UK Top 10 Bio-based Chemicals

A new report is urging the UK government to invest in the development of 10 specific bio-based chemicals to replace harmful plastics and fossil based products.

The report was produced by LBNet (Lignocellulosic Biorefinery Network), a government-backed organisation that supports the biotechnology sector and promotes novel bio-based chemical research. The report identified the top ten green alternatives to fossil-based chemicals in products such as sanitary pads, perfumes, nylon, skin creams and detergents.

  • Lactic acid: Used to make PLA (polylactic acid), which can be used for biodegradable plastics
  • 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA): A stronger alternative to PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is used to make plastic bottles, food packaging and carpets
  • Levoglucosenone: A safer alternative to toxic solvents used in pharmaceutical manufacturing, flavours and fragrances
  • 5 Hydroxymethyl furfural (HMF): A building block for plastics and polyesters
  • Muconic acid: Its derivatives could replace non-sustainable chemicals used in the production of plastics and nylon fibres
  • Itaconic acid: A replacement for petroleum-based acrylic acid, used to make absorbent materials for nappies and sanitary products, as well as resins used in high-performance marine and automotive components
  • 1,3-Butanediol: A building block for high-value products including pheromones, fragrances, insecticides, antibiotics and synthetic rubber
  • Glucaric acid: Prevents deposits of limescale and dirt on fabric or dishes, providing a green replacement for phosphate-based detergents
  • Levulinic acid: Used in the production of environmentally friendly herbicides, flavour and fragrance ingredients, skin creams and degreasers
  • n-Butanol: Used in a wide range of polymers and plastics, as a solvent in a wide variety of chemical and textile processes and as a paint thinner

The report recommends following actions

  • the financial backing to unlock their huge commercial potential,
  • support research partnerships across academia and industry
  • prioritise bio-based materials in government procurement.

Statement from Simon McQueen-Mason, network director at LBNet

“Bio-based chemicals are set to disrupt the chemicals industry. It is important that the UK – a global leader in chemicals – is at the heart of that revolution. If we don’t support such breakthrough technology now, other countries will benefit from our research and out-compete us, whilst our existing chemicals industry loses its edge. Just as oil underpinned the development of now ubiquitous plastics, textiles, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics in the last century, bio-based chemicals are set to replace oil in many products in the next few decades. Investment and policy support now will allow the UK to be a leader in this emerging industry.”



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