European Parliament Magazine: Plastic Fantastic
Issue Date: 19 December 2011
The use of new technologies, such as bioplastics, can help ensure the successful transition to a biobased European economy, writes Lambert Van Nistelrooij
A key element of Europe’s 2020 strategy is the move to a biobased economy. Yet for many of us, including politicians, the bio economy is something completely new. What it means is to replace the use of oil as a feedstock for a range of essential materials and chemicals. This will deliver new innovations such as bioplastics. Bioplastics are essentially plastics, maintaining all the characteristics of conventional plastics, but are made from renewable resources such as sugar or starch.
In 2012 the European commission will publish a strategy and action plan on the biobased economy. What is important is that the biobased economy generates value throughout the value chain both here in Europe and beyond. Therefore, politicians, policymakers and stakeholders have the responsibility to ensure that both in Brussels and in member states there is an open discussion on the potential benefits, as well as potential barriers, to the development of a successful biobased economy in Europe. In the Netherlands, as elsewhere in Europe, there are already many ongoing initiatives. Europe’s entrepreneurs and innovative industries are preparing themselves to be global leaders in the development of new technologies, such as bioplastics. It is critical that in the coming years all stakeholders work together to ensure a successful implementation of the transition to a biobased economy. Earlier this year I hosted a conference and exhibition on bioplastics in the European parliament, entitled ‘the plastics evolution’. This event brought together key stakeholders, industry and policymakers, and highlighted the results of successful research: many examples of key consumer brands embracing this new technology.
Additional qualities of bioplastics will allow for a wide range of new applications and innovations, such as medical devices. Imagine the social and patient benefit of not having to undertake secondary surgery due to the degradability potential of medical devices – such as temporary valves, internal prosthetic implants, and surgical sutures and orthopedic devices. In recognition of this innovative technology, I will make the biobased economy a cornerstone of my activities for the Horizon 2020 research programme. Furthermore, as rapporteur for the general regulation on the future of the regional funds, I will integrate actions for the biobased economy, such as more innovation and development of the sector, in the support schemes.