By Leah Ford, Global Marketing Communications Manager at NatureWorks
From bioplastics to paper to moulded fibre, the adoption of bio-based sustainable materials is growing fast. Consumer awareness of the impact materials have on the environment is at an all-time high, driving brands and companies to seek more sustainable options for their products and to adopt frameworks like the circular economy.
As suppliers of these biopolymer or paper-based materials scale-up to meet demand, however, it’s critical that they continue to ensure renewable feedstocks, like trees and row crops, are grown and harvested with long-term sustainability in mind. Implementing best practices and certifying renewable feedstocks balances growing market needs with environmental health and social equity.
Third-party certifications like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) are well known in the paper and timber products industry for setting standards around responsible sourcing. Likewise, producers of biopolymers need to similarly commit to certifications that ensure their agricultural feedstocks are grown responsibly and sustainably. This pledge not only meets consumer demand for environmentally-friendly materials, but also ensures the long-term viability of the renewable feedstocks supply chain.
As an example, last year NatureWorks (@natureworks), the world’s largest manufacturer of PLA-based biopolymers called Ingeo, committed to ensuring that by the end of 2020 all of the agricultural feedstock used for its Ingeo biomaterials would be certified by the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification System (ISCC) to the ISCC PLUS standard of best practices in agricultural production. The ISCC Plus certification accounts for both the environmental and social aspects of agriculture, which includes everything from biodiversity and tillage to safe working conditions and human rights. Like the FSC certification, ISCC Plus relies on chain-of-custody to ensure sustainability through each step in the supply chain.
In the context of the circular economy, biomaterials are needed in order to decouple virgin materials from petrochemical feedstocks and enable additional after-use options such as composting. This makes responsible sourcing and certified renewable feedstocks even more critical. Last year, circular economy leader the Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment to unite businesses behind a common vision and set targets to address plastic waste and pollution. In that commitment, signatories including NatureWorks specifically promised to use a renewable feedstock certified as sustainably and responsibly managed via the third-party ISCC PLUS by 2020. This commitment to certified sourcing was made alongside companies’ plastic waste reduction targets as it is an important component of the circular economy approach.
Renewable feedstocks are already used to make sustainable materials for applications ranging from takeout containers and paper cups to refrigerator liners and tea bags. The breadth of applications is growing and so should the use of third-party certified renewable feedstocks to meet both consumer demands for sustainable materials and targets set forth in global circular economy frameworks.
For more information about the topics raised in this article, please Leah Ford, Global Marketing Communications Manager at NatureWorks, on Leah_Ford@natureworksllc.com
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