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Responsible farming key to bioplastic

Thu 25 Mar 2021 | 09:39 am GMT
Helena Mansell-Stopher | Products of Change Writer

Kirsty Wood led a Q&A on bio-plastic

Kirsty Wood, development technologist and sustainability lead for Hexpol TPE was live on the POC platform on Monday (22 March) to discuss the future of bio-based plastics.  There is a huge upswing in the demand for bio-based plastic, which are plastics made from a biological material such as sugar cane, sugar beet, corn, potatoes, wheat, wood and castor oil plant (from the castor bean). These plastics were originally developed using waste material from crops but with demand growing, land otherwise not being used to grow a food crop could be used. There was a lot of discussion about land use for these plastics and regulation around making sure that crops grown for plastic are not taking away from a crop that could otherwise grow food. Kirsty explained that all the feedstock for their plastic is regulated under ISCC+ (ISCC is the gold standard for environmental, economic and social sustainability, globally). Currently the European bioplastic land use is extremely low at 0.5% but this is not the case for other markets such as South America. Bio-based plastics can also not be recycled through the current recycling infrastructure (though can be chemically recycled if the process was in place).  To learn more visit www.european-bioplastics.org. Aside from newer bio-based plastics Kirsty also discussed the increase in demand for recycled plastics. “The cold weather in Houston, Texas in February has led to a global shortage in plastic as they are the largest producer globally for petroleum plastics,” explained Kirsty. “Because of this plastic prices have soared. In the past, recycled plastic has been a lower grade plastic at a cheaper price and was heavily used within the automotive industry. But with the shortage of plastic from the Gulf coast, and the new legislation in the UK and Europe requiring manufacturers to use recycled plastic within their packaging, the price of recycled plastic is now in line with virgin plastic, and we do not see this decreasing any time soon.” Kirsty closed the conversation discussing the need to move toward more sustainable alternatives for plastic, but that we must regulate and manage this new material to make sure that we farm responsibly. Kirsty Wood is available to talk to in the POC connect area. Products of Change members can watch Kirsty’s webinar on bio-based plastics here.
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