Companies including Georgia-Pacific, Archer Daniels Midland, and Cargill have come together to launch the Plant Based Products Council (PBPC). This new group of organizations works to promote the adoption and use of products derived from renewable biomass.
The council’s membership includes businesses of varying sizes from across the United States that produce, distribute, or sell products or packaging from renewable biomass inputs as well as organizations that made related public sustainability commitments, according to the PBPC.
“Businesses and consumers alike recognize the need to solve the problem of plastic pollution that harms our environment,” said John Bode, president and CEO of the Corn Refiners Association. “The PBPC will seek plant-based solutions, bringing together government, nonprofit, and corporate entities to address environmental challenges while driving economic opportunity.”
Additional founding member companies are 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.
The council’s advisory board includes GreenBlue, Californians Against Waste, International Conservation Caucus Foundation, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Professor Ramani Narayan, of Michigan State University’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science.
A poll of Millennials conducted in August 2018 that the PBPC published found that 48% of respondents feel most guilty about their own plastic use compared to other resources such as paper, water, or the amount they drive. In addition, 64% of respondents said they are willing to use alternatives to plastic.
Although only 13% of the Millennials polled were “very familiar” with bioplastic, after it was described to them, 90% became favorable to the material.
The PBPC says that plant-based products are derived from sustainable biomass found on six continents. According to the council’s website, feedstocks include agricultural residues, algae, bamboo, cassava, dent corn, palm leaf, rice husk, soybeans, sugar beet, sugarcane, and wood.
Corporate Bioplastic Challenges
“Plant-based” isn’t doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable, two British researchers argued in an op-ed for The Conversation last year. Sharon George and Deirdre McKay from Keele University in the UK cautioned that bioplastics might pose hidden risks for companies.
“Farming sugarcane can put huge stress on the environment, relying on large plantations that use pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers as well as significant amounts of water,” they wrote.
Stephen P. Ashkin, president of a consulting firm specializing in green cleaning and sustainability, defines bioplastic as being made by extracting sugar from plants such as corn and sugarcane and converting it into one of two different types of plastic: polylactic acids (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA).
He urges corporate leaders to look at the full bioplastics picture, citing a University of Pittsburgh study that found the fertilizers and products used to grow corn and sugarcane for bioplastics can create considerable pollution. “While well intended,” he wrote, “this is clearly an issue that needs to be rethought.”
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