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Standards and Regulations for the Bio-based Industry

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - STAR4BBI (Standards and Regulations for the Bio-based Industry)

Reporting period: 2018-03-01 to 2019-08-31

STAR4BBI is a three years, coordination and support project. The objective of STAR4BBI is to provide an overview of conflicts and barriers to growth within the Bio-based industry. This by identification of current and future legislative, regulatory and standardization needs and develop proposals for updating those in anticipation of expected and desired technology and industry developments.
Key element of the concept of STAR4BBI is the real life bio-based product value chains. This is an existing process that converts biomass into products at specific locations or factory sites in Europe. These provide insight into all levels and types of regulations or standards and are representative for the BBI JU.
For society it is important to know whether regulations and standards have effectively promoted or hampered the cases that are exemplary and successful at this moment in time. The focus of the project has been on finding practical ways to modify regulations in such a way that alternative wording, product specifications, and/or measuring methods will eliminate hurdles without compromising the initial objectives of the standard or regulation. Final recommendation were developed into a strategy for the further development of standards and regulations in selected value chains in order to support investments in bio-based industries.
The initial work of the project has been about identifying and screening a number of bio-based value chains in Europe and deriving a mapping of the most relevant ones, along with the identification of companies involved, to be selected for further study in the project. We checked companies for different criteria, such as the effective product, regional coverage around the EU, the position in the whole value chain and size. Seven exemplary bio-based case studies selected confirmed their willingness to participate.
As a start interviews were organized between two partners and the focal point to exchange views and first insights. The results have been used to identify issues with regulations, definitions and standards. The interviews resulted in a report on market entry barriers due to regulation and standardisation that companies operating in the bio-based economy experience. Hurdles mentioned by the interviewees were bundled under overarching themes and examined further. They have been divided in topics such as end-of-life options for bio-based products, certification and standards, biofuel policy issues, etc.
A separate exercise was an ex-ante analysis with the objective of identifying possible future technological developments, industry trends and innovations in a horizon of 10 to 15 years in the selected value chains. That work captures the view of experts on future industry trends and innovations and identifying updates of the regulatory framework that are likely to be needed for supporting a full deployment of innovation scenarios. A further analysis of promising technologies and innovative developments has been undertaken. Three different innovative developments were selected as the most promising trends of which a deeper analysis has been accomplished. Special attention has been paid to the existing regulatory and investment barriers that could delay these technological developments and that should be removed in order to support the promotion of a cutting-edge European bio-based economy.
Interactions with stakeholders for identifying and discussing proposed solutions were undertaken. The following specific suggestions for policy makers in order to establish a supportive and investment-friendly regulatory and standardization framework for the bioeconomy, enabling the full deployment of future innovations are made:
• integration of a fossil carbon tax will allow taxation of fossil carbon in chemicals, materials and products, which would be considerably complex when implementing a CO2 tax.
• introduction of sustainability certification for all products is needed, including a multi-level EU Ecolabel to provide more transparency for relevant stakeholders in knowing how sustainable their product is.
• implement measures with regard to genome-editing techniques to update the existing EU regulation, more precisely use the GMO definition of the Cartagena Protocol in order to capture both the end-product and the used technique.
• update the existing European regulatory framework on waste and harmonize it with the Circular Economy Package to facilitate optimal resource use (including waste) and to provide harmonized guidance on preferred End-of-Life (EOL) options.
With regard to the compostability test methods, the conclusion is that changing the standard (EN 13432) is not the solution for the current challenges in the market situation. However, the European Standard, which was developed in 2000, should be aligned with current practice. As composting processes have changed considerably since then, the goal is to come to an agreement that matches the industrial practices of today and the near future with what can be achieved for compostable plastics and for products for which composting may have benefits.
In order to create a level playing field, it is proposed to introduce a policy framework dedicated to bio-based materials called the Renewable Materials Directive. Similar to what currently exists for biofuels and bioenergy (RED). This is predicted to be highly influential in accelerating the transition from fossil-based materials to bio-based alternatives. Policy support shall be awarded based on the solutions provided to current environmental and societal challenges. Specific mandates and bans should be considered accordingly for specific product groups that pose significant littering problems. Furthermore, requiring materials used with food applications to be compostable or digestible should be considered.
The bioeconomy is still far away, and getting there requires a transition towards the use of bio-based feedstock in a circular economy and needs stimulating research. A centralized advising authority should provide uniform advises and guidelines for EOL routes for products, bundling of knowledge and know how, learning from best practices, etc. In connection the (independent) authority should provide criteria and certification systems for different stages along the life-cycle of packaging products.
Packaging product design should keep reuse and recycling possibilities in mind. Ultimately, ‘design for recycling’ involves the entire life-cycle of products. It is proposed that regulations be modified to include the value of digestion and composting of biodegradable plastics in the recycling targets, regard-less of whether these processes deliver compost or digestate. An independent organisation would need to be responsible for balanced life-cycle impact data on bio-based materials and products, and as far as fossil-based or other products are being used, these should be included as well.
Position of interviewees in each of the production chains selected
Overview of the suggestions for genome editing techniques
Selected topics for which measures are proposed