The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 24, 2020, EPA announced the 2020 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners. EPA recognized 18 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners across ten states and the District of Columbia for achievement in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals that further outstanding or innovative source reduction. EPA states that the Safer Choice program helps consumers and purchasers for facilities, such as schools and office buildings, find products that perform and are safer for human health and the environment. According to EPA, the 2020 Partner of the Year award winners represent businesses, including woman-owned and small- and medium-sized; federal and local government; and associations. The following organizations from eight EPA regions are being awarded this year:

  • Apple -- Cupertino, California;
  • BASF Home Care and I&I Cleaning Solutions -- Florham Park, New Jersey;
  • Berkley Green -- Uniontown, Pennsylvania;
  • The Clorox Company -- Oakland, California;
  • Defunkify -- Eugene, Oregon;
  • DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences -- Palo Alto, California;
  • ECOS -- Cypress, California;
  • Grove Collaborative -- San Francisco, California;
  • Hazardous Waste Management Program -- King County, Washington;
  • Household & Commercial Products Association -- Washington, D.C.;
  • Jelmar, LLC -- Skokie, Illinois;
  • Lemi Shine -- Austin, Texas;
  • Naval Supply Systems Command Weapons System Support -- Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania;
  • PROSOCO -- Lawrence, Kansas;
  • PurposeBuilt Brands -- Gurnee, Illinois;
  • Sea Mar Community Health Centers -- Seattle, Washington;
  • Seventh Generation -- Burlington, Vermont; and
  • Wegmans Food Markets -- Rochester, New York.

More information is available on EPA’s website.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business-Cooperative Service announced that it is soliciting applications for funds available under the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (the Program) to provide guaranteed loans to fund the construction, development, and retrofitting of commercial-scale biorefineries and of biobased product manufacturing facilities. Biorefineries applying must use eligible technology, and biobased product manufacturing facilities must use technologically new commercial-scale processing and manufacturing equipment to convert renewable chemicals and other biobased outputs of biorefineries into end-user products on a commercial scale.

USDA will accept applications during two separate cycles, which have application closing dates of 4:30 p.m. (EDT) October 1, 2020, and 4:30 p.m. (EDT) April 1, 2021. Applications and forms can be obtained from:

  • USDA, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, Program Processing Division, Attention: Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Room 5801-S, Washington, DC 20250-3225.

Of particular interest to USDA are applications that support recommendations made in the Rural Prosperity Task Force report to help improve life in rural America. Applicants are encouraged by USDA to provide measurable results in rural communities’ assistance to build sustainable and robust economies through: strategic investments in infrastructure, partnerships, and innovation. Key strategies outlined by USDA include:

  • Achieving e-connectivity for rural America;
  • Developing the rural economy;
  • Harnessing technological innovation;
  • Improving quality of life; and
  • Supporting a rural workforce.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

The University of Minnesota Extension (UME) recently published a report titled “Economic Contribution of the Biobased Industrial Products Industry in Minnesota: 2019.” The report accounts for the economic impacts from the Minnesota Bioincentive Program enacted in 2015. Some of the key findings outlined by UME include but are not limited to the ones outlined below:

  • In 2019, companies claiming the Minnesota Bioincentive received $1.5 million in incentives. For every tax dollar invested in incentives, $407.10 is generated in the economy. In addition, for every dollar of incentive, approximately $8.90 is collected in taxes.
  • Construction activities of Minnesota biobased industrial product companies generated an estimated $1.2 billion of economic activity in the state, including $540.6 million in labor income. These activities also supported employment for more than 8,000 workers and generated approximately $46.5 million in tax collections.
  • Operations of Minnesota’s biobased industrial product companies generated an estimated $610.7 million of economic activity resulting from their operations, including $127 million in labor income. It also supported employment for more than 2,000 workers in the state and generated an estimated $13.3 million in tax collections.

According to the report, these impacts are annual and will continue to grow as long as companies do. A full copy of the report is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 

On June 16, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of the 2020 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards.  EPA states that this year’s winners “have developed new and innovative green chemistry technologies that turn potential environmental challenges into business opportunities, spurring innovation and economic development.”  The 2020 winners and their innovative technologies are:

  • Genomatica, San Diego, California, for creating Brontide™, a new brand of 1,3-butylene glycol, commonly used in cosmetics for moisture retention and as a carrier for plant extracts.  Butylene glycol is traditionally produced from fossil fuels.  Brontide™ is produced by fermenting E. coli using renewable sugars in a one-step production process, however.  This method reduces greenhouse gas emissions and avoids the use of hazardous chemicals in the production process.
     
  • Merck, Rahway, New Jersey, for improving the process used to produce certain antiviral drugs used for the treatment of diseases including hepatitis C and HIV.  According to EPA, the new process improved manufacturing efficiency and sustainability of one important antiviral by more than 85 percent.  This method reduces waste and hazards associated with the existing process and results in substantial cost savings.
  • Johns Manville, Littleton, Colorado, for developing a biobased, formaldehyde-free thermoset binder for fiberglass reinforcement applications.  Thermoset binders are used to bind glass fibers of fiberglass mats used in carpet tile backing.  EPA states that this technology eliminates the use of hazardous chemicals, reduces water and energy use, and produces a product with a longer shelf life.
     
  • Professor Steven Skerlos, University of Michigan and Fusion Coolant Systems, for creating Pure-Cut™, an alternative to traditional metalworking fluids that uses high-pressure carbon dioxide instead of oil-based lubricants.  According to EPA, Pure-Cut™ can improve performance and machining tool life span compared to traditional metalworking fluids, while greatly reducing hazards to the environment and worker health.
     
