The European Commission has published a new study Environmental impact assessments of innovative bio-based products. The study aims at providing science-based facts and evidences on the environmental impacts of bio-based products for comparison with petrochemical plastic counterparts, in order to support the future bioeconomy policy and decision-making at the EU level. The report concludes that for all analysed case studies, the bio-based products offer environmental benefits in the impact categories climate change and abiotic depletion in comparison to their conventional plastic counterparts.

Seven cradle-to-grave Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) case studies were carried out covering three major commercialised bio-based polymers:

  • Bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET; “beverage bottles”);
  • Polylactide acid (PLA; “single-use cups”, “single-use cutlery”, “packaging films”);
  • Starch plastics (“clips”, “mulch films” and “carrier bags”).

Specifically, in the case of climate change, the report states that the chosen end-of-life has a direct impact on the overall savings of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. With intended end-of-life, the bio-based products could offer more than 65% GHG emissions savings, instead of 14% with the EU mix. With a sound waste management, bio-based products have a great potential.

The study uses five further environmental impact categories to stablish the comparison between bio-based and petrochemical plastics: climate change, abiotic depletion, particulate matters, photochemical ozone formation and terrestrial eutrophication.

EUBP members OWS, Novamont SpA, Total Corbion BV, NatureWorks LLC and Neste Oyj have contributed to the research.

The study is available for download here.