Opportunities for biomaterials : economic, environmental and policy aspects along their life cycle

B.G. Hermann

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


Little was known at the start of these studies regarding the environmental impacts of bulk chemicals production from biomass and whether they could be produced economically. We have therefore analysed the entire life cycle of biomaterials: the production of bio-based chemicals, the application of bio-based polymers in packaging and finally the waste treatment of biodegradable materials. Numerous bio-based chemicals offer economic opportunities, the extent of which depends on the prices of the petrochemical and bio-based feedstocks and can be further improved by technological progress in the future (chapter 2). Almost all bio-based chemicals have lower carbon and energy footprints than their petrochemical counterparts, and savings can be substantially increased in the future (chapter 3). Bio-based materials also offer savings when used for a specific food packaging application, but these savings can become smaller when the comparison is made not per kg of material but considering the functionality and material properties (chapter 4). Biodegradable materials are advantageous in that they are suitable for biological waste treatment options whose carbon and energy footprints are currently at least equally good as incineration, but have the additional benefit of producing a soil conditioner which can improve soil carbon content (chapter 5). Finally, consistent policy measures supporting bio-based and/or biodegradable materials are necessary to ensure this market’s success (chapter 6). The progress made in terms of quantifying the benefits, the start of major research & development programmes and the start-up of production facilities have increased the likelihood for many bio-based chemicals and plastics to enter the market. So there are clear opportunities for biomaterials, but policy measures are needed to ensure that they can start competing on a larger scale.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Blok, K., Primary supervisor
  • Patel, M.K., Co-supervisor
Award date30 Aug 2010
Print ISBNs978-90-8672-041-5
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2010

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