November 25, 2006

BIOplastics: BIOdegradable by-products of BIOconversion

Biomass conversion can be used to produce biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel, isolate hydrogen, generate electricity, and produce charcoal. But just as the growth of the oil industry led to the rapid development of the petroleum-based plastics industry, a huge industry in BIOplastics is expected to be developed from the by-products of biomass conversion. These products are especially attractive because of their ability to sequester carbon and biodegrade as soil nutrients.

Europe is leading in this field. With few landfills and high population density, the motivation to produce new products from biorefinery output is strong. At a recent European Bioplastics Conference in Brussels last week, Heinz Zourek, Director-General of DG Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission, emphasized the significance of bioplastics for sustainable development.

"Bioplastics contribute to climate protection, save fossil resources and create jobs in future-oriented sectors", stated Zourek. "We hope that bioplastics can increase their market share in Europe". Biobased and biodegradable plastics are among the most promising lead markets for innovations in Europe.

You can read more about the emerging field of bioplastics by reading my BIOoutput review of the Biopact story on the European Bioplastics Conference.

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Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any idea when bioplastics are really competitive with petro-plastics? How high does oil have to go?

C. Scott Miller said...

Good question. I don't think oil price is the only factor in determining costs. The real costs could be regional.

You might ask what social costs do we ascribe to products that are 1) manufactured using polluting industrial processes and/or 2) are NOT bio-degradeable or recyclable.

The followup question is, do we count the social costs if they come from "foreign" manufacturers? In California, carbon caps are applicable to out-of-state vendor sources as well as in-state producers.

Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

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