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Challenges and opportunities with bio-based content

Defining bio-based content

Bioplastics contribute to sustainability in two key ways. They are biobased, which means they are made from sustainable materials, and they can be compostable, which means once the products are used to the end of their life, its organic materials are able to decompose into quality compost.

Bio-based pushes towards a circular economy

When we move away from materials that take millions of years to develop (like petroleum polymers) and embrace bio-based materials that only take a few years to develop (like corn) we open the doors wide for sustainable innovation. 

Over time, more and more new bio-based sources and methods are being discovered that can be used as an alternative to petroleum-based polymers. Two trends are becoming more important: increasing bio-content and labelling.

Increasing bio-content

Many companies now offer products that feature a combination of polymers, and bio-based content keeps taking a greater share of the mix. For example, today we might see a product developed with 50% bio-based content plus 50% petroleum polymers, supported by a package of relevant additives. In the future, however, the proportion of bio-based content is set to jump even higher.

Labelling & certifying

Labelling companies such as TÜV and DIN are paving the way for a more circular economy by determining which category a product belongs to depending on its specific polymer blend and the intended use of the application. This ensures that a product is properly categorised depending on the end-user experience it provides, thereby preventing confusion and streamlining the end-of-life product journey.

Challenges with bio-based content

Understanding what end-users are looking for & communicating end-of-life

The challenge is understanding what end-users are looking for, while also communicating how a product should be used and disposed of. For example, manufacturers may already have decided that their product should be considered biodegradable.

However, in order to give end-users what they are looking for, manufacturers need to be careful that the overall creation process doesn’t work out as being less sustainable than it was in the first place.

Trend report

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FAQ: Bio-based & compostable

Biobased products are made from sustainable and renewable feedstock. This includes plant-based materials such as corn and soy. To be certified biobased, the product must meet specific certification criteria, such as the standard test method ASTM D6866.

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