BioBased Circular: How can the chemical industry and agriculture collectively expedite the raw materials transition?


Greening of raw materials is an important factor in making the chemical industry more sustainable. Which is why Brightsite is also working towards sustainable biomass as a renewable raw material instead of fossil raw materials. Biomass is not in abundant supply, however. Critical consideration has to be given to the use of crops in view of the fact that uses for biomass already exist (food, cattle feed, construction, energy source). Prompting Brightsite to team up with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research (WFBR) to jointly investigate what is needed to accelerate the pace of the raw materials transition.

Growth Fund’s BioBased Circular proposal

BioBased Circular is keen to pave the way for the Netherlands to switch to using climate-neutral materials. The aim is to develop new production chains over the next eight years for plastics, synthetic materials and construction materials that are no less competitive than the current ones, albeit replacing fossil carbon compounds with plant-derived ones. The upshot will be a sustainable, natural cycle of materials that is CO2-neutral, running on renewable raw materials and offering an international economic perspective. BioBased Circular’s target is to achieve a market share of 25% of European bioplastics production by 2050 by boosting Dutch bioplastics production (comprising PEF, PLA, bio-PET and other biobased polyesters) to 2 Mt.

Biomass as realistic, green alternative

“In order to make the raw materials transition happen, we’re looking at renewable raw material sources for the chemical industry instead of fossil raw materials, such as plastic waste, biomass and in perhaps CO2 from air in the future. Plastic waste is currently the main priority when it comes to alternative raw materials. It resembles fossil raw material and can be reprocessed efficiently for existing facilities. That said, 100% circularity can’t be achieved by recycling plastic.

Hence investment in other routes is imperative to fulfil the climate targets. The use of biomass is complex and requires cross-sector connection and decisions. Consequently, we’re happy with the Growth Fund’s BioBased Circular proposal”, says Paul Brandts, Intelligence Officer at Brightsite, who is also involved in the Green Chemistry, New Economy platform.

Paul Brandts, Intelligence Officer at Brightsite:

“Sustainable biomass is a decent, realistic, green alternative to compensate for carbon losses in a circular chemical industry.”

What makes biomass suited to being used as a building block for the chemical industry?

Looking at the functionality of biomass, a match with polyesters and polyamides is soon obvious. Fossil oil doesn’t contain any oxygen, it needs to be incorporated into fossil polyesters separately, which is an energy-intensive process step. Like polyesters, biomass contains a lot of oxygen atoms, meaning it provides more efficient conversion routes to polyesters than fossil raw materials do. Furthermore, biobased building blocks for bioplastics are often produced using microorganisms at lower temperatures (fermentation), with less energy being required as a result, explains Arjen van Kampen, Project Manager at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. “Conversion from biomass to polyesters can be thermodynamically efficient because relatively few chemical bonds between molecules need to be broken and reformed. The fewer the bonds that have to be modified, the more efficient the reaction. The bond strengths also affect the efficiency. As biomass and polyester structure can be pretty similar, less energy is required”, adds Brandts.

Arjen van Kampen, Project Manager at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research:

“Bringing the chemical industry and agriculture together is important to enable biomass to be used for high-quality chemical building blocks.”

Does your company recognize itself in the working method of Brightsite?

The future perspective in 2050 for Chemelot is to adopt a closed carbon cycle, using carbon from circular and renewable sources. Brightsite is also working towards sustainable biomass as a renewable feedstock and source for replenishing losses in circularity. Would you like to know more about this or participate in these developments? Please contact us.


Rinke Altink
Program Manager
Tel: +31 (0)6 23 54 35 47