Thursday, 12 March 2015

Biobased polymers: super highway or dirt road towards a European bioindustry?

Biobased polymers are one of five business cases analysed in the framework of BIO-TIC, the SusChem-inspired FP7 project that set itself the ambitious task of identifying hurdles to full deployment of industrial biotechnology in Europe and finding ways to overcome them. The project will be holding a free Webinar on 17 March 2015 starting at 1 pm (CET) on the subject of Biobased polymers – highway or dirt road towards a European bioindustry?

The webinar will introduce the BIO-TIC roadmaps on R&D, non-technological and market related aspects of the use of industrial biotechnology in the European bio-based polymers sector.

The supplier perspective will be given by the guest speaker, Dr. Joachim Schulze, Head of Biotechnology at ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions who run a polylactic acid (PLA) demonstration plant in Leuna, Germany. Dr. Schulze will present his views on the future of the PLA value chain and evolution of the PLA business in general.

To register for the webinar, please click here.

BIO-TIC is keen to get your feedback on their roadmaps and hear your comments both during and after the webinar. For more information on the BIO-TIC project, please visit the project website.

Biobased plastics
Today, biobased plastics have an established market and are rapidly growing both in Europe and on a global scale. Between 2008 and 2013, biobased plastics showed a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20% in the EU. In 2013, Europe was both the largest biobased plastics consumer and producer, supplying one-third of the global biobased plastics output.

Concerns about plastic waste issues, GHG emissions and oil price fluctuation are pushing the public sector, businesses and consumers towards more sustainable alternatives to conventional plastics. Biobased plastics are a heterogeneous group consisting of:

  • Biodegradable and/or compostable biobased polymers (e.g. PLA and PHAs)
  • Non biodegradable biobased polymers (e.g. biobased PE, partially biobased PET and PTT) and thermosets (e.g. partially biobased polyurethanes and epoxies)

With the drop in fossil fuel prices, the cost-competitiveness of EU biobased plastics production compared to other regions is expected to become  increasingly difficult. On top of this, several other hurdles are impeding the development of the bioplastics industry in the EU. These include:

  • Lack of government support for biobased plastics
  • Difficulties in translating research into concrete products
  • Lack of public awareness of biobased plastics and their benefits
  • Further technology development required in some sectors to improve functionality

More information on BIO-TIC
BIO-TIC is a three-year European Commission-funded project which aims to identify the hurdles to industrial biotechnology and to develop solutions to overcome them, thereby unlocking the massive potential for this key technology in Europe.

The project focuses on five product groups which have significant potential for Europe and which have the potential to introduce cross cutting technology ideas. These product groups are

  • Biobased chemical building blocks
  • Biobased plastics
  • Biosurfactants
  • Advanced biofuels
  • CO2 based chemicals

A final BIO-TIC action plan for developing the industrial biotechology sector in Europe, along with its three separate roadmaps on market, R&D and non-technological aspects focusing on the opportunities above, will be delivered by the project in summer 2015.

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