Fostering a circular economy which is resource efficient


The bioeconomy is a model of production and consumption that is circular by nature.

It involves practices such as growing, reusing and recycling biological resources and biomaterials, for as long as possible. The inherent circularity of the bioeconomy also contributes to achieving the goal of zero pollution: maximising the use of side and residual streams from agriculture, food processing, forest management and forest-based industries reduces waste.

…which is resource efficient…

In the bioeconomy, renewable biological resources are converted into food, feed, bio-based products, and bioenergy via innovative, efficient technologies.
For example,

The enzymes produced through industrial biotechnology transform such resources into everyday products, providing an alternative to the use of finite fossil resources. Enzymes are renewable and biodegradable, and they help to reduce energy and water consumption.

Oleochemicals, replacing petrochemicals, provide fossil-free, renewable, functional solutions in coatings and plastics for the construction sector, the automotive industry, and furniture production.

Vegetable oils are feedstock for the fully bio-based composites used, among others, in windmill blades and bridges.

Wood and by-products of wood processing are often reintegrated in other products and are used in many other sectors, e.g., in the production of chemicals, cosmetics, construction, transportation fuels, pharmaceuticals, smart packaging, coatings, adhesives, plastics, composites, and as fabric fibres.

Starches are a source for use in pharmaceuticals and make a variety of contributions to products as disparate as toothpaste, tablets, emulsions, lotions, liquid medicines, and creams. Human well-being and survival are also dependent on the role starch plays in the production of antibiotics, vitamins, penicillin, dialysis solutions, enteral nutrition, drip-feed systems, and even blood plasma substitutes. Starch is also used quite extensively in cosmetic products, paper and cardboard, paints and insulation, as well as bioplastics.

In the bioplastics industry, new innovative processes are currently being developed using both first-and second-generation feedstock, i.e., from side-streams of the agri-industry, offering the potential for bioplastics3 to provide the agri-industry with a high value outlet for part of their side-streams, transforming waste into a valuable resource4.

By way of example, biorefineries efficiently turn renewable raw materials, including agriculture and forestry residues, into non-fossil-based everyday products.

Animal feed, for instance, is an important output from agricultural crops used for bioethanol and biodiesel production. In 2021, EU biodiesel production was 12.8 million tonnes and generated 14.3 million tonnes of protein-rich animal feed – in other words, more food than fuel; while EU ethanol production was 4 million tonnes, generating an equivalent amount of high-protein animal feed. Biofuel production therefore offsets fossil-fuel use and also contributes to food security – without having to choose between one or the other.

Biotech solutions to support the Green Deal objectives: the case of innovative feed solutions

Innovative feed solutions provide a useful example of how the bioeconomy can tackle several, current environmental and societal challenges:


Feed additives enable livestock to retain
more nutrients and nitrogen from less high-protein animal feed. This helps to increase the efficiency by which animals convert feed into protein.


European production of amino acids, derived from European carbohydrates (beet sugar, cereals), contributes to reducing the EU’s dependency on imports of high protein feedstocks.


Using amino acids and enzymes in
livestock production can also reduce the nitrogen and phosphorous burden of agriculture and water consumption in animal farming and can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions.


Innovations in industrial biotechnology are now moving beyond simple purification of water to explore new ways to re-use the captured phosphorous as fertiliser.


  • 3. Bioplastics refers to plastics that are bio-based, biodegradable, or both.
  • 4. M. van den Oever, K. Molenveld, M. van der Zee, H. Bos, Bio-based and biodegradable plastics – facts and figures – focus on food packaging in the Netherlands, 2017.