Circular Economy and Bioproducts
The circular economy sets out to transform our production and consumption systems, making them more like natural life cycles, without trash or dumps. All the elements of the circular economy are part of an ongoing cycle of being used, transformed and reused.
One of the main pillars of the circular economy is bioproducts, made from biomass (organic material from plants or animals, including organic leftovers and waste) or from industrial byproducts. These bioproducts are transformed through biological processes, using enzymes and microorganisms, and then put back into the production and consumption cycles.
These processes use less power and water, and produce fewer polluting emissions and waste. Biological products, made from renewable raw materials like plants, can help cut CO2 emissions and give us more eco-friendly alternatives, like biodegradable plastics.
In 2015, the European Union launched an ambitious plan with 54 measures to promote the circular economy. A report published in March 2019 showed positive feedback on the application of this plan. According to this report, the Circular Economy Action Plan not only proposed new regulations and policies in areas like ecological labeling, waste management, bioplastics and raising consumer awareness, it also had a significant impact on job creation.
In 2016, more than 4 million people were employed in sectors with ties to the circular economy, up 6% from 2012. Specifically, a study by the European Commission indicated that bioproducts bring in approximately €57 billion in yearly revenue and account for 300,000 jobs.
At Asebio, we are working on two European projects under the framework of the Horizon 2020 program: Biovoices and Biobridges. These projects aim to establish a framework that makes bioproducts more marketable and improves market acceptance for them.
We are also promoting a series of measures to encourage the bioeconomy and use of bioproducts:
Harmonization and better labeling
The legal requirements regarding sustainability that apply to biological products, for example on labeling, are not consistent across Europe.
Cost and better Incentives
Production is not industrialized, so the processes have not been optimized. Compare this to fossil-based products, which benefit from economies of scale. This is why the biggest problem facing bioproducts right now is their cost. We need incentives to encourage demand and investment for industrialization.
More information and better communication for informed shopping decisions
We have seen a trend among consumers towards more sustainable consumption, which means shoppers need more information on the products so they can make informed decisions. The general lack of awareness of bioproducts and understanding of how they impact sustainability are a barrier to further market development.
On top of that, producers are not very willing to communicate the concept of bio-based products, these products are not readily available in wide distribution and information on the end of the life cycle is scarce, all of which hinders wider acceptance of bio-based products.
Sustainable development and obtaining biomass
The goal here is to make sure producers of raw materials from which biomass is obtained have a reasonable profit margin to ensure these materials are available.
We propose to achieve this by managing natural resources sustainably, managing competition between various uses of biomass raw materials and, also, making sure that the bioeconomy is profitable.