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New Plant-Based Council Aims to Replace Plastics With Biomass Materials

A group of businesses and environmental groups have created an association with the common goal of working to guide the global economy toward more sustainable and responsible consumer products and packaging through greater use of plant-based materials as alternatives to plastics and synthetics.

The launch of the Plant Based Products Council (PBPC) is specifically focused on promoting the adoption and use of products derived from renewable biomass. A spokesperson said the group will also advocate for private sector programs and government policies to encourage use of renewable materials and feedstocks.

This will target policies to reduce carbon emissions, improving water quality and soil health, and curtailing solid waste destined for landfills by closed-loop, end-of-life strategies through recycling and composting.

PBPC’s membership includes a range of businesses from across the U.S. that produce, distribute or sell products and packaging from renewable biomass inputs, including textiles. The spokesperson noted that nearly 80 percent of plastics are currently in a landfill or polluting the environment, and even among recyclables, most plastics never reach the intended facilities.

“We are going to be focused on the textile industry as an opportunity for replacing some of the plastic sourcing materials with biodegradable, compostable bioplastics,” she said. “We know those can be used in fabric production to reduce carbon footprint and advance the biocircular economy.”

Ralph Lerner, senior vice president of commercial development at Virent, a technology development company based in Madison, Wisc., said the firm has developed a catalytic process that can take different plant-based feedstocks such as sugars and convert them into bio-based materials.

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“The main product we’re focusing on right now is bio-parazyline, which is a key raw material for the production of renewable polyester,” Lerner, whose company is also a member of the PBPC, said.

Recently, Virent signed an agreement with BP and Johnson Matthey to further advance the commercialization of Virent’s Bioforming process.

“The products are really identical to the current polyester, but they have a lower carbon footprint, a lower greenhouse gas emissions profile and a more sustainable attribute,” Lerner added.

In addition to providing a platform for collaboration, the PBP Council, which officially bowed in January, also introduced an extensive, user-friendly database featuring over 480 plant-based and bio-based products currently on the market. The database showcases the versatility of plant-based materials and is designed to help guide businesses and consumers toward more sustainable decisions.

Founding members of the PBPC include Georgia-Pacific, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Tate & Lyle, Ingredion, WestRock-Multi Packaging Solutions, Stone Straw, Loliware, Visolis Biotechnology, Newtrient, Future iQ, Emerald Brands, Hemp Road Trip, Hemp Industries Association and Tree Free Hemp.

“We are going to be feedstock agnostic,” the spokesperson said, including which textile fibers could be involved in the council. “We want to focus and include all links in the plant-based products supply chain.”