Bilbao was the venue for the 5th FRACTION Roundtable, addressing pathways to boost the bioeconomy in the Basque country, Spain. The event took place on November 29, 2023 with key note speakers from the Basque country and FRACTION partners.
NEIKER, the Basque Technology Center, introduced the Basque government’s bioeconomy strategy with the main objectives of supporting new biobased solutions and opportunities for companies (The Basque Country presents its advances in bioeconomy for a ‘greener’ future – Bioregions (efi.int). As 68% of the Basque country is covered with forest, this initiative is to develop a strategy for a forest-based bioeconomy. Inspiration and learnings were sought from regions such as Karelia (Finland) and Nord-Rhine Westphalia (Germany). The Basque forest-based bioeconomy strategy included 10 key elements such as an appropriate institutional framework with a long-term perspective; an entrepreneurial ecosystem; mobilization of green public procurement to generate demand and rise awareness; connect with existing platforms and knowledge centers to create clusters; investigate local and international markets; and work with local biomasses.
The Spanish company Fuelium is an entrepreurial business dealing with eco-design of batteries. The company has explored the opportunity to use agro-waste from coffee farming in Mexico for making batteries. This has resulted in a paper-based battery that can be used to power light and water systems. Fuelium has developed other batteries for precision agriculture and horticulture to e.g., power wireless networks or sensors. Also, Fuelium has developed a paper-based battery that is compatible with industrial manufacturing processes so the battery can be used in portable diagnostics e.g., pregnancy tests. Cellulose or alginate can be used to make these batteries, thus underlining the potential of processing lignocellulosic biomass.
The Basque research and technology organisation GAIKER (GAIKER Centro Tecnológico) explained about the potential for lignocellulosic biomass as building blocks for bioplastic. Today, bioplastics account for 30% of new plastic production and recycled polymers appear much more frequently than bioplastics. In Europe, only 14% of plastic waste is recycled domestically, the remaining part is mainly for export and, only a small fraction is reused. Packaging is a key sector for future development of biobased plastics, with a big question being how to define or certify biobased or biodegradable plastic materials. Consumers are not well informed about this issue and appear confused about how to sort plastic waste. This complicates recycling of the material. Therefore, more efforts are needed to properly communicate to policy, industry and consumers about biobased polymers. GAIKER, a partner in FRACTION project, is working on the development of sustainable materials and new chemical building blocks. The aim is to increase the TRL to 5-7 and by that, contribute to an increased availability of building blocks for biobased plastics but also biobased coatings and textiles.
Key conclusions from the Roundtable pointed to the large potential for a forest-based bioeconomy in the Basque region and underlined the entrepreneurial approach to developing new chemical building blocks and biobased products from lignocellulosic biomass.
The next FRACTION Roundtable will take place on April 25, 2024 in the Netherlands. More information will soon be available on the FRACTION website.
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