Based on prior co-creation activities, the Austrian-German Hub conducted a co-creation workshop on the role of the bioeconomy in sustainable packaging (alternatives) on January 16th in Vienna.
Although the type of packaging wasn’t specified in detail, most of the discussions and suggestions centered around plastics and strategies to reduce the plastic footprint in packaging applications. This is likely due to the topicality of the marine plastic pollution problem, its vast coverage by media and the continuous release of scientific results concerning its dangerous social, ecological and economic ramifications.
Packaging represents an important aspect in the value chains of consumer and durable products. Especially in the food chain it performs various functions, from protection of physical impacts, to extending its shelf live by providing a barrier for germs. Some 40 percent of the European demand for plastic can be linked to packaging, most of which is rapidly being discarded after its use. Here lies a big potential for the bioeconomy to provide innovative solutions for replacing fossil resources with bio-based and biodegradable alternatives.
While the first hub activities focused mainly on the hopes, fears, opportunities and risks that different stakeholders and the civil society perceive in everyday interactions, this co-creation workshop took these identified themes as a starting point to substantiate the discussion with more in-depth knowledge.
The broad participation from relevant stakeholders triggered a fruitful debate between different perspectives, from a producer of bio-based and biodegradable plastics, a representative of a supermarket chain, waste management experts, the Chamber of Labor, the federal ministries responsible for formulating the Austrian national bioeconomy strategy, high school and undergraduate students, a high school teacher, as well as representatives of research organizations.
The divers group of participants enabled cross-fertilization of ideas and resulted in highly interesting discussions and outcomes. Specifically, the group discussed different perceptions of bioeconomy by different stakeholder groups, the role of social innovations to govern bioeconomy innovations and specific (minimum) requirements for bio-based packaging products. It was suggested that for unfolding its full potential and to avoid unintended negative consequences, the bioeconomy is best advised to be combined with societal innovations, such as deposit schemes, the promotion of local creation of value and integrating the rational of a circular use of resources.
Having dug deep into the content of packaging, the upcoming workshop will specifically focus on the communication aspect of the bioeconomy, how the discourse can be intensified and how specific target groups are best addressed and included. With the release of the Austrian national bioeconomy strategy this week and the public discourse intensifying, the timing for this next step could not be better.