Biobased products have positive impact on environment, economy, says USDA report

National Biobased Products Day

Biobased products significantly cut down the consumption of fossil fuels and play a pivotal role in the U.S. economy, according to a recent report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Using 2021 data, An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry: 2023 Update highlights the impact and growth of the American biobased products industry. The report covers seven major segments of the industry: Agriculture and Forestry, Biobased Chemicals, Biobased Plastic Bottles and Packaging, Biorefining, Enzymes, Forest Products, and Textiles.

The key finding is that biobased products significantly cut down the consumption of fossil fuels, and made a large contribution to the overall economy and jobs.

“The petroleum use that was avoided by using biobased products was estimated to be as much as 10.7 million barrels of oil assuming an 80% reduction in 2021,” the report stated. As a result, biobased products can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 12.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents annually.

In addition to environmental impacts, in 2021, the U.S. biobased products industry employed 3.94 million people and contributed $489 billion to the economy. This marks an increase of 5.1% up from $464 billion in 2020.

Bioplastics innovations and transformations

Growing awareness of sustainability fuels the demand for more eco-friendly products. This incentivizes manufacturers to be more innovative when it comes to packaged goods.

According to the report, the biobased plastics and packaging sector added a total of $1.88 billion to the U.S. economy in 2021. It is expected to have a marginal growth of 1.9% through 2028.

“The contemporary shift towards sustainable solutions has seen bioplastics increasingly being employed in the packaging of various items, including food containers, beverage bottles, and more, even finding applications in niche areas like automobile parts and electronic housings,” the report reads.

According to the report, one emerging environmentally beneficial biobased solution is the development of 100% biobased polyethylene furanoate (PEF). PEF can be used for manufacturing packaging for products meant to have a long shelf life. According to a study published in 2023, “PEF would offer 50% to 74% lower life cycle GHG emissions after one recycling trip compared to conventional PET (polyethylene terephthalate).”

How USDA is supporting biobased products

USDA has been committed to encouraging the development of low-carbon biobased manufacturing. The agency invested $10 million in the Bioproduct Pilot Program, Bio.News previously reported.

“This program will help farmers take field residues and waste products and turn them into value-added products that create wealth and drive economic development in rural areas,” said Secretary Vilsack, who announced the program at a farm in Iowa.

On March 8, USDA celebrated the second annual National Biobased Products Day (NBPD).

Through National Biobased Products Day, USDA aims to boost awareness of the benefits of embracing biobased products. Specifically, USDA wants to bring “attention to the great work being done to improve sustainability, reduce our reliance on petroleum-based products, and benefit rural communities.”

To achieve this goal, USDA introduced the BioPreferred Program under the 2002 Farm Bill. The program was expanded in the 2014 Farm Bill. Since December 2015, more than 2,500 products in 100 different product categories have been certified “biobased.”

“The Biden-Harris Administration supports and incentivizes biobased products because they are what consumers want—and what farmers, and our planet, need,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on the 2024 National Biobased Products Day.

“American farmers, growers, biobased business owners, and innovators are resilient and thriving. We are committed to celebrating them and the economic, environmental, and health benefits of biobased products on National Biobased Products Day,” Vilsack added.

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