There are many good reasons to change from fossil to renewable resources (see Fact Sheet Renewable Resources for more information) for the production of utility articles: climate change mitigation, the depletability of oil resources, less dependency from imports, and, last but not least, the support of the rural economy in Europe.
Contemporary agriculture produces a variety of goods for all kinds of purposes and a widening field of applications. Food and feed, of course, are the predominant markets. Also, a very small share of agricultural raw materials is used to produce bioplastics.
Bioplastics can be made from different resources. The renewable resources used today are mainly produced in agriculture or, to a lesser extent, in forestry. The majority of today’s available bioplastics production technologies are based on plants rich in carbohydrate such as grains or sugar beets/cane, which are generally considered food-crops. However, the bioplastics industry is committed to tap new renewable resources and to move away from foodplants, wherever possible. The production of cellulosic sugars and ethanols can be regarded as a very promising technological approach in this context.
The current annual global production capacity of bioplastics is estimated to be about one million tonnes including both renewably sourced plastics and petro-based biodegradable ones. The agricultural cultivation area needed to fully generate the current global production capacity would amount to 286,000 hectares today, which equals approximately 0.02 percent of the total arable land available in the world.
The bioplastics industry is fully aware that the sustainable sourcing of its feedstock supply is a prerequisite for more sustainable products. Negative impacts like the deforestation of protected habitats or social and environmental damages arising from bad agricultural practices must be avoided. Implementing good agricultural practices and certification schemes is key to controlling the sustainable sourcing of biomass for all applications around the globe. Furthermore, European Bioplastics strongly supports intelligent use cascades which increase resource efficiency. The dual use of the same renewable resource, first as a material then as an energy source, has a very significant advantage over biomass specifically produced for energy exploitation