EUBPConf2021: multi stakeholder panel discussion on bioplastics and EU policy

After last year’s 100 percent virtual format, the European Bioplastics Conference was finally able to re-open its gates in Berlin and welcomed around 140 participants. The other half of the overall 320 participants attended online. During the different conference sessions and in bilateral talks at the venue or online, experts discussed the role of bioplastics within the European Green Deal. During the two conference days on 30 November and 1 December, it became clear that bioplastics make significant contributions to help achieving the European Union’s ambitious climate goals. 

When François de Bie, Chairman of European Bioplastics (EUBP), entered the stage, he looked at a properly crowded conference hall. In his opening remarks, de Bie began by giving a clear answer to the overarching conference question about the role of bioplastics within the European Green Deal. “There are many fields of interaction between the European Commission’s Green Deal and bioplastics, where our industry can make significant contributions towards helping achieve the European Union’s ambitious climate goals”, said the Chairman. “Bioplastics are part of the solution needed to fix the issue that we have with plastics today”, he continued, referring to the challenges caused by plastic waste. The conference programme, which examined key issues along the bioplastics value chain, strongly reinforced his statement.  

With all the video cameras in place to capture the activities on stage and broadcast them to the online participants, one could have thought to mistakenly having entered one of the press conferences recently held by the newly elected German government. And indeed, the EUBP conference started very political with a high-ranking pre-recorded address by Kestutis Sadauskas, Director for Circular Economy and Green Growth at the European Commission’s DG Environment. “While bio-based and biodegradable and compostable plastics can be part of the solution, they also present certain challenges. The feedback received tells us a policy framework is needed” Sadauskas noted. In a subsequent policy session, the panellists discussed bioplastics’ role in achieving Europe’s Green Deal objectives by focusing on key processes, such as the framework for bioplastics and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. 

Further conference sessions highlighted new opportunities for compostable plastics and discussed their performance in different open environments. New European Bioplastics market data, based on research from the nova-institute, gave a very positive outlook for bioplastics production, which is expected to more than triple within the next five years with a growth rate of over 200 percent. The results correspond to the industry leaders’ perspectives on bioplastics shared during the conference as well as to the latest insights that were provided from emerging markets, such as textiles, packaging, and automotive. 

During the session on communicating sustainability of bio-based plastics, participants followed a lively discussion on sustainability, including the results of a study developed by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) assessing the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of alternative feedstock for plastics. This coincided with the publication of a position by the European Bioeconomy Alliance criticising the methodology for favouring fossil-based over bio-based plastics. The discussion was further complemented by a presentation sharing EUBP’s opinion of the new methodology.