Blog 2Conflicting statements coming from the EC on the subject of bio-technologies.
The debate over bioplastics as a future material of choice is not a new one, but it still rages on. And evidently Europe is no exception to the rule — even the European Commission seems to be at odds internally over its stance on the subject! Back in October I received two press releases (just a few days apart) which point to an executive body which can't quite make up its mind.
The first came from EuPR (European Plastics Recyclers) and included a quote from EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik during the recent PolyTalk conference in Wiesbaden, who was clearly promoting plastics recycling in Europe. In truth, the EuPR release doesn't set out to be especially 'anti-bioplastic'. However, it did prompt me to look for Commissioner Potočnik's full speech, which clearly does pick a side of the fence on which to sit. He stated: "At first glance, a quick fix solution for plastic litter may be the use of more bioplastics, including biodegradable and compostable plastic. There is certainly a rapidly-expanding market for bioplastics from a production base which is still very low. Bioplastics, and in particular biodegradable plastic, certainly have their ideal applications, but at the moment it seems fairly unrealistic to assume that petro-olefin-based plastics could or should be replaced in the mid and long term by bioplastics."
Confusion over bio/biodegradable/compostable plastics notwithstanding here, Commissioner Potočnik carried on to list a series of "significant problems linked to bioplastics" as he termed them. The list can be read at www.polytalk.eu.
A few days later, my aforementioned second release came from European Bioplastics - and naturally there was a far more obvious angle in favour of bioplastics in this report. European Bioplastics cites the European Commission's recent communication on industrial policy, claiming that it "highlights biobased products as a lead market triggering sustainable growth and job creation". And you can see where they got that from — the text does in fact state that "the biobased markets with high demand and favourable legislative framework could make a substantial contribution to the EU’s transformation into a more sustainable economy. The right legislation and framework conditions will, however, be needed to encourage uptake of renewable raw materials for industrial use“. So, in my opinion, this suggests that biomaterials (plastics specifically weren't referred to in the quote) are on the agenda for the future of European manufacturing - albeit with a degree of trepidation.
I'm afraid I'm sitting on the fence in terms of the actual debate. But my point is that despite the years of arguing over bio technologies, European policy-makers don't seem to be any closer to making their minds up. Is this because advances recycling technologies and bioplastic technologies are developing at an equally fast rate? If this is the reason for the indecision, we're not likely to ever see a firm stance — the technology on both sides is just becoming more and more tempting! I'd like to know what you have to say — EPPM needs your opinions!