BBIA calls for shift in Government policy to support bioeconomy

The Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA) presented its strategy at an event at the Houses of Parliament yesterday (22 February), urging Government recognition and support for the bioeconomy's economic and environmental benefits.

In a request for the UK Government to provide a focused and consistent policy and regulatory framework in the UK, the BBIA and its members showcased the value of the bioeconomy to an audience of politicians and industry stakeholders at its Westminster event.

BBIA COO Jen Vanderhoven addressing delegates at the Houses of ParliamentCiting the Government’s Innovation Strategy (and the previously withdrawn Bioeconomy Strategy) the organisation’s new Chief Operating Officer, Dr Jen Vanderhoven stated that the bioeconomy sector as a whole was responsible for annually contributing £220 billion and supporting 5.2 million jobs (2014 figures).

The BBIA's new strategy outlines its role in advancing the UK's bioeconomy, focusing on the promotion and development of bio-based materials and products, targeting three main objectives. First, to support the establishment of a circular economy that aims to mitigate plastic pollution by encouraging the use of compostable and biodegradable materials in food waste management, agriculture, forestry, and marine settings.

Second, the trade-body is calling on the Government to help reduce the dependency on fossil fuels in industries that are difficult to decarbonise, such as the chemicals and plastics sectors, by utilising biomass as an alternative resource. Lastly, the BBIA emphasises the development of new bio-based materials, which are seen as vital for achieving a future with reduced impact on natural ecosystems.

Vanderhoven stated: “The climate emergency is the greatest challenge of our time. As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, driven by human consumption, so does the temperature of the planet we all call home. This is causing disease, food shortages, fuel poverty and a loss of biodiversity. We simply cannot afford to keep digging up fossil resources and releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

“We live in a time that calls for change and for sustainable solutions to ever more severe problems. This is where the bioeconomy comes into play. And at the BBIA, we are champions of the bioeconomy, being the voice of the bio-based industry and promoting the bioeconomy through advocacy, collaboration, and education.”

Addressing the event, Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate change, urged the BBIA and its members to keep demonstrating the science in the work the sector is doing, ‘because only that way will we win people over to what we are trying to do’.

He added: “I've now been involved with you for such a long time that I feel a part of the industry. And I want to say how much I'm proud of that because I do think that you are contributing something incredibly important. And if you can win this battle, you will have won one of the most important battles in our bigger existential battle against climate change.”

The BBIA is requesting the UK government to establish a cohesive, interdepartmental framework for biomass utilisation that aligns policies and regulations to prioritise biomass and biowastes for the production of high-value materials and products, maximising the value extracted from bio-resources.

Furthermore, the association seeks government acknowledgment of the bioeconomy's advantages through a structured policy and regulatory framework, coupled with the creation of investment structures to support the biomanufacturing of bio-based materials and products. This includes facilitating access to risk capital to enable the operation of biorefining facilities at various scales.

The BBIA is advocating for the UK government to prioritise organic recycling within the waste management system and to allocate funds towards the development of organic recycling facilities. This would enable the collection of certified compostable products alongside food waste, which it notes will directly contribute to the demand for soil nutrients.

Additionally, the organisation identifies the need to establish research and development (R&D) priorities that apply the innovation principle to bio-based materials and products, as well as advancements in digital technology, artificial intelligence, and the protection of intellectual property and innovation.

An ongoing issue remains the current inclusion of biodegradable plastics in the Plastic Packaging Tax, which remains a disincentive for adoption of materials that may be potentially disposed of through food waste recycling systems. With demonstrations that this is a practical solution, the BBIA is calling on the Government to exempt packaging products that are both certified bio-based and compostable and contain over 30 per cent biomass content from this tax system.

Andy Sweetman, Chair of BBIA, said: “Our vision is for a more sustainable future, where the UK is a global leader in developing, manufacturing, using and exporting bio-based and biodegradable solutions. Building a world-class bioeconomy will transform our economy. By removing our dependence on fossil resources, there is the potential to create resource efficient, economically and environmentally sustainable solutions. These solutions will help to tackle global challenges and to create opportunities in the production of agri-foods, chemicals, materials, energy and fuel, as well as in health and the environment.”