EU support needed to boost bioplastics market share

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Eu

EU support needed to boost bioplastics market share
The arguments putting bio-based packaging on a par with biofuels in Europe, and so justifying EU regulatory and fiscal support, are filtering through...

The arguments putting bio-based packaging on a par with biofuels in Europe, and so justifying EU regulatory and fiscal support, are filtering through to decision-makers, claims industry association European Bioplastics.

In recent months, the UK has reinforced its position as "Europe's pioneering country for biopackaging", says the association.

Sainsbury's September announcement that it would move over 500 product lines into biopackaging has been the most widely-reported shift in this area. In fact, there have been many others, most recently the adoption by Morrison of biodegradable films for produce.

But across different industries, bioplastics still only represent less than 1% of all plastics used in Europe, the association estimates. Chairman Harald Kaeb draws a parallel with products such as bioethanol, where state and EU support helped the industry to establish itself.

Says Kaeb: "I'm not making any predictions, but below the surface a shift is taking place across the EU, and interest is growing." As oil prices rise, one view links bioplastics with the biofuels agenda. "Policy-makers are more likely to look at these areas in an integrated way," he adds. Also important are the potentially beneficial effects on European technology, industry and (as the source of raw materials) agriculture.

"Market introduction, rather than research and development, is the bottleneck where you tend not to get enough support, and where biofuels did get support," Kaeb argues.

Help could come in the form of tax breaks, other forms of incentive, or targets for substitution.

Mark Barthel, special adviser to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), points out that a rationalisation of packaging polymers is already underway at retailers such as Sainsbury. The move is away from those oil-based plastics which are not readily post-consumer recycled, and towards renewables.

Barthel adds: "Now a number of the biobased materials are available with enhanced properties, so that for example you can use 15% less polylactide (PLA) to achieve the same strength."

Related topics: Packaging materials

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