Bioplastic – an effective way of combating the climate crisis
Plastic pollution and climate changes on a global scale clearly show us that there is no plan B. We have little time left to drastically change our lives and everyday habits, as well as to shift the economy towards sources of energy other than fossil fuels. What comes to our rescue are bioplastics, circular economy and certificates such as ISCC and REDCert2.
Plastics came into general use over 60 years ago and have settled in our surroundings so well that we cannot imagine our lives without them. For many decades, humanity has carelessly used this raw material without realizing its side effects. Despite gradually rising voices drawing our attention to its environmental footprint and non-degradability, it was hard for this message to break through to public awareness. Today, plastic waste is everywhere, even in oceans and in the stomachs of marine animals, whereas microplastic fibres can be found in groundwater and natural milk of breastfeeding women. Is it no longer possible to move away from plastic?
“Of course, the extent of plastic pollution is huge, but there is still a chance, we are not entirely helpless. We are facing a revolution in our everyday actions. We have reached the edge and humanity will either change its habits and decide to make some effort or we will witness further degradation of our planet and the end of the world as we know it... The tools we can use to save the day are already here and they are gaining popularity year by year. But as consumers, we need to start from ourselves, the revolution needs to take place in each of us. Plastics used in packaging can be replaced with bioplastics, made from plants. We can also recover plastic through recycling and then reprocess it in a closed loop, without the involvement of further fossil fuels. In order for these processes and final products to be fully credible and compliant with the spirit of circular economy, they should be certified. The standards which are currently essential in the certification of biomass and biofuel are ISCC Plus and REDcert2,” says Szymon Kołodziejczyk, an auditor at Bureau Veritas Polska.
Our audits are based on both ISCC Plus and REDcert2. These two standards have similar requirements (the scope of ISCC is slightly broader). They cover all types of biomass available in EU markets and outside its borders, as well as processes used in the production, processing and marketing of biomass in accordance with the principles of sustainable development.
ISCC (International Sustainability & Carbon Certification) International Certification System for Biomass and Biofuel Production Chain is currently the most advanced and widespread global programme which makes it possible to certify biomass and bioenergy. ISCC is used in over 100 countries. The certification process has already been carried out over 19,000 times all over the world and the standard is used by over three thousand companies. ISCC Plus is aimed at industries other than the biofuel industry, which includes the certification of bioplastics and recycled raw materials. The aim of the system is to protect the planet against predatory exploitation, deforestation, soil, water and air degradation and the loss of flora and fauna biodiversity. Companies which implement the system confirm their commitment to sustainable development, attention to the protection of our planet’s natural resources and their quest for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG).
The ISCC Plus standard is mostly based on the so-called biomass balance, which means that the certificate can be held by manufacturers who use both certified raw materials and primary raw materials from fossil energy sources. The users of the ISCC Plus system who choose the biomass balance option can mark their products with the ISCC sign, which shows that they use a mix of materials that supports the production of bioplastics or recycled materials. However, they cannot inform consumers that their product is made from certified raw materials. This opportunity is offered by certificates granted to processes certified as involving manual sorting of certified raw materials and conventional plastics. Unfortunately, some companies which participate in the chain are not ready for this solution yet, so for now the manual sorting option is only a recommendation of the standard owner. This state of affairs may change when EU Member States implement Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. Nevertheless, in this case, we need to think globally and act locally, so the decision to implement the ISCC PLUS standard in an enterprise right now is a very important first step towards changes which are supposed to bring the climate crisis to a halt. What is important is the interaction between customers, whose awareness is growing, and companies, which are more and more responsible, environmentally friendly and technologically advanced, as well as various institutions and decision makers.
When we audit a company, we carefully check various aspects of its business operations and point to areas which need to be improved if the company wants to be granted the certificate and bring benefits to both its business and image. Nevertheless, like in any other area of business activity, there are individuals who may try to misuse ISCC certification. Some entrepreneurs only wish to show us the tip of the iceberg, without revealing inconvenient aspects of their business, for example the fact that their farming or production somehow leads to deforestation or brings about a lasting change in the way in which land is used. Our auditors check everything thoroughly, so the audit may be time consuming and demanding, but it is worth the effort. Certified producers guarantee high product quality, whereby consumers can feel safe knowing that the required standards have been met. After obtaining the certificate with the logo of Bureau Veritas, a company becomes a credible worldwide business partner, who creates new product quality with regard to caring for the natural environment.
The biggest enterprises in the bioplastics market already have the ISCC Plus certificate. When it comes to leading global corporations from the food industry and the consumer goods industry, they are constantly increasing the content of materials of biological origin in their products, primarily when it comes to packaging. Danone and Nestle Waters declared that their goal is to be the first ones to use solely biodegradable PET bottles of biological origin. According to the announcements made by both corporations, these products are supposed to hit store shelves as early as 2020.
The packaging industry is naturally the biggest market sector which uses bioplastics and will continue to use them in the coming years. According to data gathered by ISCC, if we assume that the global production of bioplastics in 2022 will reach 244 million tonnes (in 2017 it was 205 million tonnes), then 58% of these resources will be used to make packaging, both hard and flexible. Other market segments which will use bioplastics in the future, but which nevertheless fall far behind the packaging industry, are the
The portfolio of the ISCC system also includes companies which deal with recovering raw materials from used car tires. Thanks to technologically advanced chemical processes, they can produce substances which serve as equivalents of diesel fuel. It is yet another example that circular economy can be achieved not only in theory, but also in practice. ISCC and other systems, such as REDCert2 and Blue Angel, consequently promote the idea of circular economy and sustainable development, which will gradually penetrate into subsequent sectors of the economy and business, as well as other spheres of our lives. We are at the beginning of this journey, but the revolution has already started and there is no going back if we want to survive as mankind and preserve the biodiversity of our planet.
Currently, Polish auditors carry out more ISCC Plus and REDcert2 audits abroad than in Poland. Previous certifications by Bureau Veritas Polska, based on both ISCC Plus and REDcert2 standards, took place in countries such as Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands. Polish entrepreneurs from the plastics industry are also becoming interested in these standards. At the end of 2019, we issued the first ISCC PLUS certificate for a Polish company from this sector.