Can less food be grown because raw materials for bioplastics take up space and resources? Is food actually used to produce these bioplastics?
A legitimate concern that we at Naturabiomat® encounter time and again. This makes it all the more important for us to provide information about the actual origin of the raw materials we use. We use Novamont's Mater-Bi bioplastic in our production. From this we produce bin liners for compostables that are used in many households. These bin liners are particularly appreciated for the collection of organic waste because they have all the advantages of plastic bags, but unlike these, they break down without leaving any residue.
Bioplastics such as Mater-Bi are fully biodegradable and compostable materials that contain renewable raw materials. The raw materials used are, for example, corn starch, vegetable oils and potato starch.
The corn starch comes from non-GM plants which are grown in Europe. The cultivated areas have not been created by clearing forest or by encroaching on natural, unspoilt areas.
The vegetable oils used in the case of Mater-Bi® also come from non-GM plants. Only oils from plants that are adapted to dry locations and therefore require little irrigation are used. Neither soya oil nor palm oil are used in the production of Mater-Bi®.
The world's agricultural area covers 5 billion hectares. In 2017 only about 1.2 million hectares were used to grow raw materials for bioplastics. This equates to only 0.02% of the total agricultural area. So, the area required to produce bioplastics is comparatively very small.
In fact, there are also other raw materials that are produced from renewable resources. For example, about 3.6 million tons of corn starch are used as raw material in the chemical and technical industry in the EU every year. This corresponds to 46% of all processed starch. Thirty percent of this alone is used for the production of paper and corrugated board, and only 1 percent for bioplastics.
Since 2007 the prices of agricultural raw materials have risen considerably. There are several reasons for this: Firstly, the demand for agricultural raw materials from the bioenergy sector has increased. In addition, the rise in fuel prices has led to an increase in the production costs of grain. On the other hand, growing demand in emerging markets due to changing eating habits and the exponential growth of the world population are also contributing to the price increase.
It would not be correct to say that the production of bioplastics has no influence whatsoever on food production. However, this influence is clearly much smaller than the benefit that these materials have for the entire natural cycle. This is because the advantages of bioplastics are irrefutable. In terms of sustainability, their use is of great advantage because, for example, in the form of bin liners for compostable waste, they are broken down again through composting and thereby returned to the natural cycle.