In contrast to the policy areas of biofuels and renewable energies, there is currently no EU-wide legislative framework to support the use of renewable raw materials for plastic solutions. The European Union has, however, started to acknowledge the important role of bioplastics to drive the transition to a circular economy and in decoupling economic growth from the depletion of fossil resources. A number of strategies and policy initiatives are currently underway that are relevant for the success of the bioplastics industry in Europe to unfold its full environmental, economic, and social potential, including.
- Europe 2020 / Innovation Union
- Lead Markets Initiative for Bio-based Products
- Resource Efficiency Strategy
- Key Enabling Technologies
- Horizon 2020
- Bioeconomy Strategy
- Circular Economy Package
The Circular Economy Package, published in December 2015 by the European Commission, outlines plans that respond to some of the main challenges of our time: the waste of energy and resources produced by our linear economy. The underlying principle of the circular economy is that waste should be regarded as a valuable resource. Bioplastics can play an essential role in the transition to a circular economy and linking it to the bioeconomy. Therefore, the Circular Economy Package will need to address a range of economic sectors and introduce concrete provisions to stimulate the bioeconomy and use of bio-based materials and introduce additional economic measures to promote the market penetration of bio-based products, including Green Public Procurement and an EU-wide Eco-label, both of which consider a certain bio-based content of products, as well as the creation of a level-playing-field regarding access to bio-based feedstock in the EU.
As part of the Circular Economy Package, the European waste legislation is currently being revised, including the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the Waste Framework Directive, and the Directive on landfilling of waste, all of which are crucial elements in the transition towards a low-carbon, bio-based circular economy.
The Communication on the Circular Economy Package ‘Closing the loop – an EU action plan for the Circular Economy’ acknowledges that ‘bio-based materials present advantages due to their renewability, biodegradability and compostability’. The Action Plan also outlines many other initiatives such as the revision of the Fertilisers Regulation, the creation of a Plastics Strategy, an Ecodesign Directive, and a potential revision of the Bioeconomy Strategy.
In January 2017, the European Commission presented its EU Roadmap for the Strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy. Alternatives to fossil feedstock such as biomass or CO2 will be taken into account for the manufacture of plastics. Furthermore, diverse end-of-life options will be assessed. Making use of biodegradation properties of bioplastics will help to divert organic waste from landfill and will help reduce plastic leakage into the environment.