What Are Bioproducts?
Bioproducts are products that are made from biomass. The meaning of biomass is any type of organic material that is available on a renewable basis. It includes such things as crops and trees, wood and wood wastes, aquatic plants and grasses. This sustainable approach considers the entire product life cycle from its agricultural origin to its ability to be renewed. Not all bioproducts have to involve the use of advanced technologies, such as genetic engineering.
Bioproducts are important because the biomass used in their manufacture provides either a complement or an alternative to petroleum and petrochemicals. Bioproducts provide an alternative to dependency on fossil fuels that lead to serious environmental problems, including the decimation of forests, a decrease in plant and animal biodiversity and wood fire smoke which causes air pollution. Therefore, biotechnological innovation in the production and content of commonly used items can offer a sustainable approach without compromising product performance.
Bioproducts are as diverse as any conventionally-produced product. Bioproducts are divided into three categories:
- Liquid fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel
- Solid biomass for combustion to generate heat and power
- Gaseous fuel such as biogas and syngas, which can be used to generate heat and power
- Bioplastics from plant oils and sugars
- Biofoams and biorubber from plant oils and latex
- Biocomposites manufactured from agricultural (e.g., hemp and flax) and forestry biofibres, used in construction, for example in the production of vehicle door panels and parts.
- Industrial: chemicals and resins, including paints, lubricants and solvents
- Pharmaceuticals: antibodies and vaccines produced by genetically modified plant and natural source medicinal compounds
- Biocosmetics: meaning soaps, body creams, make-up, lotions etc.
The most well-known plant resources used in bioproducts are soybeans and corn, but also include sunflowers, canola, miscanthus, mycelium (the vegetative part of fungus), switchgrass, algae, sugarcane, flax, potatoes and wheat amongst others.
Using food plants to create bioproducts does not mean that the food supply needs to be affected. Many bioproducts are made from agriculture, forestry, and biological waste. For example, after sunflowers are harvested and the seeds removed, the remaining waste material has the potential to be used as a biofuel.
A bioproduct is not always biodegradable. It depends on the product’s purpose. A biobased paint for example will not biodegrade, for obvious reasons. If a bioproduct is biodegradable it will usually be labelled as such.
The meaning of "bioproducts” refers to a wide array of industrial and commercial products characterized by a variety of properties, compositions and processes, as well as different benefits and risks. Therefore a case-by-case consideration of each bioproduct’s benefits and risks should be made.