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DISPATCHES FROM EU BIOPLASTICS CONFERENCE 2013

‘We will adapt to survive’ says EU Bioplastics chairman

By Joe Whitworth+

16-Dec-2013

Francois de Bie at the EU Bioplastics Conference
Francois de Bie at the EU Bioplastics Conference

We will adapt and because we will adapt we will survive’, is the message from the chairman of the board of European Bioplastics.

Francois de Bie said first and second generation feedstocks, recycling of bio-materials and working closer with Brussels on EU policy were other key areas for the industry.

“Everyone knows Darwin, a lot of people think about Darwin as survival of the fittest, survival of the smartest but actually that’s not the case,” he told FoodProductionDaily.com at the conference in Berlin.

“Darwin is all about those species that can best perceive their environment and best adapt to it to be successful.

“Bioplastics will help mankind to adapt to the changing outside environment, by outside environment I mean climate change, global warming, scarcity of non-renewable resources such as oil and fuel etc and bioplastics will play a vital role in that transition.”

The bioplastics market is predicted to grow from around 1.4m tonnes annual production capacity in 2012 to 6.2m tonnes by 2017.

Maturing industry

de Bie, also marketing director PLA for Corbian Purac, said growth will come from applications ranging from packaging to consumer electronics.

“I also see that we are maturing, whereas in the past we were just based on a gut feel promoting and touting the benefits of bioplastics, we have seen during this conference in depth discussions were people say I need data, I need LCA’s, sustainability criteria to really certify and show that bioplastics are the more sustainable solution.”

The conference held one-to-one meetings for the first time to share information and bring industry together and network with all industry.

de Bie said industry was still coming up with new molecules and new polymers every year.

“Even better than that we not only come up with these molecules in the laboratory but we find investors, shareholders, respectable old economic companies that invest hundreds of millions of euros to advance those biopolymers,” he said.

Education aim

He said that the general public need to be further educated on the biodegradability of bioplastics.

“The days based on gut feel, people said oh it’s a bioplastic that means it will biodegrade, that means I can chuck it out of the window once I am done with it, that is something we are absolutely against and we oppose it violently.

“Bioplastics have their different benefits in different applications, one of the benefits could be that it is compostable, biodegradable for some specific applications, where you have a high amount of organic waste in a catering restaurant where you have single-use food packaging. Right there is very beneficial to have compostable, biodegradable plastics.”   

Janez Potočnik, EU environment commissioner, encouraged the bioplastics industry to continue making bioplastics a sustainable material, neutral in its impact on food production and biodiversity.

But he said industry needs to inform the public about their products and processes in order to clarify its position, in an opening speech at the conference via video.

Potočnik raised concerns about plastic collected for recycling versus that for landfill or incineration because of its cheap and durable nature.

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