What are bio-based materials?
Many industrial chemicals are traditionally made using fossil-based raw materials, which come from non-renewable sources. ‘Bio-based’ materials, on the other hand, are created using renewable biomass sources. These sources commonly include plants, animals, marine, and forestry materials. Other possible sources include waste from sugar refineries and the production of biofuels, as well as algae.
There are different standards for measuring the bio-based content of materials, such as ASTM D6866 and EN 16785-2.
What are the benefits of bio-based materials?
Climate change and the depletion of the earth’s finite resources have created an urgent need to find viable alternatives to fossil-based raw materials. Using bio-based raw materials enables the transition away from fossil-based sources and helps us move toward a more sustainable society.
Bio-based materials also offer better recyclability than fossil-based options. On top of this, they have higher process efficiency thanks to the use of biologically based production processes such as enzymes, fermentation, and bio-catalysis. These processes may also result in a reduced carbon footprint.
Bio-based materials may also exhibit lower toxicity, alongside other novel characteristics such as biodegradability.
However, products produced using bio-based materials are not inherently more sustainable, because the environmental impact of the entire production process must be considered via Life Cycle Assessments.
What is the future of bio-based materials?
The EU predicts steady growth in the uptake of bio-based materials within the chemicals industry. Many countries also have policies in place to encourage their use throughout the wider economy, such as the US Renewable Chemicals Act introduced by the United States in 2021.
According to Fortune Business Insights, the global bio-based chemicals market was valued at USD 77 billion in 2021, with the segment projected to double in size to approximately USD 144 billion by 2028.
Interested in learning more about bio-based materials?
Continue exploring the topic of bio-based feedstocks here.