The Plant Based mostly Merchandise Council, a lately launched business group, is taking up the plastic disaster.
Since plastic’s mass adoption simply over half a century in the past, it has been utilized in every little thing from vehicles, medical devices and packaging to electronics and constructing supplies. Too usually, although, on the petroleum-based artificial materials’s finish of use, it is forgotten about. But it stays in existence and has ended up everywhere in the world, in our oceans, on our mountains, in our our bodies — locations it is not presupposed to be.
Public stress is mounting to handle the plastic disaster. However how can we merely stop use of the fabric that has enabled trendy life? One large concept: change it with an analogous materials with the identical versatile, handy properties, however with totally different ends-of-life.
Utilizing crops and plant byproducts because the supply of plastics signifies that much less fossil fuels shall be used, and theoretically, these plastics could possibly be compostable or biodegradable and never exist in perpetuity.
The Plant Based mostly Merchandise Council (PBPC) launched earlier this yr to advocate for these plant-based alternate options. Since its launch, PBPC has gathered corporates searching for options, startups creating them and NGOs working to implement them.
Final month, the group discovered its first government director, bioeconomy veteran Jessica Bowman. Along with her function at PBPC, Bowman serves because the vice president of superior bioproducts on the Corn Refiners Affiliation. Beforehand, she labored as senior director of world fluoro-chemistry on the American Chemistry Council and as senior director of environmental affairs on the Airport Council Worldwide.
I lately caught up along with her over the telephone to search out out extra about her imaginative and prescient for the group, why sustainability issues and find out how to get member buy-in.
This interview has been edited for size and readability.
Holly Secon: What are your plans for the Plant Based mostly Merchandise Council?
Jessica Bowman: Our total mission, in fact, is to assist transfer the worldwide financial system towards extra sustainable and accountable shopper merchandise and packaging by means of the larger use of plant-based supplies. For me, having began within the final couple weeks, I feel our extra instant focus is in a few totally different areas.
One of many different 13 pillars of the group is schooling, elevating consciousness of plant-based merchandise and the advantages that they afford throughout the life cycle.
One is, I feel, progress of the group, so elevating the profile of the group and its mission. After which we’re hoping to develop our rapidly rising member cities. One of many different 13 pillars of the group is schooling, elevating consciousness of plant-based merchandise and the advantages that they afford throughout the life cycle. After which, in fact, the core of the group actually is advocacy.
So once more, working with our members to establish and tackle a few of the challenges to transferring our society to extra plant- or bio-based merchandise.
Secon: Why do you assume a company like PBPC is important proper now?
Bowman: Nicely, we have seen that corporations throughout the financial spectrum have been taking efforts to enhance their sustainability, rethinking their merchandise, rethinking their packaging, rethinking their operation to include extra of a concentrate on sustainability. And I feel adoption of extra bio-based or plant-based merchandise and supplies actually presents a path towards that actuality. PBPC was established 10 months in the past, and we have already got nearly 60 company members.
That fast progress of the membership is mostly a signal that we’re heading in the right direction, and that there actually was the necessity for a discussion board to deliver collectively like-minded corporations that assist the usage of extra sustainable merchandise.
Secon: How is your group going about getting company members? Do they method you? Do you method them?
Bowman: I feel it is a bit of little bit of each. I feel as phrase in regards to the group has gotten out, corporations have come to us, and are desirous about what we’re doing and have signed on to take part. And a bit of little bit of us reaching out and conserving an eye fixed out for these corporations which are making commitments on this house that we all know are already considering and transferring towards extra bio-based merchandise, and recognizing that they might be desirous about serving to us work collectively to make a shift. And so we form of have been reaching out to corporations from that standpoint.
Secon: Who’re a few of the most notable corporations proper now?
Bowman: They’re from NatureWorks, Hemp Industries Affiliation, Cargill and dozens extra. The opposite factor I feel is vital to notice is that other than our membership, we have additionally established an government board that consists of main environmental organizations, lecturers and NGOs. And they’re going to play a essential function in ensuring that we’re sustaining perspective and conserving our concentrate on the environmental crucial.
