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Group to look at potential of bioeconomy in the UK

Supporters of a new trade body to represent companies active in the bio-based and biodegradable chemicals sector in the UK are meeting this month.

The aim is to to give voice to organisations and individuals involved in the bioeconomy, such as producers of bio-based enzymes, fibres, lubricants, bioplastics and biofuels.

David Newman, above, president of the International Solid Waste Association and general secretary of the Italian Association of Bioplastics, who has organised the 10 February event, said the new group would also be open to members of the waste sectors, for example bioplastics recyclers and operators in the anaerobic digestion and composting sector.

According to the European Commission, bio-based products and biofuels represent about €57bn in annual revenue and involve 300,000 jobs across the EU. The bio-based share of all chemical sales is expected to rise to 22% by 2020.

However, Newman says the UK lags behind other countries, such as Italy, Germany, France and the US, in exploiting the potential of the sector.

“Bioplastics producers have not looked at the UK as an opportunity yet and have not been making their voices heard because of the [uncertain] signals that they are receiving,” he told MRW.

Newman said the UK lacked some policy drivers that would give confidence to the sector, including a ban on the landfilling of biodegradable materials.

“Not having a landfill ban on organics is incomprehensible to a lot of people in this industry and shows that there is no attention to the bioeconomy. “Preventing organics from going to landfill would create a whole chain reaction for the sector.”

Newman also said an exemption for compostable bags from the upcoming plastics carrier levy would provide the bioplastics film industry with an incentive for expansion in the country.

“That’s a missed opportunity because at no cost to the tax payer [the UK] could have given a stimulus to companies wanting to invest in bioplastics.”

He added that organisations involved in the bioplastics sector would want their products to be captured in separate waste streams at the end-of-life.

“We have to find a way to work with plastics recyclers to ensure there is no cross-contamination,” he said.

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