment of Bioplastics’.

“LCA is still the best available tool to assess the environmental performance of bioplastics as fact-based as possible,” stated Finkbeiner. He further commented on the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) approach introduced by the European Commission as “LCA overkill introducing pseudo solutions in order to achieve comparability.”

The panel discussion then focussed on the need to break down the complexity of assessing the sustainability of bioplastics, the need to use available and valid methodologies and to provide easy to use tools to consumers to understand these assessments and how they impact on the product they are using.

Another highlight of the 8th European Bioplastics Conference was the annual market data update by European Bioplastics and the Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (IfBB – University of Applied Arts Hannover, Germany). The data once more emphasised the success of bioplastics industry with production capacities multiplying from around 1.4 million tonnes in 2012 to more than 6 million tonnes in 2017. All material types are gaining ground with biobased, non-biodegradable ‘drop-in’ solutions, such as biobased PE and biobased PET, leading the field.  Biodegradable plastics, including e.g. PLA, biodegradable polyesters and starch-blends, are also demonstrating impressive growth rates. Their production capacity will gain around 60 percent by 2017.

The bioplastics MAGAZINE’s 8th Annual Global Bioplastics Award honoured company Helmut Lingemann GmbH & Co.KG for their new spacer system NIROTEC EVO, which is applied in windows and facades using double and triple glazing. The award jury chose the profiles because of the tailor-made blend of different biopolymers based on PLA, biopolyester and further additives providing a number of special mechanical and thermal properties combined with the important feature of ‘no fogging’.

More than 350 participants from 215 companies caught up on the latest discussions, developments and progress in the bioplastics industry during the 8th European Bioplastics Conference. Once more, the leading European event for the bioplastics industry provided excellent opportunities for networking, knowledge exchange and business contacts. 86 percent of the participants came from Europe, 8 percent from North America and South America, and the majority of the remaining 6 percent from Asia.

 

Stephanie Cornwall
Stephanie Cornwall
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