The plant-based chemistry sector is a means of meeting environmental and societal challenges
Plant-based chemistry is at the crossroad of various activities (research, chemical industries and user industries, agriculture, energy, the environment, etc.). It helps to reduce environmental impacts and offers numerous economic advantages.
Between now and 2050, the world will face unprecedented challenges:
- a 50% increase in the world’s population in half a century;
- doubling of energy needs (electricity and transport) while limiting global warming to a maximum of 2 °C in global mean temperature.(source: December 2010 Cancun Conference).
Plant-based chemistry, a sustainable and renewable branch of chemistry, can help to meet these various challenges; energy security and independence, combating of global warming, development of renewable resources and agricultural and rural development.
Cradle to cradle
Plant-based chemistry contributes to the replacement of certain fossil-based products by innovative and environmentally friendly products, in accordance with the aims expressed in the REACH regulations.
One of the challenges for plant-based products is to offer higher technical and/or environmental performance than fossil-based products via a better analysis of the life cycle of the product and, in particular, reduction of its carbon footprint. Life cycle analysis (LCA) is a reference method which evaluates the environmental impacts of products, goods or services along their whole life cycle from the production of the biobased material through to its processing.
More generally, an important element in the development of the sector is the “material-saving” nature of the whole value chain: from procurement of biomass (production, transport, etc.) to its transformation into a product, and then its distribution as marketable goods and finally its end-of-life management (waste).
Through one of its Expert Groups, the ACDV works regularly on this topic to supply an objective analysis of the existing tools, propose an appropriate methodology and identify indicators and their method of calculation. The ACDV creates a methodological framework for the conducting of Life Cycle Analyses of biobased products.
In parallel with this, the Association Chimie du Végétal (ACDV) has developed an indicator for the level of biomass in products: the biobased content indicator, which is on its way to becoming a European standard.
Energy recovery from biomass and their residue is also extensively developed in biorefineries, in order to optimise material and energy efficiency.
A genuine societal commitment
The development of molecules with new functions is conducive to the emergence of new markets and new industries.
Today, the plant-based chemistry sector represents 23,000 jobs and high potential for creation of direct and indirect jobs in France (source: Ademe 2012) if investments are made in the sector. Plant-based chemistry also offers additional outlets for major crops and an opportunity for agricultural development.
In addition, in the face of population growth and increased demand for consumer goods, plant-based chemistry has an important role to play in providing more environmentally friendly products and materials.