“With the Plastic Strategy the Commission presented an ambitious plan but it focuses only on mechanical recycling of conventional plastics and falls short in considering and evaluating the big benefits for the environment and for the ‘green’ jobs in Europe that bioplastics can provide”. Mariagiovanna Vetere, NatureWorks Public Affairs manager for Europe, talks to Il Bioeconomista.
Interview by Mario Bonaccorso
What exactly is meant for bioplastics? What are the main differences between biodegradable and compostable plastics?
Bioplastics are a family of products, polymers and compound, that can be biodegradable, bio-based or both. Biodegradability is a property; it’s the ability of a product to decompose in water, CO2 and biomass; compostability indicates a precise timeframe and conditions of biodegradability.
NatureWorks is a world-leading biopolymers supplier and innovator with its Ingeo portfolio of naturally advanced materials made from renewable feedstocks with performance and economics that compete with oil-based intermediates, plastics, and fibers. What are the main applications of your bioplastics? And what are your growth forecasts for the market?
Our biopolymer Ingeo™ is suitable for a wide range of applications; the main characteristic of stiffness together with transparency and clarity make it a good fit for packaging applications like cold cups, yogurt cups, trays and clamshells. It is used also in coffee capsules as it provides good performance and compostability. Ingeo is also used in electronics and appliances; as filaments for 3D printing; and in fibers and nonwovens for apparel, baby wipes, and diapers.
We see the market for all bioplastics growing continuously in the next few years. According to European Bioplastics, global production capacities of bioplastics are predicted to grow from around 2.05 million tonnes in 2017 to approximately 2.44 million tonnes by 2022.
The EU Commission presented its strategy on plastics in the circular economy, which does not seem to consider adequately the role of bioplastics. What is your point of view on this?
With the Plastic Strategy the Commission presented an ambitious plan but it focuses only on mechanical recycling of conventional plastics and falls short in considering and evaluating the big benefits for the environment and for the “green” jobs in Europe that bioplastics can provide.
According to John Bell, director of the Bioeconomy Directorate at the European Commission, the bioeconomy can’t be reduced to a part of the circular economy only. The bioeconomy involves a paradigm shift across the whole economy. It is genuinely disruptive by envisaging to move beyond a fossil-based economy to a sustainable economy. What measures are needed at European level to better interconnect bioeconomy and circular economy?
I agree with John Bell, the bioeconomy is a wide concept and different kind of measures are needed; a set of actions that not necessary involve subsidies. In my view a fairer market place for compostable materials, a significant push to biowaste collection, a reward system for those companies that decide to decarbonize their activities using biobased materials… more initiatives to support those companies that want to invest in biorefineries.
The IMF estimated the global subsidies on fossil fuels in 2015 at 5.3 trillion USD, or 6.5 percent of global GDP. In this scenario, how can Europe accelerate the transition to a bioeconomy?
The EU Parliament is investigating the possibility of a carbon tax to create better conditions for biobased materials, but we still miss a clear commitment to help the market for those products.
It’s time to introduce a carbon tax in Europe?
It’s time to give clear support to biomaterials! The EU Plastic Strategy is a missed opportunity in this sense, we hope that the upcoming bio economy strategy will be more clear and supportive.
Not taking into account the cost of negative externalities caused by fossil-based products creates market distortions. Who pays for the damage caused by CO2 emissions?
EU could take measures to help market for those products and activities that reduce and fight the climate change. This will be a very good way forward the reduction of externalities.