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Not there yet

The European Commission’s latest circular economy proposal, presented on December 2, 2015, leaves room for more ambitious actions on bio-industries such as bioplastics, says European Bioplastics.

The proposal contains plans to tackle the challenge presented by the waste of energy and resources produced by the linear economy. The European Bioplastics association welcomes these efforts, and is looking forward to contributing to the forthcoming debate on how renewable and biodegradable materials can best fit into this vision.

In ‘Closing the loop – an EU action plan for the Circular Economy’ the Commission acknowledges that ‘bio-based materials present advantages due to their renewability, biodegradability and compostability’. “The proposal is an important step towards closing the carbon loop in Europe”, says François de Bie, Chairman of European Bioplastics.

Yet closing the loop, whilst urgently necessary, should be complemented by measures to boost the bio-economy. Biodegradable plastics contribute to proper organic waste collection and bio-based plastics help to minimise greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, durable bioplastics in particular have the potential to sequester bio-based carbon. If mechanically recycled, this benefit of carbon sequestration can be sustained throughout many life cycles, making a significant contribution to a circular economy. The carbon loop, in which biobased and biodegradable materials play a key role, needs to be recognised and supported within the EU’s legislative framework.

For this reason, bioplastics should be part of any new legislation on revised waste targets, as they contribute to multiplying end-of-life options, such as mechanical recycling, organic recycling and waste-to-‘bio’-energy. Furthermore, the material properties of bioplastics should be recognised within the context of ecodesign measures, given the significant environmental benefits they offer.

The Commission’s proposal to amend the Waste Framework Directive falls short of fully recognising the advantages of organic waste collection for Europe. Organic waste accounts for the largest fraction (30-45 percent) in municipal waste. Yet, today, only 25 percent of the 90 million tonnes of bio-waste in Europe is collected separately and recycled by composting and anaerobic digestion. With the right waste legislation in place, an additional 60 million tonnes of bio-waste could be recycled, which would result in the creation of 30,000 new jobs.(1)

Economic potential of bioplastic materials

Bioplastics are a large family of innovative plastic materials that are either bio-based or biodegradable, or both. The global market for bioplastics is predicted to grow by more than 350 percent in the mid-term.(2) The latest market data by European Bioplastics shows that the global bioplastics production capacity is set to increase from around 1.7 million tonnes in 2014 to approximately 7.8 million tonnes in 2019. Packaging remains the single largest field of application for bioplastics with almost 70 percent of the total bioplastics market. The data also reveals a significant increase in the uptake of bioplastics materials in many other sectors, including textiles, automotive, and consumer goods.

“Even though production will continue to grow steadily in the coming years, forecasts show that in 2019, more than 95 percent of bioplastics production capacities will be located outside of Europe. If EU Member States want to attract investment and jobs in this sector, they need to tackle the problem of limited economic and political support, which currently hampers the scale-up of production capacities and market penetration of bioplastic products in Europe. The right strategy and conditions are needed to reverse this trend and help to make full use of bioplastics’ environmental, economic and social potential in Europe”, says François de Bie.(KL)

(1) Data given by the European Compost Network (ECN) e.V. in a letter to the EU Commissioners Timmermans, Katainen, Vella and Canete, 19 November 2015.
(2) 2015 market data update of European Bioplastics in cooperation with IfBB – Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Hannover, Germany) and nova-Institute (Hürth, Germany).

http://en.european-bioplastics.org

 Published 03.12.2015
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The Sustainable Packaging Coalition Position Against Biodegradability Additives in Petroleum-Based Plastics

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition Position Against Biodegradability Additives in Petroleum-Based Plastics

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) has released a formal position paper against biodegradability additives for petroleum-based plastics, which are marketed as enhancing the sustainability of plastic by rendering the material biodegradable. The SPC has evaluated the use of biodegradability additives for conventional petroleum-based plastics, and has found that these additives do not offer any sustainability advantage and they may actually result in more environmental harm.

The position paper lists the following reasons for the stance against these additives:

  • They don’t enable compostability, which is the meaningful indicator of a material’s ability to beneficially return nutrients to the environment.

  • They are designed to compromise the durability of plastic and the additive manufacturers have not yet demonstrated an absence of adverse effects on recycling.

  • The creation of a “litter friendly” material is a step in the wrong direction, particularly when the material may undergo extensive fragmentation and generation of micro-pollution before any biodegradation occurs.

  • The biodegradation of petroleum-based plastics releases fossil carbon into the atmosphere, creating harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
The report is available for free download here
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Ban plastic bags! But what about compostable bags?

The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) welcomes the recent debate and discussions over more States banning single use plastic bags as well as the recent Government Meeting to investigate a national ban on plastic bags. What about the discussion on certified compostable bags?

Certified compostable bags are biodegradable and the best solution for the source separation of food and garden organics. Notwithstanding biodegradable is not always compostable.
It is critical that compostable plastics carry the Australian Standards certification to define the product will biodegrade in a commercial composting operation. AORA’s stated national policy is to ban all single use non compostable plastic bags of all gauges (see full policy below).

With the implementation of a ban, Organic Recyclers and composters acknowledge the need to continue to provide the community with a convenient means of containing kitchen waste etc. Certified compostable bags meet this need and must be exempt from any ban on single use plastic bags (Polyethylene/conventional plastics).

“It’s great to see Tasmania started this trend and then other jurisdictions like South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory have followed. Now it’s time for other States to follow the smaller jurisdictions and ban single use plastic bags whilst ensuring that certified compostable bags are exempt from the ban.” Said Paul Coffey, Chairman of AORA.

“It’s important that everyone understands the differences between products claimed as degradable, oxo-degradable, biodegradable and certified compostable. They simply aren’t the same thing and unless they are Australian Standards certified compostable then they are not considered suitable for use in organics recycling.” Said Peter McLean, Executive Officer at AORA.

Governments around Australia should be commended on their commitment to address the impact of plastic bags on our environment. AORA will continue to work with all governments across Australia to help formulate policies that deliver the best outcomes for the environment, community and government.

The Australian Organics Recycling Association’s full policy on plastic bags is as follows:
“AORA supports the ban on all single use non compostable plastics, including plastic bags of all gauges, agricultural films and packaging which cannot be reused, recovered or recycled in any way. The use of compostable bags and plastics which meet the requirements of AS4736 and AS5810 as verified by the Australasian Bioplastics Association allows for more effective source separation and organic resource processing.”
The applicable Australian Standards for compostable bags are AS4736-2006 and AS5810-2010.
The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) was established in 2012 and works on behalf of its members including processors, associate industries, educators and all levels of Government to raise awareness of the benefits of recycling organic resources. It aims to act as an advocate for the wider organics resource recovery and beneficial reuse industries and to represent their views in a constructive dialogue with policy makers. AORA envisages an industry in which best practice is shared, standards are maintained and surpassed, and which makes a positive contribution to safeguarding the environment. To become a member or to learn more, please visit www.aora.org.au To learn more about the benefits of organics recycling, please visit www.compostforsoils.com.au