Washington — As President Joe Biden's administration tries to implement its grand vision of replacing 90 percent of fossil plastics with bio-based alternatives, advocates for that dramatic change are pointing to policy levers Washington could pull.
Those include tax incentives for renewable chemicals — such as those for biofuels — and federal support for composting infrastructure and biorefineries, as well as a continued push for electric cars that will shift biofuel markets in ways that could help "defossilize" plastics.
Those were some of the ideas were bandied about at a recent conference of the Plant Based Products Council, as attendees looked at how to implement the ambitious bioplastics goal set out in a March 22 report from the White House science office. It is a goal some question as being unrealistic.
Resin supplier Braskem, which makes sugarcane-based bio-polyethylene in addition to its much larger business making petrochemical-based plastics, wants Washington to look at policies to level the playing field for chemicals from renewable feedstocks.
"I think to hit those goals you're going to have to see a little bit of a level playing field emerge," said Geoffrey Inch, circular economy and sustainability director for Braskem North America, in comments on a panel at the conference, held March 27-29 in Washington.
"Today we do have a higher cost of production in renewable polymers," he said. "We also have strong incentives in the fuel industry to take in that biomass. Calibrating that all to the future we want to build is going to be a really important step."
In an interview on the sidelines of the event, he pointed to measures like a clean fuel production credit in section 45z of the Biden administration's Inflation Reduction Act as something that could be studied for renewable chemicals.
"There is so much federal policy supporting biomass-to-fuels markets today, but to have a level playing field where there could be some type of national incentive for renewable chemicals and materials, is what we're looking to develop," Inch said.
Brazil-based Braskem is one of North America's largest makers of polypropylene as well as a major supplier of bioplastics.