The Plant Based mostly Merchandise Council, a lately launched business group, is taking over the plastic disaster.
Since plastic’s mass adoption simply over half a century in the past, it has been utilized in all the pieces from cars, 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 all around the world, in our oceans, on our mountains, in our our bodies — locations it isn’t purported to be.
Public strain is mounting to deal with the plastic disaster. However how will we merely stop use of the fabric that has enabled trendy life? One large concept: substitute it with an identical materials with the identical versatile, handy properties, however with completely different ends-of-life.
Utilizing crops and plant byproducts because the supply of plastics signifies that much less fossil fuels can be used, and theoretically, these plastics might be compostable or biodegradable and never exist in perpetuity.
The Plant Based mostly Merchandise Council (PBPC) launched earlier this 12 months to advocate for these plant-based 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 cellphone to seek 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 economic system towards extra sustainable and accountable client merchandise and packaging via the higher use of plant-based supplies. For me, having began within the final couple weeks, I believe our extra fast focus is in a few completely different areas.
One of many different 13 pillars of the group is training, elevating consciousness of plant-based merchandise and the advantages that they afford throughout the life cycle.
One is, I believe, 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 training, 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 determine and tackle among the challenges to shifting our society to extra plant- or bio-based merchandise.
Secon: Why do you suppose a company like PBPC is critical proper now?
Bowman: Effectively, we have seen that firms 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 deal with sustainability. And I believe 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 virtually 60 company members.
That fast progress of the membership can be a signal that we’re heading in the right direction, and that there actually was the necessity for a discussion board to carry collectively like-minded firms that assist using extra sustainable merchandise.
Secon: How is your group going about getting company members? Do they strategy you? Do you strategy them?
Bowman: I believe it is a little bit little bit of each. I believe as phrase concerning the group has gotten out, firms have come to us, and are involved in what we’re doing and have signed on to take part. And a little bit little bit of us reaching out and protecting a watch out for these firms which might be making commitments on this house that we all know are already pondering and shifting towards extra bio-based merchandise, and recognizing that they might be involved in serving to us work collectively to make a shift. And so we type of have been reaching out to firms from that standpoint.
Secon: Who’re among the most notable firms proper now?
Bowman: They’re from NatureWorks, Hemp Industries Affiliation, Cargill and dozens extra. The opposite factor I believe is necessary to notice is that apart from 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 crucial function in ensuring that we’re sustaining perspective and protecting our deal with the environmental crucial.
That board contains participation from the Environmental Legislation Institute, Californians Towards Waste and a few tutorial establishments as properly.
Secon: Are you able to give some extra particulars about your plans to perform a few of your targets, from training to coverage?
Bowman: When it comes to training — so, to develop on that a little bit bit, we did some polling final 12 months that confirmed that customers need to improve their adoption of all these merchandise. Our polling confirmed that 56 p.c of millennials actively need options to plastics, however on the similar time, solely 13 p.c of them have been very conversant in bio-based merchandise. I believe PBPC can function the tutorial platform to showcase these merchandise, the advantages that they provide and encourage a shift in client buying and waste disposal habits, which is all mandatory to assist transfer extra towards plant-based merchandise.
56 p.c of millennials actively need options to plastics, however on the similar time, solely 13 p.c of them have been very conversant in bio-based merchandise.
For those who go to our web site, we’ve got a reasonably strong, ever-growing database of plant-based merchandise. I believe there’s over 650 merchandise within the database proper now. These are merchandise which might be already available on the market which might be plant-based. There’s all the pieces 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 type 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 definitely challenges to creating this type of transition, as a few of these would require actually trying carefully at our present regulatory system, starting with composting infrastructure, so as 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 all the time a necessity for extra info as we’re shifting right into a extra progressive house that’s extra unknown to of us. So I believe there is definitely a necessity for extra 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 completely 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 strain 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 crucial want on the subject of composting infrastructure, and that is certainly one of our priorities helps to advance funding in composting infrastructure throughout the nation.
We’re taking a look at 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 matters a little bit bit — quite a lot of criticism has been leveraged at some bio-based merchandise up to now about how the crops which were sourced usually are not additionally being sustainably farmed. Is that one thing you are seeking to tackle along with your platform?
Bowman: Yeah, I believe there’s plenty of items of misinformation on the market about bio-based merchandise, and that is one thing that we have been working to deal with. We now have an accountability weblog on our web site the place we spotlight among the misinformation about bio-based merchandise to actually sort of set the report straight on a few of these points. However I believe from a broader standpoint, the American agricultural group has a continued dedication to bettering 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 believe a few of that is fairly broad. I believe our focus proper now’s on the merchandise themselves, on among the obstacles to getting them to market, the obstacles to easily being conscious of those merchandise and the environmental advantages that they supply throughout the lifecycle. And that is I believe the place we’re centered proper now.
However once more, I am going again to creating certain that we’re getting that examine from our advisory board on the place we might be bettering, 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 economic system.
Secon: Do you’ve gotten a timeline for once you’re seeking to construct this all out by? I do know you all are nonetheless sort of initially, and nonetheless sort of constructing.
Bowman: I believe work is already underway, and now that I am on board, I believe over the subsequent in all probability few months, you may in all probability be listening to an increasing number of about what we’re doing and planning on doing.