The emerging shift from crude oil towards renewable resources is driven primarily by the sustainable development efforts of the plastics industry. Finite oil resources and climate change constitute two broadly acknowledged challenges for society in the coming decades. Reducing the dependency on oil and mitigating the effects of climate change are therefore two important drivers for the use of renewable resources for the production of plastics. Bio-based plastics have the unique advantage over conventional plastics to reduce the dependency on limited fossil resources and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Using biomass that is sustainably sourced and regrows on an annual basis is a major environmental benefit of bio-based plastic products. Plants sequester carbon dioxide during their growth and convert it into carbon-rich organic matter. When these materials are used in the production of bioplastics the carbon is stored within the products during their useful life, which can be prolonged if the products are being recycled. This carbon is eventually released back into the atmosphere through energy recovery or composting. Consequently, bio-based plastics can help the EU to meet its 2020 targets of greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
Moreover, bioplastics can make a considerable contribution to increased resource efficiency through a closed resource cycle and use cascades, especially if bio-based materials and products are being either reused or recycled and eventually used for energy recovery (i.e. renewable energy).