Bio-based polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) resins are very green, but still not green enough, says Anindya Mukherjee, a founding member of GO!PHA, the nonprofit initiative created to accelerate the development of the PHA-platform industry.
Bio-based and biodegradable even in the marine environment, PHA seems tailored to supply the demand for sustainable materials created by the ramifications of the upcoming Single-Use Plastics Directive. The European Union, however, sees it differently.
In May 2018, the European Commission proposed a number of new EU-wide rules targeting the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.
Together these items, which include, among others, plastic cotton ear swabs, cutlery, plates and straws, account for some 70 percent of all marine litter. The proposal was adopted in 2019, which means that the deadline for implementation by the EU Member States is this year in July.
The directive is aimed at tackling the problem of marine pollution head on, and it contains various measures to do so. It calls for circular approaches that give priority to sustainable and nontoxic reusable products and reuse systems rather than to single-use products, aiming first and foremost to reduce the quantity of waste generated. Next to outright bans, the directive provides for the introduction of extended producer responsibility schemes to cover the necessary costs of waste management and litter cleanup, as well as the costs of awareness-raising measures to prevent litter in the first place.