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Biden Order Aims to Replace 90% Fossil-based Plastics with Bio-based Polymers

A new report from the White House details President Biden’s executive order on biotechnology and biomanufacturing, which will significantly impact petroleum-based plastics for packaging.

Executive Order 14081 from President Joe Biden calls for displacing 90% of today’s petroleum-based plastics with recyclable-by-design bio-based polymers over the next 20 years.
Executive Order 14081 from President Joe Biden calls for displacing 90% of today’s petroleum-based plastics with recyclable-by-design bio-based polymers over the next 20 years.

Proclaiming that “the world is on the cusp of an industrial revolution fueled by biotechnology and biomanufacturing,” a new report from The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy details Executive Order 14081 from President Joe Biden that calls for displacing 90% of today’s petroleum-based plastics with recyclable-by-design bio-based polymers over the next 20 years.

The E.O. was signed Sept. 12, 2022 and is titled, “Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy.” In it, the President lays out his vision for a whole-of-government approach to advancing biotechnology and biomanufacturing by creating a research agenda that outlines the foundational and use-inspired R&D needs that will lead to solutions in health, climate change, energy, food security, agriculture, supply chain resilience, and national and economic security.

“The E.O. also launched a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative to ensure that, beyond R&D, we have the domestic capacity to make the United States all the bio-based products we invent here,” the report continues. “This will create new jobs, build stronger supply chains, and contribute to our climate goals.”

The report focuses on the E.O.’s 10 “Bold Goals,” which are grouped into four themes, “where biotechnology can play a critical role in reducing GHG emissions and removing carbon from the atmosphere.” Theme 2 focuses on alternative processes to produce chemicals and materials and comprises two goals:

·     Develop Low-Carbon-Intensity Chemicals and Materials: In five years, produce more than 20 commercially viable  bioproducts with more than 70% reduced-lifecycle GHG emissions over current production practices.

·      Spur a Circular Economy for Materials: In 20 years, demonstrate and deploy cost-effective and sustainable routes to convert bio-based feedstocks into recycle-by-design polymers that can displace more than 90% of today’s plastics and other commercial polymers at scale.

Plastics are a focus for E.O. 14081, because currently, the report advises, commodity polymer manufacturing (including plastics) is responsible for GHG emissions equivalent to the global aviation sector, and manufacturing these products is projected to represent more than 20% of annual global fossil fuels consumption by 2050. Adds the report, “Additionally, plastic waste accumulating in landfills and the broader environment is well recognized as a planetary-scale pollution crisis.


Read article   Read this Q&A interview with AMERIPEN, “Packaging Policy Update and 2023 Outlook.”


“Opportunities exist to produce bio-based plastics to offset petroleum-derived plastic products, but use of bio-based products must be expanded. Accordingly an urgent global need exists to rapidly enable a more circular economy for today’s fossil carbon-based polymers production and to source chemical building blocks for tomorrow’s recyclable-by-design plastics from bio-based and waste sources.”

Responding to the report, The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) released a statement from its vice president of Sustainability, Patrick Krieger. “We are pleased with the Biden Administration’s recognition of the critical need for plastics and prioritizing research to make them even better,” he said. “Our industry has always been committed to taking sustainable materials and making them better, and we look forward to working with the administration to develop innovative plastics whether by developing new bio-based feedstocks or improvements in more recyclable plastics.”

The response from the Greenpeace USA Plastics Project was not as enthusiastic. Said Project Lead Kate Melges, “While it is encouraging to see the Biden administration take initial steps to tackle the plastic pollution crisis, they missed the mark. This plan does not begin to match the scale of the problem. By focusing on bioplastics and recycling, the administration is not addressing the root cause of the plastic pollution problem: we need to stop producing single-use plastics and switch to refill and reuse systems, not pursue false solutions like recycling and materials substitution. Greenpeace USA research has made it clear that plastics recycling is a dead end street.”

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