They were not overly optimistic, the industrialists gathered at the conference on Biobased Performance Materials, last week in Wageningen, on the future prospects of the bioplastics industry in Europe. There were quite a few of them. And they were very sceptical about Europe’s industry policy (not about research facilities, inter alia).
Europe’s biobased economy lags behind because of slow adjustments in regulation, and a lack of subsidies and tax incentives. That is why the second big PLA (polylactic acid) factory in the world (after Nature Works’) will be constructed in Thailand rather than somewhere in Europe. And yet, Europe will have to convert its technical capabilities into commercial production somehow. Although the gentlemen were not quite right, DSM constructs a succinic acid factory in Italy, and Avantium would like to construct a small commercial factory in Europe if the Coca-Cola PEF pilot plant should prove successful, preferably in the Netherlands. But perhaps that would still register as development. Apparently, Europe does not provide the right facilities for large commercial plants. In this way, our own green chemical industry will never make a take-off.
Common Agricultural Policy
By the way, during the same conference, German Nova Institute’s Michael Carus called for an immediate change in the Common Agricultural Policy review. It is high time that Europe should pay more attention to biobased chemistry. According to Michael, Europe’s attention is far too much focused on energy (single and double counting in obligatory blending of biofuels); chemistry and energy do not have a level playing field. And: Carus holds that with regards to green chemistry, governments pay much attention to R&D, but too little to hands-on industry policy.