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The development of the biobased economy should go up a notch. Plastic soup, the essential CO2 reduction, scarcity of raw materials, but also more stringent legislation make it necessary to have a broad discussion about accelerating the greening of our society.
Pierre Gielen

Biobased Delta brings this into practice by organising a series of round table meetings in which whole chains in the biobased economy take part; from financiers to designers, from chemists to manufacturing and from retailers to consumers.

This series started with a discussion about plastic packaging during the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven (25 October). A very current topic, now the EU has decided to ban single-use plastics. How can we solve this? Bioplastics, recycled plastics or switching to other materials? An industrial designer, a retailer, a manufacturer of bioplastics and a representative of the companies in the Biobased Delta all joined host Jaap Huisman for the discussion.

Economic factor

According to Steven IJzerman, quality employee of the organic supermarket chain Ekoplaza, non-degradable plastics are outdated. IJzerman drew international attention earlier this year with the very first plastic-free “pop-up store” in the world. “Next year, we aim to have plastic-free packaging for 30% of all our products. We will omit the packaging or use other materials, such as bioplastics made from PLA.”

“We need to consider end-of-life of materials as an economic factor”, says François de Bie, senior marketing director of PLA manufacturer TotalCorbion. “The CO2 footprint of PLA is four times smaller than that of comparable ‘fossil’ plastics, such as PET and polystyrene. PLA is mechanically or chemically 100% recyclable to the building block lactic acid. If it does end up in the environment, then it breaks down to form water and CO2 within twelve weeks.”

Complicated message

According to Willem Sederel, board member of Biobased Delta, the consumer does not understand which plastics are biodegradable or not and what terms such as biobased, biodegradable or compostable mean. “Our message is too complicated for the general public. Consumers do not know what to choose in the supermarket.”

Herman van der Vegt (NPK design) is convinced that plastic for nonsensical and single-use applications will disappear altogether. “This is a question of time. We are continuously getting better at thinking of alternatives and new materials. I am optimistic about this.”

However, before we reach this stage, the government and industry will also need to get moving, says Sederel: “The government is leaning back, whilst strict measures are required now, such as a European CO2 tax. Industry also needs to take steps. This applies to both large companies and SME. The biobased economy allows you to be successful on a small scale through ‘smart’ operating practices.”

The round table discussion about packaging will be continued in 2019. Discussions will also be organised next year about various other topics, such as sustainable construction materials and the funding of up-scaling.

This article was created in cooperation with Biobased Delta