Circular Principles Enhancing the Potential Value of Bioplastics

Embracing the circular economy requires organisations to rethink how we value the finite resources available to society. Producing biobased products from wastewater may currently be a relatively new area of research, and finding ways to make them commercially competitive, is the current challenge being addressed as part of the WOW! Capitalisation project. Evaluating the circular value of PHA recovery from wastewater is an ongoing task, led by Trinity College Dublin, in collaboration with Avans University of Applies Sciences and Wupperverbandsgesellschaft für integrale Wasserwirtschaft mbH, with a regional focus as PHA production requires scale to quantify bioplastic’s circular credentials.

How Clear is Bioplastic’s Potential?

Following the recent assessments of the regional potential for centralised and decentralised options for PHA production in the WOW! Capitalisation project, there are opportunities to produce high quantities of bioplastics in North-West Europe. But in some countries, the preferred pathway for primary sludge has already been defined, and it provides a feedstock for anaerobic digestion. As such, the potential for bioplastic needs to be evaluated closely to present its case for a viable alternative or complementary pathway depending on the size and scale of treatment works or regional spread. We hope to address some of these considerations in a project report produced later this year.

Bioplastics as a Circular Product driven by Standards

As new circular economy standards are in development, the ISO 59000 series, the transition to a circular economy will have clear guidance for organisations to transform their current business practices, how to evaluate the value of circular products. But in terms of the standards how may they help organisations embrace bioplastics?

  • ISO 59010 will support the transition of traditional supply chain into a clear value chain for this circular product.
  • ISO 59020 will provide a means of quantifying the economic, environmental, and social value of bioplastics.
  • ISO 59040 may allow bioplastics to present its credentials and be recognised as a certified circular product.
  • ISO 59014 will provide additional guidance on how to trace bioplastics as a secondary material, rather than as a primary circular material.

Figure: Overview of some of the core ISO 59000 Series of Standards for Circular Economy currently in development and planned release in 2023.

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