Bioplastics stepping into the spotlight

May 2018
Bioplastics stepping into the spotlight

By CEO Paul Mines

I was heartened to read the news last week that 42 companies have signed up to WRAP’s UK Plastics Pact which is significant because the signatories are responsible for over 80 percent of the plastic packaging on products sold through UK supermarkets. I am hopeful that these companies, and more, will follow through on their commitment to convert all the plastic used in their products into a plastic material that can be reused, recycled and composted by 2025.

The Pact is another glimmer of hope in what has been a positive start to the year in the fight against damaging single-use plastics.

February saw the EU revise its waste legislation to recognise the benefits of bioplastics.

In April, bioeconomy consultants NNFCC launched a report highlighting the opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in bioplastics, creating 34,000 jobs and contributing £1.92 billion to the UK economy in the next decade[1]. The report noted that the UK has the scientific and industrial capability to support the transition to a world in which many plastics are sourced from plant-based materials; such plastics can be recycled or composted, minimising waste.

Indeed, if momentum continues, then perhaps 2018 will become known as a pivotal year for plastics – or more accurately – the fight to turn the tide on plastic waste and associated carbon dioxide emissions from the production of the current generation of oil-based materials. This momentum was sparked last year by high profile campaigns such as Hugh’s War on Waste; and the BBC’s Blue Planet broadcast of devastating images of plastic in the world’s deepest oceans and choking wildlife on the most remote islands. These helped bring the damaging impact of single-use plastics firmly into the public conscience.

I am cautiously optimistic that concern from the public and lawmakers about plastics’ damaging environmental impact will keep driving this momentum through 2018 and beyond.

Biome on a mission

Biome is focused on producing bioplastics that can challenge the dominance of oil-based polymers, and ultimately, replace them completely. A shift to plastics produced from renewable materials and designed to be biodegradable will help to alleviate the damaging impact of single-use plastics, while embracing the benefits of plastics.

We will continue working hard to improve the performance and availability of bioplastics; this allows such plastics to perform in demanding applications in the single-use market, such as keeping food fresher and tastier for longer.

Over the last 20 years, Biome has developed an impressive range of high-performance, plant-based bioplastics that are biodegradable and compostable. Bioplastics are now ready to replace even more of the oil-based plastics currently found in products on supermarket shelves. The path to the composting disposal of such materials is clear and, in time, there is no reason why these plastics should not be recycled as well.

The way forward

The challenge now is to help supermarkets, the packaging supply chain and waste handling companies to plan and manage a transition to a bioplastics future. Concerted collaborative efforts by the whole supply chain, as envisaged by the Plastics Pact will ensure that the use of bioplastics becomes more widespread in the UK.

I hope that the UK government will acknowledge (as the EU has done) the vital role that bioplastics can play in tackling Britain’s plastic waste problem, particularly for consumer single-use packaging. Clear and consistent policy signals from government will facilitate the substantial investment that is needed to re-imagine and grow the UK’s “bio-economy”.

[1] CEBR, The future potential economic impacts of a bio-plastics industry in the UK,