The White House's ambitious bioplastics goals announced March 22 face many hurdles but some in that nascent industry see it as a clear sign that President Joe Biden's administration wants to support more climate-friendly manufacturing.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy's new bioeconomy road map calls for replacing 90 percent of traditional plastics with bio-based materials in 20 years.
The 64-page report, which outlines what it acknowledges are "bold goals," is short on details of how to get there, saying the OSTP will work out research and development priorities and other actions in coming months.
Industry analysts noted many challenges, from huge investments needed to potential new policies like taxes on carbon dioxide emissions or fossil-based plastics.
One called it "pure fantasy" to suggest the switch could happen in 20 years.
But some bioplastics executives said they liked the message and support from Washington.
"Even if the targets are missed, I think this is a major step in the right direction," said Stephen Croskrey, CEO of PHA maker Danimer Scientific Inc. in Bainbridge, Ga. "Danimer believes the administration is serious about accelerating the adoption of bio-based alternatives."
"Clearly these are extremely challenging objectives, but we hope that they lead to new, innovative programs to help facilitate the transition to bio-based materials like ours, which deliver clear environmental benefits compared to conventional petroleum-based plastics," said Croskrey, who participated in a September White House roundtable on the bioeconomy.
As well, Mark Remmert, CEO of bio-elastomer maker Green Dot Bioplastics Inc. in Emporia, Kan., said it's a strong statement coming from Biden and the White House.
"It's the first time I remember that the government at that level has said we need to do something about traditional plastics," said Remmert, who had a 30-year career at Dow Chemical before joining Green Dot.
"Who knows how much of this makes it into any kind of budget action but for the most visible person on the planet to stand up and say we need to move away from traditional plastics and replace materials with bioplastics, that's a big statement," Remmert said.