Presentation: Acceptable or weird? Exploring environmentalists’, students’ and the general public’s perceptions of bio-based plastics

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Abstract

Bio-based plastics are produced from bio-based raw materials such as sugar cane, potatoes, corn, and agricultural and slaughterhouse waste. The evolution of the bio-based plastic market is affected by the stakeholders involved. This exploratory study evaluated the perception of bio-based plastics in three groups: environmentalists; university students; and consumers (general public) in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Focus groups (25 participants in total) were organised, in which starch-based monolayer and multilayer and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) samples were presented. Qualitative analysis using framework method showed environmentalists were aware of the benefits and challenges including: reduction in use of fossil fuels; utilisation of agricultural land for producing biomass substrates; and possible contamination of current conventional plastic recycling streams with bio-based plastics. Most of the environmentalists were willing to pay few extra pence for bio-based plastics. Although there was general lack of familiarity among students and consumers, they conveyed that use of agricultural waste will result in closed-loop systems and welcomed the concept of bio-based plastics. Among students and consumers alarms were raised about contamination of food with bio-based packaging prepared from slaughterhouse waste. However, they found it agreeable if slaughterhouse waste was used in the production of bio-based plastics for non-food contact items. The students and consumers were reluctant to pay extra and communicated that this may be a way to increase profits of multinationals. Our study investigates for the first time the perceptions of stakeholders along with consumers. This research could inform future communications on bio-based plastics with both the public and industry.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInstitution of Chemical Engineers
Publication statusAccepted - 19 Mar 2020
EventSecond International Conference on Sustainable Production and Consumption - Online
Duration: 24 Jun 202025 Jun 2020

Conference

ConferenceSecond International Conference on Sustainable Production and Consumption
Period24/06/202025/06/2020

Keywords

  • Bio-based plastics; Focus group discussions; Public attitudes; Stakeholders’ perception; Green image

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