Bioplastics and the bioeconomy to help reduce our carbon footprint

BEACON SFI Bioeconomy Research Centre have joined forces with Agri Aware and Irish Farm Film Producers Group (IFFPG) to engage at this year’s National Ploughing Championships’ audience with game-changing research to develop the Irish bioeconomy, with a special focus on bioplastics, and the work of farmers to recycle farm plastic waste.

The showcase, at the Big Red Shed (Row 17, Stand 382), includes a BEACON-led exhibition called ‘Life of Plastics’, where Ploughing-goers will get to

  • Experience the look, feel, function and chemical structure of fossil-based and bio-based plastics
  • See the everyday renewable resources, which farmers produce, that are used to make bioplastics
  • Learn the end-of-life fate of fossil- and bio-based plastics
  • Understand what bioplastics really are and why, as a next generation material, they hold promise to lessen plastic pollution and reduce our carbon footprint
  • Meet the scientists who are working to make biodegradable and compostable bioplastics from the leftovers of milk production and from bacteria!
  • Take the green, black or brown bin challenge. Learning what plastic goes in what bin is tricky but an essential life skill!
  • Begin a plastic detox by making a #PlasticFreePledge

Professor Kevin O’Connor, BEACON Director said, “The event allows us to showcase how Irish-based scientists are leading research on bioplastics and working with industry to bring it to market. Making plastics from bio-based resources, which are biodegradable and compostable, hold promise to help us lessen plastic pollution and reduce our carbon footprint.”

“As standard waste management infrastructure in Ireland, and internationally, is not yet set-up to deal with bioplastics, it is also a chance for us to highlight the need for policy change, allowing it to be both composted and recycled by the waste industry. BEACON scientists are also working produce bioplastics that, in the future, can fully biodegrade in home composting”, added Professor O’Connor.

“Ireland is the top producer of plastic waste in Europe, generating an average of 61 kg per person every year. This is almost double to what the UK produces. Our showcase will engage Ploughing-goers with how we can be smarter at making, using, recycling or disposing plastics2” said Dr Erin O’Rourke, Public Engagement and Communication Manager at BEACON.

Lively panel discussions, running across the three-day event, will cover topics such as:

  • ‘Why the bioeconomy is your business’
  • ‘It’s a wrap: Irish farmers leading the way’ on recycling farm plastic waste,
  • Household tips on becoming a better recycler with ‘It’s all a load of rubbish’

The discussions involve representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Teagasc, and leading voices from research, retail, manufacturing and disposal industries, including BEACON, Irish Farm Film Producers Group (IFFPG), Repak and the Happy Pear. 

“Irish farmers are leading the way when it comes to sustainable plastic use” said Liam Moloney, General Manager, IFFPG. “Through their work with IFFPG’s annual drop-off and collection scheme, they are consistently recycling 75% of farm plastics”, added Moloney.

“Agri Aware are delighted to join forces with BEACON and IFFPG to engage visitors at this year’s Ploughing about the Irish bioeconomy and the exciting work going on in this field presently. In a time where focus is on feeding a growing population and climate change mitigation, there are some really exciting developments in this space that will help rural Ireland survive and thrive”, said Alan Jagoe, Chairman, Agri Aware.

The National Ploughing Championships will run Tuesday 17th to Thursday 19th September at Ballintrane, Fenagh, Co. Carlow.