Sustainability of biobased plastics. Analysis focusing on CO2 for policies

In 2018, the market share of recycled plastic was only 9% and that of bio-based plastic only 1%. Given the environmental advantages of bio-based and recycled plastics over fossil plastics, various policy options to encourage their adoption are being studied and discussed.

Firstly, this analysis focuses on identifying and explaining the potential climate benefits that biobased plastics can realise compared to fossil plastics. Secondly, we propose a methodology to calculate the reduction of the climate impact of bio-based plastics, in line with the calculations for biofuels from the European Renewable Energy Directive (RED II).

Earlier, CE Delft studied the potential impact of an obligation on the use of recycled or bio-based plastics and concluded that a 25-30% share of recycled plastics could be achieved by imposing an obligation. To achieve a higher share (50-60%) of biobased/recycled plastics, a significant amount of biobased plastics could therefore be used.

Since some bio-based plastics show promising reductions in terms of climate impact (i.e., greater than 1 kg CO2-eq./kg of plastic), it is relevant to consider how any potential government support can be shaped. Parts of the production chain of biobased plastics are similar or identical to those of biofuels because they use the same biomass resources. A government support scheme for biobased plastics could therefore connect to RED II, where possible.