That board contains participation from the Environmental Legislation Institute, Californians Towards Waste and a few tutorial establishments as nicely.
Secon: Are you able to give some extra particulars about your plans to perform a few of your targets, from schooling to coverage?
Bowman: When it comes to schooling — so, to develop on that a bit of bit, we did some polling final yr that confirmed that customers need to enhance their adoption of most of these merchandise. Our polling confirmed that 56 % of millennials actively need alternate options to plastics, however on the similar time, solely 13 % of them had been very conversant in bio-based merchandise. I feel PBPC can function the academic platform to showcase these merchandise, the advantages that they provide and encourage a shift in shopper buying and waste disposal habits, which is all essential to assist transfer extra towards plant-based merchandise.
56 % of millennials actively need alternate options to plastics, however on the similar time, solely 13 % of them had been very conversant in bio-based merchandise.
For those who go to our web site, we’ve got a fairly strong, ever-growing database of plant-based merchandise. I feel there’s over 650 merchandise within the database proper now. These are merchandise which are already in the marketplace which are plant-based. There’s every little thing from straws and cleansing merchandise to cosmetics and meals service gadgets, so we’re offering info on the house. We’re serving as a discussion board for gathering and disseminating details about what is going on on on this house so far as information, developments and company bulletins relative to bio-based merchandise, and serving as that form of platform and discussion board for discussing that info.
On the advocacy/coverage entrance, there are some things that we’re centered on. There are actually challenges to creating this form of transition, as a few of these would require actually trying intently at our present regulatory system, starting with composting infrastructure, in an effort to actually change disposal habits.
As we construct out our advocacy agenda, analysis will definitely be a key part of it. There’s in fact at all times a necessity for added info as we’re transferring right into a extra revolutionary house that’s extra unknown to of us. So I feel there is definitely a necessity for added analysis that may assist inform and advance this shift to extra bio- and plant-based merchandise.
One of many key items I discussed earlier than is composting infrastructure. The bio-based merchandise are totally different from conventional plastics in that they’re compostable together with meals and yard waste. In order that in fact results in the creation of compost, which is one other value-added product. By having the chance to divert these merchandise to composting amenities, that, in fact, reduces stress on already overburdened landfills, reduces plastic air pollution, improves water high quality and creates decreased greenhouse fuel emissions. There’s additionally some job benefits, too, in comparison with landfills, a 2-to-1 benefit of composting amenities versus landfills. However there is a essential want in terms of composting infrastructure, and that is one in all our priorities helps to advance funding in composting infrastructure throughout the nation.
We’re alternatives at each the federal and state-level to determine what some alternatives could also be to advance the funding in composting infrastructure.
Secon: Switching subjects a bit of bit — quite a lot of criticism has been leveraged at some bio-based merchandise up to now about how the crops which have been sourced will not be additionally being sustainably farmed. Is that one thing you are seeking to tackle along with your platform?
Bowman: Yeah, I feel there’s quite a lot of items of misinformation on the market about bio-based merchandise, and that is one thing that we have been working to handle. We now have an accountability weblog on our web site the place we spotlight a few of the misinformation about bio-based merchandise to actually form of set the report straight on a few of these points. However I feel from a broader standpoint, the American agricultural neighborhood has a continued dedication to enhancing its sustainability and its practices, from a broader standpoint.
Secon: Is there something that you are looking to, along with your platform, to assist with that measurement and verification?
Bowman: I feel a few of that is fairly broad. I feel our focus proper now’s on the merchandise themselves, on a few of the limitations to getting them to market, the limitations to easily being conscious of those merchandise and the environmental advantages that they supply throughout the lifecycle. And that is I feel the place we’re centered proper now.
However once more, I am going again to creating positive that we’re getting that test from our advisory board on the place we might be enhancing, what kind of issues that we should be doing to be a reputable and a valued group in serving to transfer this shift to a extra bio-based financial system.
Secon: Do you might have a timeline for if you’re seeking to construct this all out by? I do know you all are nonetheless form of initially, and nonetheless form of constructing.
Bowman: I feel work is already underway, and now that I am on board, I feel over the following most likely few months, you may most likely be listening to an increasing number of about what we’re doing and planning on doing.