Environment: vs Agricultural Products
Bioplastics & Rising Prices for Agricultural Products PDF Print E-mail
Do bioplastics play a role in the rising prices for agricultural products and food ?

The current media debate is frequently emotional and not much factual information is provided to promote the discussion on the use of food crops in non-food applications.

At a conference on May 6, EU Agriculture Commissioner Marianne Fischer-Boel has responded to the debate and rejected allegations that EU policies to promote biofuels are to blame for rising food prices (www.euractiv.com/en/sustainability/biofuels). She provided arguments that are also valid for bioplastics: "Those who see biofuels as the driving force behind recent food price increases have overlooked not just one elephant standing right in front of them, but two," she said. According to Fischer-Boel, the rising food demand and dietary shift towards meat in emerging countries like China and India, together with the bad weather that hit the EU, US, Canada, Russia, Ukraine and Australia in 2006 and 2007, have each had "an enormous impact on commodity markets". Other "influences" include increasing speculation on food commodities, she said.

 
Bioplastics versus Biofuels PDF Print E-mail
Noteworthy: There are significant differences between the use of agricultural feedstocks for biofuels production and for the production of bioplastics:

- Volumes: Whereas biofuels production has reached a multi-million ton level in the EU, the bioplastics market is still in its infancy (approx. 100,000 tons in Europe). The cultivation area needed to supply the bioplastics industry is currently very small. About 2-3 tons of bioplastics can be produced from one hectare of corn or wheat (using their starch), thus the area cultivated for the production of bioplastics can be estimated at approx. 30,000 ha in EU compared with a total agricultural area in Europe of more than 162,000,000 ha according the European Commission.

- There is a range of bioplastics materials that already use cellulosic feedstocks (wood) or food waste products like potato skins (non-edible, non-food supply).

- Strong efforts are being undertaken by the bioplastics industry to develop bioplastics from agricultural residues (cellulosic) and other waste streams. Many companies have set development goals to feed their raw material supply from crops or other agricultural feedstocks, which are non-competing with food markets in the future (biorefinery concepts).

 
Bio-Fuel: Conclusion PDF Print E-mail
Bioplastics have no impact on the food supply and availability situation today.

Technical solutions to use mainly non-food crops are under investigation or already in use. All parties involved should focus their activities to enable the growth of bioplastics and to support sustainable development which takes into account that no raw material has unlimited availability and therefore the most efficient use of resources must be achieved. Bioplastics should be regarded as a solution to promote sustainable development and not as a threat to it.

Noteworthy: According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and other governmental sources, 4.2 billion hectares are available for agricultural production worldwide, but only 1.5 billion hectares are actually used, of which 900 million hectares are in LDCs (less developed countries). As such, there is still scope for increasing the production of agricultural crops for both food and bioplastics.

 


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