Biobased plastics have the unique advantage over conventional plastics to reduce the dependency on limited fossil resources and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or even be carbon neutral. Moreover, bioplastics can make a considerable contribution to increased resource efficiency through a closed resource cycle and use cascades, especially if biobased materials and products are being either reused or recycled and eventually used for energy recovery (i.e. renewable energy).
Utilising fossil resources in industrial processes increases the share of CO2 in the atmosphere, which causes an increase in the average temperature, the so-called greenhouse effect that is linked to the increasing prevalence of the number of thunderstorms, floods and aridity. Climate protection and the decrease of CO2 emissions is a central part of environmental policy around the globe due to the fact that climate change can create far-reaching negative consequences. Governments and organisations work against this threat with targeted measures.
In its Lead Markets Initiative, the EU Commission determined that bioplastics are of high importance due to their lower carbon impact. The European Union’s strategy “Europe 2020” contains concrete targets, including 20 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990, 20 percent increase in energy efficiency, and a total share of 20 percent of energy from renewables.
The increased use of renewable resources and an increased share of biobased products is an important step towards achieving these targets. Life cycle analyses show that biobased plastics enable a significant CO2 saving – up to carbon neutrality – compared to conventional plastics, depending on the feedstock, the product and the application.
Life Cycle Economy and Life Cycle Assessment
The principle of sustainable development in Europe is the reason for the introduction of the closed loop economy in the European Union. Products have to be produced and used in a resource-conserving manner as well as recovered after use, if they cannot be avoided at all. The systematic and ultimate reduction of waste ending up in landfill is a declared goal of European Policy.