Chairman’s Introduction to BBIA
The BBIA has been in existence now for more than two years (writing in October 2017) and we have learnt a lot and made some progress towards promoting the bioeconomy in the UK.
Over these two years we have gone through two General Elections (May 2015 and June 2017), the Brexit referendum (June 2016), and the considerable disruption these have caused to the government’s daily activities. MPs have come and gone, as have Ministers, senior officials in government departments, and even government departments themselves. Remember DECC?
All this has made it extremely difficult to understand the political landscape, engage politicians and officials, find the time and spaces to explain our positions.
Bioeconomy investments and development are quite dependent upon central government policy. This is because the bioeconomy will generally grow only where the policy landscape is one in which environmental standards are raised so that new materials, products and production technologies, can enter into consolidated markets.
Where cleaner production is an objective, industrial biotechnologies can challenge existing technologies, for example by reducing carbon emissions and sourcing renewable materials instead of fossil fuels. Where waste prevention and improved recycling is an objective, biobased and biodegradable products can bring solutions in certain uses, such as for the packaging and collection of food waste. Where soil and farming quality are objectives, biodegradable pesticides, lubricants or film mulches can offer improvements in soil quality through reduced contamination. Rarely however do these changes become mainstream unless mandated, so the role of government leadership is critical to development.
BBIA has worked closely, insofar as it has been possible in this rather confused landscape, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra); the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and with local governments in London and Manchester; and in partnership with many other associations whose interests touch upon bioeconomy.
We have attended dozens of meetings, given evidence to and attended Parliamentary inquiries, spoken with MPs on all sides of the political spectrum, engaged Ministers, and continued to help, albeit it remotely, on European policies around the Circular Economy.
Our evidence to the most significant of government consultations include those relative to the Bioeconomy Strategy (expected government publication by the end of 2017) and the Industrial Strategy (again by the end of 2017). Our recent policy paper, which can be read here, was sent to all relevant stakeholders.
Key to enabling the production of bio-materials in packaging is the waste management infrastructure we have. The UK does not have food waste collections everywhere (in England in about 40 per cent of councils) and this hampers the use of compostable materials. If these are not collected with food waste, they will go to landfill/incineration, thereby failing to take advantage of their principal environmental benefit. Similarly, we find that the potential of offering zero-waste solutions in catering environments is severely hampered where food waste is not collected separately. This has been one of the BBIA’s central policy objectives and we are hopeful that we shall see government acceptance of the importance of separate collection of food waste within a reasonable time period.
Other policy objectives include quality of soil and our waterways, where biodegradable products like lubricants and pesticides, can enhance quality and safety; implementing policies to reduce contamination to soil from PE film mulch, or from plastics contained in compost and digestate originating in poor quality collection; and finally, in introducing compostable materials in certain food chain uses, such as coffee pods, teabags, some food wrapping, bags, where these can be recovered with food waste and returned to soil in a circular loop.
We hope you share some of these policy objectives with us and join our campaigning for a greener and more bio-focused Britain.