The story of biobased materials continues to evolve.
In the early stages, biobased materials were connected to the burgeoning green movement of the 1990s and 2000s.
Yet, just being labeled green and sustainable wasn’t enough.
There needed to be more to maintain the momentum of the biobased sector, especially considering the continued price drops in petroleum-derived commodities and the increased production of low-cost, independent natural gas.
In the minds of most consumers, these economic drivers outweighed claims that a product, fuel or raw material was green and sustainable.
So why is there still so much enthusiasm surrounding the concept of a biobased economy?
We keep learning that large companies are making substantial investments in biobased infrastructure and new facilities, investing in other biotechnology companies, start-ups and entering into joint venture arrangements, receiving awards for new IP platforms, and commercializing new biobased chemicals and feedstock technology.
The future looks bright for biobased materials. And it’s not just because they’re green.
The potential benefits of biobased materials are wide-ranging, from creating better consumer products and high performance, energy efficient industrial materials, to fueling job growth and investment in domestic manufacturing capacity.
As Corrinne Young of re:chem puts it, “It’s better goods, better solutions, better materials to manufacture in a better way, providing better jobs for a better economy and an overall better life.”
In “Bio-Based Materials Growing Into the Building Block of the Future”, from Advanced Manufacturing Insights, other experts neatly summarize the next wave of success of biobased materials: “making products better that just happen to have a green story.”
Progress and Enthusiasm at the State Level
Individual states, especially in America’s heartland, also hope to seize the opportunity and benefit from the next wave of success in the biobased sector.
For example, states like Iowa, with an established and growing biomanufacturing infrastructure, including corn wet mills, soybean processing facilities, wood mills, corn dry mills, biodiesel plants and cellulosic ethanol plants, looks to attract downstream biotechnology companies to create “industrial biomanufacturing clusters”.
Educational institutions, such as the Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center (OBIC) at Ohio State University, strive to connect “different segments of the bioproducts community to nurture business ecosystems and facilitate commercialization of new sustainable bioproduct technologies.”
A “Clear and Urgent” demand for these materials
The notion that biobased materials can improve performance, benefit the environment, and have a broadly positive impact on the economy explains why companies see a “clear and urgent” demand for consumer and industrial uses of biobased materials.
It will be fascinating to see how the story of the biobased economy continues to evolve in order to meet this demand.