Authors: Alberto Fragapane, Daniele Turati, Pieter Ravaglia
The FRONTSH1P project aims to consolidate and transfer solutions to mitigate global challenges in different EU regions through a transversal approach. Climate change, biodiversity loss, soil degradation, population increase, food security, unemployment, energy and raw material prices and availability, waste management and increasing pollution are all challenges that are seriously affecting the EU and global population which need urgent commitments. In order to find a solution to these global challenges and mitigate their effect on the population, an economic paradigm change is needed. Priority should be given to those sectors strictly connected to the bioeconomy and circular economy concept (i.e., biomaterials production, waste recovery and valorisation), on which products are designed and developed as solutions for environmental and social issues, creating virtuous and circular systems aimed at achieving a long-term sustainable production system able to limit waste accumulation and to reduce GHG emissions.
In other words, we are talking about the creation and implementation of the circular bioeconomy paradigm whose feasibility requires innovation in business models, market structure, population behaviour and products designed to reduce environmental impact in their production and use. As reported by the European Commission in the recently released “EU Bioeconomy Strategy Progress Report”, sectors strictly related to bioeconomy and circular economy can, by optimising the use of biological resources from land and sea, maximise co-benefits such as the production of biomass, the mitigation of climate change, and enhancing biodiversity, while safeguarding and benefiting from other ecosystem services. Moreover, the bioeconomy contributes to most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Amongst others SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production), and 13 (Climate Action).
This innovative sector is not only a paradigm or future development, but also an existing industry that helps economic and social development while preserving the environment. The bioeconomy, conceived as a regenerative and circular development model, aims to build bridges between different sectors through collaboration with all actors in the value chain: from agriculture to research, from industry to the waste sector, and from local institutions to civil society. It promotes a circular approach, based on redesigning the way in which the materials and applications are produced, consumed, and disposed of and encouraging an ethical local value chain. This approach is based on the regeneration of decommissioned industrial sites, in order to develop biorefineries through world-first technologies and plants. This way, industrial and rural areas at risk of abandonment are regenerated and virgin soils are preserved. Another key factor is related to the implementation of sustainable agricultural value chains, integrated into the territories and based on sustainable practices respecting biodiversity and aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Then, the bioeconomy promotes applications designed to solve specific problems that are elements of a system with much wider effects than a single product. They are conceived to find a solution to specific environmental, economic, and social concerns, such as the management of organic waste, the degradation of agricultural soils and water pollution, creating a virtuous system with cascading benefits for the community.
Novamont, a benefit corporation and a certified B Corp, is a concrete example of the application of the bioeconomy approach. The company is an international leader in the bioplastics sector and in the development of bio-based bioproducts and biochemicals, designed to regenerate the ecosystems. As leader of the WP4 (Circular Systemic Solution Food & Feed) in collaboration with different project partners, we aim to promote regenerative and circular success models, to lay the foundations in different EU regions of an innovative circular approach where by-product and scraps of the food and feed industry and food waste are valorised as new valuable circular products for long term circular sustainable production systems.