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12.2 Sustainable and efficient use of natural resources by 2030: Replacing fossil plastics with bio-based materials

The use of fossil plastics in packaging, construction and agriculture leads to the accumulation of litter and microplastics in the oceans. Together with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, we are investigating new solutions to replace fossil plastics without increasing other environmental impacts. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has been used to conduct a global analysis of environmental impacts at product level. In LCA, product functionalities are standardised to ensure that the products compared are comparable.

The analysis showed that bio-based products have the potential to deliver clear climate benefits, both in the case of short-life salad packaging and long-life building insulation. For example, there are several fibre-based solutions suitable for food packaging that reduce plastic waste because the fibre component is recyclable and does not produce microplastics. In addition, bio-based packaging materials do not produce fossil greenhouse gas emissions when burned.

Optimising the entire product lifecycle is a key factor in determining the most sustainable overall solution. In addition to the climate impact, a comprehensive LCA can help determine the other environmental benefits of introducing, reusing and recycling bio-based materials. Promoting the production, reuse and recyclability of bio-based materials in parallel is an effective way to achieve climate resilience and reduce environmental impacts of both long- and short-life products.