The EU has declared the bio-based products sector to be a priority area due to its high potential for future growth, job creation and its ability to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide. The OPEN-BIO (Opening bio-based markets via standards, labelling and procurement) project aimed to provide tools to increase public acceptance of bio-based products by encouraging the development of standards, certification systems, ecological labelling and databases containing product information. Standard tests developed ‘The work carried out by OPEN-BIO was quite diverse,’ says coordinator Ortwin Costenoble. ‘A large part of the research was devoted to establishing and improving test methods for bio-based products; these concerned bio-based content, biodegradability under various conditions and improvement of functionality tests,’ he explains. Researchers built on an earlier project, which had begun developing standardised methods for testing the properties of bio-based products. OPEN-BIO moved these proposed standards forward and developed new ones, taking into consideration the ability to biodegrade in seawater, compostability and the possibility for conversion into biogas. The team developed standardised methods to help manufacture and substantiate claims about bio-based content and related product properties. Several OPEN-BIO methods were submitted to the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO), with two being adopted already. Dialogue with consumers Project partners also approached consumer groups to determine their needs and demands. This information was used to develop a database system that provided relevant information about bio-based products to public procurement officers. ‘The work on social acceptance revealed both positive and negative perceptions about bio-based products, but there was some confusion over what the term actually means,’ Ortwin Costenoble reports. Users of the database can find information concerning the bio-based content of products, plus their sustainability, functionality and end-of-of life aspects like biodegradability. These claims are substantiated by references to standards, technical sheets and labels. The database will become the first port of call for those working in public procurement seeking reliable information about the range of bio-based products available on the European market. ‘The database has resulted in important insights that have been fed in the new INNPROBIO project, which specifically deals with public procurement of innovative bio-based products,’ says Ortwin Costenoble. Bio-based products benefit everyone Consortium members worked with European research institutes and companies to explore the possibility of developing an ecolabel. Applied to bio-based products the label can boost consumer confidence and increase market demand. This would enable all properties and applications to be clearly communicated to the users of bio-based products. OPEN-BIO will thus help producers of bio-based products, wishing to increase their business by using standardised test results, to avoid misunderstanding and accusations of false claims. It will also aid those organisations involved in public procurement, thanks to the established database. Society as whole will also benefit from the efforts of OPEN-BIO as it findings, especially those concerning biodegradability and recycling, will be used to support and prioritise new environmental policies within the EU. The resulting reduction in waste and pollution will protect the environment and help to mitigate the effects of a changing climate.
Bio-based products, OPEN-BIO, standards, procurement, ecolabel