Report calls for government bioplastics support

A UK bioplastics sector could add £2 billion to the economy just through packaging with a proper legislative framework, according to a report carried out by Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

The report also claims that a developed domestic bioplastics industry could create 35,000 jobs, generate £1 billion in gross employment compensation and produce 120,000 tonnes of flexible and food-service packaging.

CEBR carried out the study, presented yesterday (21 October) at an event at the House of Lords, on behalf of the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA). The meeting was hosted by Lord Jamie Lindsay to introduce the BBIA to industry leaders, government officials and policymakers.

The BBIA, which was established earlier this year, represents industries in the bio-based and biodegradable sectors and works to promote the circular bioeconomy, which encompasses the sustainable production of renewable resources and their conversion into food, feed, fibres, materials and chemicals.

Support needed for bioplastics industry to develop

Report calls for government bio-plastics support Analysis included in the report concludes that for the UK to fully capitalise on the industry’s potential, ‘a supportive technological, legislative and commercial environment should be in place’.

It points to examples from Europe, Asia and the USA that the UK could learn from. The EU’s ‘Europe 2020’ growth strategy, for example, shows ‘how support for the bioplastics industry can be integrated into the continent’s strategy for achieving sustainable economic growth’.

According to the European Commission, the bioeconomy sector in Europe is worth nearly €2 trillion (£1.5 trillion) and provides more than 22 million jobs.

Political support, the report suggests, is also crucial. Bans on conventional plastic carrier bags have been introduced in Italy, France, California and Hawaii, and ‘have demonstrated that simple policy objectives such as reducing littering can cascade into other wide-reaching policy benefits’ including food waste collection and organic recycling.

The BBIA and European Bioplastics have both recently criticised producers of conventional plastics that use additives for degradation marketing their products as ‘biodegradable’. Additives, they say, do not fully break down plastics, leaving small fragments of the material behind.

The report expands on this and calls for unambiguous standards and labelling practices to prevent companies from falsely claiming biodegradability. Only then, it says, will consumers be able to fully recognise the sustainability benefits of bioplastics.

‘Significant potential’ to improve UK’s sustainability

BBIA Chairman Andy Sweetman commented: “CEBR’s analysis, although limited to packaging, clearly shows the significant potential of a UK based bioplastics industry.

“The five-pence bag charge, with a well-designed exemption for compostable carriers, represents an unmissable opportunity to develop a sector that can offer not just a wide range of benefits within the UK’s bioeconomy but also the ability to improve the country’s resource efficiency and sustainability.”