What are bio-based products? What possibilities or challenges do they have in solving global problems? These topics were discussed with local high school students in Oct 6th 2020 in JAMK Institute of Bioeconomy, as a part of course Perceptions of Bioeconomy, provided for Karstula Upper Secondary School students.
Forests and forest bioeconomy was introduced to the students as well as acceptance and circularity discussed. The students explored the samples new and some traditional bio-based materials and products (mainly made out of wood) were introduced and presented questions about them very actively. The students discussed actively about sustainable use of natural resources: how to motivate towards that, and what might prevent it. They were especially interested in packaging materials, like Sulapac®. Sulapac is a Finnish company that produces plastic-free cosmetics packaging products – made from bio-based material. It biodegrades fully without leaving long-lasting microplastics behind. The material can be processed with existing plastic product machinery, making the switch from conventional plastic to an eco-friendly alternative.
The course Perceptions of Bioeconomy lasts for one week, during which the students get to familiarize themselves with different aspects of bioeconomy: agriculture, forestry, bioenergy, as well as environmental care and clean water. Our conversation with students was related to other forestry issues.
The students saw many opportunities in bio-based materials. It seems that sustainable use of natural resources is very common and important to them, but at the same time, they had doubts about other people’s attitudes towards bio-based solutions.
One major issue affecting the attitudes is the prize of the products. The students saw that once bio-based products can be produced in industrial scale, the prizes get lower, and the more people are willing to use them. This led to another concern: how nature-friendly is industrial scale production? Can it really prevent pollution?
We can see here, that the students already know quite a lot, but they really benefit from concrete examples of bio-based products and especially how they are produced. They are interested in the methods of measuring sustainability and responsibility aspects.
The importance of projects like BLOOM is inevitable. Young people – students and also their teachers – need and want more information about bioeconomy. The most important message from the students was: “We want a better future! Why aren’t sustainable products already in massive use, replacing fossile-based products?”
Written by Annemari Sinikorpi from JAMK University of Applied Sciences