On 18th October 2016, Member of Parliament (MEP) Fredrick Federley and European Bioplastics (EUBP) organised a lunch debate “Time to rethink plastics? Going bio-based is the new black” in the European Parliament. A group of 40 representatives from the European Commission, the Parliament, the Council, the industry, and NGOs met to discuss the role of bioplastics in the transition to a circular economy in Europe.

In his opening speech, MEP Federley stressed the need for increased resource efficiency and the importance of circular design, especially within the packaging sector. Bio-based materials and products, such as bioplastics, are an important part of the circular economy ‘puzzle’, Federley said, and the on-going revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive must therefore ensure the support of new innovative, bio-based materials.

Werner Bosmans, Directorate General for the Environment of the European Commission, addressed the challenges on land use and underlined the need for a coherent policy approach to the bioeconomy. Against the background of the Commission’s Circular Economy Package and its two main areas of ‘Biomass & bio-based products’ and ‘Plastics’, Mr Bosmans stressed that the upcoming Plastics Strategy will focus on the greenhouse gas impact of plastics, the potential of reuse and recycling to mitigate these impacts, as well as reducing the risks of littering.

Professor Rajni Hatti-Kaul from the Biotechnology department of Lund University highlighted the suitability of bioplastics for a circular economy: Many of the bioplastics available today provide similar or better functional properties as fossil-based plastics, and additionally feature lower carbon footprint and are suitable for mechanical and organic recycling.

Steve Davies, Director Public Affairs & Communication at NatureWorks, a leading manufacturer of bioplastics, said that even though conventional plastics perform extremely well during their product life due to their excellent functionalities and performance, Bioplastics can offer additional benefits, such as the use of a diversified set of bio-based and renewable feedstock to drive improvement in all other dimensions of product design: sourcing, manufacturing, use, and after-use.

Philippe Diercxsens, Head of Environmental Affairs at Danone Waters, underlined the necessity for Danone Waters to approach its resource use in a circular fashion, which lead to Danone using several bioplastic materials for some of their products’ packaging. Bio-based materials help to save fossil resources, reduce the environmental footprint of the packaging, and allow Danone to use feedstock with a lower price volatility and improve the consumer acceptance of their packaging.

The parliamentary lunch debate showed that the potential of bio-based plastics for a resource efficient circular economy is met with strong interest by the European institutions. Main areas of interest are to learn more about specific examples and applications for bio-based plastic products, the use renewable feedstock, the reduction of carbon emissions, improved properties, and diversified waste management options. European Bioplastics will continue to work closely with all relevant stakeholders and decision-makers to showcase how bioplastics can contribute to the circular economy in Europe.

For more information on the benefits of bioplastics, please see our fact sheets on bioplastics, renewable feedstock, and bioplastics in packaging.