  • Vestaron, Kalamazoo, Michigan, for producing a new biopesticide called Spear®.  This pesticide is based on a naturally occurring component inspired by spider venom that can effectively control target pests while showing no adverse effects on people, the environment, and non-target wildlife, such as fish and bees.  EPA notes that Spear® should provide growers with a new pest management tool that also lessens environmental impacts.

EPA plans to recognize the winners at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., later this year.  EPA and the American Chemical Society co-sponsor the awards.  An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2020 submissions and made recommendations to EPA for the 2020 winners.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 3, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced that it will be hosting a public virtual workshop titled “Workshop on Predictive Models and High Performance Computing as Tools to Accelerate the Scaling-up of New Bio-Based Fuels.” The goal is to determine if predictive models and high performance computing can and should be used to reduce biotechnology uncertainty and accelerate scaling-up of biorefinery/chemical production equipment and optimize operations. The virtual workshop will be held from June 9 to June 11, 2020, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EDT) each day. Registration is required by 4:00 p.m. (EDT) June 5, 2020.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 18, 2020, USDA issued its final rule for the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (9003 Program), which incorporates the statutory definition changes as required in the Agricultural Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) and adopts the interim rule published on June 14, 2015. The 9003 Program replaces the Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP), which guaranteed loans to fund the development, construction, and retrofitting of commercial-scale biorefineries using eligible technology. The final rule makes several specific changes to BAP, including:

  • Renames the program as the 9003 Program;
  • Revises the purpose statement for the program to include renewable chemicals and biobased product manufacturing;
  • Expands the program to include biobased product manufacturing facilities;
  • Adds definitions for “renewable chemicals” and “biobased product manufacturing”; and
  • Ensures diversity in the types of projects approved by the program.

The final rule became effective on May 18, 2020.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

In March 2020, a paper by master’s degree student Anastasia Prosina titled “Algae-Based Printer Ink as the Way to Foster In-Situ Resource Utilization in Habitation Structures” was published in ResearchGate. Prosina’s paper, submitted to Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA), proposes that the most feasible long-term habitat off-Earth will consist of a 3D printed mixture of algae and regolith, the layer of unconsolidated rocky material covering bedrock. Proposed as an alternative to building structures in space that require intensive mining and sifting, the 3D printed mixture can be cultivated in a lab controlled by biological media. In addition, “[t]he utilization of algae off-Earth is not limited to a singular application and its cultivation would allow for a substantial yield of products, and local micro and macro environmental benefits.” According to Prosina, because of the high protein in and natural thermostatic qualities of algae biomass, this new printing mixture would allow for easier and safer production of everyday consumables, including clothes. Prosina’s paper outlines the benefits and complications of algae production and utilization processes, concluding that algae has the best potential for establishing long-term habitation on the Moon and Mars.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On April 10, 2020, the European Commission (EC) announced the launch of its new online service that connects crop and food producers with biorefineries. This European Union (EU) project aims to address food waste by enabling crop producers, food processors, and agricultural cooperatives to sell their waste as feedstock for use by two biorefineries in Spain and Italy. The multi-feedstock biorefineries, designed by Agrimax, convert farming and food processing byproducts into compounds that can be used in biobased food packaging as well as in the biobased chemical and agricultural sectors. Agrimax is an EU-funded project focused on the development and demonstration of high-value products from crop and food-processing waste. Its work develops economically competitive routes to the commercialization of the products. The project is expected to end in September 2020; developers hope to make a positive impact in growth of the biobased and agricultural sectors.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The European Commission (EC) will host a webinar on biobased products developed from fast pyrolysis oil, where four companies will present their work. A technology that can convert a wide range of biomass into clean and uniform bio-oil that is easy to transport and store, fast pyrolysis has mostly focused, thus far, on the use of pyrolysis oil for energy purposes. According to EC, the Horizon 2020 project called Bio4Products, however, has recently developed a technology to divide pyrolysis oil into multiple fractions that could be used for material applications. In its webinar, EC will showcase some of the latest results from companies using this technology. Part of a series of webinars called From Biomass to Biobased Products, the webinar will be on February 20, 2020, at 5:00 a.m. (EST). Interested parties may register for the webinar here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On January 17, 2020, the European Union (EU) announced a new innovative project called BIOGEARS that will be funded under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The project focuses on the development of biobased gear solutions for the creation of an eco-friendly offshore aquaculture sector using a multitrophic approach and new biobased value chains. With the aim to address the gap of biobased ropes for offshore aquaculture, which is currently manufactured with 100 percent non-recyclable plastics, BIOGEARS will create a biobased value chain under the EU Bioeconomy Strategy framework. The European Bioeconomy Strategy aims to accelerate the deployment of a sustainable and circular European bioeconomy to maximize its contribution towards the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), as well as the Paris Agreement. With the goal of increasing aquaculture marketable products, BIOGEARS uses an Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) approach by integrating seaweed with mussel production. The BIOGEARS project’s intention is to develop biobased ropes that are tough, durable, and fit-for-purpose while still able to biodegrade in shorter time and managed by local composting facilities.

As part of the project, all project partners will participate in a BLUE LAB to enhance cooperation and enable tracking of innovation of the new biobased materials developed. Project coordinator, Leire Arantzamendi, expressed her hopes of boosting more eco-friendly mussel and seaweed production stating that BIOGEARS “will generate three rope prototypes with a highly reduced carbon footprint along the value chain.” The project will focus on the Atlantic Basin.


 
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