What is the Bioeconomy?

The bioeconomy encompasses the production of renewable biological resources and their conversion into food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy. As such, it includes agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and pulp and paper production, as well as parts of chemical, biotechnological and energy industries.

Bioeconomy sectors have a strong innovation potential, using a wide range of sciences (life sciences, agronomy, ecology, food science and social sciences), enabling and industrial technologies (biotechnology, nanotechnology, information and communication technologies (ICT), and engineering), and local and tacit knowledge.

A key aspect of the bioeconomy are biorefineries that use biomass, by- and co-products and waste instead of fossil resources as their raw material.

In the bioeconomy, land use and food security are optimised through a sustainable, resource-efficient and largely waste-free utilisation of Europe’s renewable raw materials, therefore contributing to a circular economy.

Products

In the USA today some 14,000 products made from bio-based materials, many of which are also biodegradable, are listed in the US Government’s Prefered Purchasing Programme for bio-based products. See report

We refer to the USA being a country far ahead of the UK on the development of bio-based and biodegradable industries, as the report shows.

The US report identifies seven major product categories (excluding energy) derived from bio-based sources.
They are :

  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Biorefining
  • Bio-based Chemicals
  • Enzymes
  • Bioplastic Bottles and Packaging
  • Forest Products
  • Textiles

The BBIA intends principally to represent, in the UK, those industries dealing with Biorefining, Bio-based Chemicals, Enzymes, Bioplastic Bottles and Packaging, considering that Textiles (cotton and wool), Forest Products (timber for energy, construction and paper), and Agriculture and Foresty (farming) are not within our scope, although will often be connected to our mission to promote bio-based and biodegradable products, being suppliers of raw materials.

Within these four categories which BBIA represents in the UK products are shown which refer to each category.

Biorefining

Biorefineries are industrial plants where biomass is transformed into chemicals, energy, enzymes, fuels, fibres, which are then sent for further processing into consumer or B2B products.  Biorefineries are closely linked with local agriculture because they can use and transform locally produced biomass, such as farm waste, into new products. Biorefineries therefore are a strong link between the new, green chemical industry and farming, improving farm incomes especially in marginal areas, and giving long term continuity for farms wanting to supply biorefineries.  Biorerineries also offer the possibility of renovating old and disused chemical plants and employing technically skilled workers in the new industry. NOVAMONT, BASF, BIOTEC, are all biorefining today.

Bio-based chemicals

One of the outputs from biorefining are chemicals. Polymers and monomers are used in a wide range of applications, among which are coatings for packaging, bio-plastics, ingredients for rubber products (including tyres), lubricants, additives, organic acids, surfacecants, PLA, and many other “building blocks” for the chemical industry. BASF, BIOTEC, NOVAMONT, are all producers of bio-based chemicals

Enzymes

Enzymes are extracted from the biorefineries to produce such products as insecticides but also many others. Ecospray are makers of bio-based insecticides using bio-based enzymes as a production base. Enzymes from bio-based sources are increasingly used to  manufacture bulk, specialty and fine chemicals, including agricultural chemicals, organics, drugs and plastic materials, to name but a few. Included in the potential chemicals market is the manufacturing of major chemicals, plastics, resins, vitamins, and compounds used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, enzymes for use as catalysts, and polymers and fibers for use in textiles.

Plastic bottles and packaging

Among BBIA members are several making plastic materials from bio-based and biodegradable chemicals. Among these are Biobag and Europackaging making compostable bags, Vegware making compostable tableware, Innovia Films using bio-based and biodegradable films in their various packaging offers.
The advantage of these products is that they have a direct return through organics recycling, to the soil from which they were produced.