Fostering a circular economy which contributes to waste reduction and anticipate the biomass gap

… contributes to waste reduction…

The many end-of-life options of, for example, bioplastics broaden possibilities in waste management and contribute to creating circular production systems. See graph 2 for an illustration of the range of end-of-life options of bioplastics.

The current capture of food waste is just 16% of its theoretical potential: too much waste is being landfilled. Innovation will support tackling the issue of food waste, by valorising biowaste in the manufacture of high value products5.

Compostable bioplastics are a solution to increase the quantity and quality of organic waste collected, allowing its diversion from landfill, and the production of high-quality compost, to be used as soil amendment and as a carbon sink. The soil is a key non-renewable resource that plays a central role in our lives providing food and materials. The application of soil organic matter as compost is very important to sequester organic carbon, but also to keep the soil healthy. In Europe, currently, 48 million tonnes of biowaste are collected; 12 million tonnes of compost are applied on land, leading to the carbon sequestration of 1.3 million tonnes of CO2.

When it comes to mechanical paper recycling, paper fibres can be recycled many times when they remain within the paper loop, and not necessarily for the same application.

The European paper industry is building on decades of work to make its industrial model circular; it is an example of a successful and well-established market for secondary raw materials. In 2020, it achieved the highest recycling rate worldwide: 73.9% compared to the global average of 56.8%. Paper-based packaging is 82% recycled. Wood-based paper in Europe achieves on average 3.8 cycles6.

In 2019, one out of two beverage cartons placed on the market was recycled and transformed into a wide range of new products. When ambitious national collection targets are implemented, collection rates reach up to 70%, as is the case in Germany and Belgium7.

The bioeconomy can also help reduce waste from changes in dietary trends and maximise resource use for food, feed, industrial and energy applications.

There is a discrepancy in the EU between the increasing demand for plant-based proteins and fibres, and the decreasing demand for carbohydrates8. To produce more of one, you also need to produce more of the other, as biorefineries extract and separate all of these ingredients in the same production process. While the additional proteins and fibres can be sold to EU food customers, the carbohydrates will need additional markets. The bioeconomy, and specifically the recycled paper, cardboard and bioplastics sectors, creates the necessary outlets for the agri-food system to adapt to the increasing demand for plant proteins. By covering all outlets, the bioeconomy can adapt to the new increasing demand for plant-based and fermented proteins while using the remaining components of agricultural raw materials to reduce dependence on fossil fuels in non-food products and avoid waste.


  • 5. Zero Waste Europe, Bio-waste generation in the EU: current capture levels and future potential, 2020.
  • 6.Report of the Finnish Environment Institute, Fossil carbon emission substitution and carbon storage effects of wood-based products, 2022.
  • 7. Roland Berger, Impact assessment study of an EU-wide collection target for beverage cartons, 2022.
  • 8. Wheat, maize, potatoes, sugar beets and vegetable oils, for instance, contain both.