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What Is A Bioeconomy And How Does It Support Sustainable Development?

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

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There’s no question that the world needs to make a drastic shift from fossil-based fuels to more sustainable solutions. There’s a deep sense of urgency to reduce our reliance on the fossil-fuel industry, eliminating its harsh impact on the environment. That’s where a bioeconomy comes in. It’s an opportunity to rebuild the relationship between industry and the economy, creating a newfound synergy that prioritizes renewable, natural resources.

While this may seem far-fetched, it’s comforting to know that it’s already starting to happen. Countries like Argentina, Germany, Malaysia, the Netherlands, South Africa, and the United States already have specific bioeconomy strategies in place.

In 2018, these countries formed the cornerstone for the MDPI report, reviewing their national frameworks and assessing the contribution of the bioeconomy to the total economy. The report outlined a need to define bioeconomy boundaries and requirements at a national, regional, and global level. For this new approach to succeed the way the world needs it to, we’ve got to define the details. The U.S. has already made great strides here, releasing the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act in 2021.

In this article, we’ll outline what a bioeconomy is, its relationship to a circular bioeconomy or a blue bioeconomy and why it could be precisely what we need to support sustainable development.

What Is A Bioeconomy?

A bioeconomy, often referred to as a biobased economy, is a new model for the interwoven relationship between industry and the economy. It defines a new order, using renewable biological resources sustainably to produce everything from food to energy and industrial goods. On top of that, it utilizes the untapped potential found in biological waste and residual materials. When you think about bioeconomy, you should picture raw renewable resources as the new building blocks for materials, chemicals, and energy.

How Bioeconomy Supports Sustainable Development

The literature on the bioeconomy vision has evolved in parallel to the concept itself. Ultimately, there are three main perspectives to consider.

  • The biotechnology vision emphasizes innovation, utilizing biotechnology on a commercial scale.

  • The bioresource vision focuses on improving upstream biomass production’s value chains.

  • The bioecology vision refers to the positive impact of energy and resource optimization on ecosystem health.

This vision defines the potential bioeconomy has to make a tangible change. It’s the perfect union of low-carbon economic growth, preservation of natural resources, restoration of environmental and ecosystem health, and the welfare of rural communities.

In 2015, the 2030 Agenda was adopted by the United Nations. The action plan includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals, many of which directly benefit from a focus on bioeconomy capital. Let’s unpack them a little.

  • Goal 1: No poverty

  • Goal 2: Zero hunger

  • Goal 3: Good health and wellbeing

  • Goal 4: Quality education

  • Goal 5: Gender equality

  • Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation

  • Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy

  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth

  • Goal 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure

  • Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

  • Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

  • Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production

  • Goal 13: Climate action

  • Goal 14: Life below water

  • Goal 15: Life on land

  • Goal 16: Peace, justice, and strong institutions

  • Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

A robust bioeconomy approach influences our goal to end poverty, eliminate hunger, and reduce inequalities. It directly impacts the goals for clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities and communities, and responsible consumption. Moreover, the bioeconomy drives sustainable industry and infrastructure, promoting decent work and economic growth. Health and wellbeing, climate action, and the protection of animal life (above and below the surface) are at the core of the bioeconomic approach.

If we get it right, bioeconomy has the potential to make these 2030 targets feel like an achievable reality.

What Is the Circular Bioeconomy?

According to an article written by the World Economic Forum in 2020, “a circular bioeconomy offers a conceptual framework for using renewable capital to transform and manage our land, food, health, and industrial systems, with the goal of achieving sustainable wellbeing in harmony with nature.”

That sounds a lot like a biobased economy, doesn’t it? Yes, it certainly does. That’s because a circular bioeconomy is an element under the bioeconomy umbrella. It’s essentially powered by nature, relying on biodiversity as its true engine. This economic model emphasizes the use of renewable natural capital with a focus on minimizing waste and replacing the fossil-based products currently in use. It’s the same principles we’ve come to love - reuse, repair, and recycle. You’ll find that circular economy structures are predominantly applied to production sectors like agriculture and forestry.

What Is the Blue Bioeconomy?

Much like the circular bioeconomy, the blue bioeconomy falls under the overarching biobased economy umbrella. In this case, it refers to the sustainable use of renewable aquatic resources and water expertise - hence the word “blue.” It relies heavily on living marine resources like algae, sponges, jellyfish, and microorganisms to deliver a wide range of sustainable products, processes, and services.

The blue bioeconomy plays a significant role in the European Green Deal, a declaration to reduce the pressure on the EU’s land resources while tackling the adverse effects of climate change.

A Real-World Example

Cruz Foam is a real-world example of a circular bioeconomy initiative, all while utilizing a core principle from the global bioeconomy model. Created from naturally occurring materials, Cruz Foam has passed the relevant ASTM D6400 and D6868 testing with a 97.9% biodegradation rate. Given that it’s made from biopolymers or bio-based materials, the production cycle itself provides a solution to reduce waste and pollution. When it breaks down, it creates high-quality organic waste. This can either be used as nutrient-rich compost or biogas for electricity. Looking to nature to find answers can provide new insights into sustainable alternatives.

Are you looking to take the first step in the right direction? Get in touch with us and inquire, today!

The Takeaway

If we want to achieve our 2030 Agenda, we have to focus on bioeconomy solutions. It’s about reframing how industry and economy live together, prioritizing their relationship with the environment. We’re facing a global challenge with climate change and ecosystem degradation, coupled with growing demands for food and energy. To succeed, we must focus our energy on new ways of producing and consuming一prioritizing natural, renewable resources on all fronts.

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