"Bio-based is the future, we all know that – and within the industry, forest residuals and agricultural waste are the future."
Maine, the most northern state in the US is well-known for its natural landscape. Many people have recognised the potential it could bring for the bioeconomy especially as 83 percent of its land is made up of forest. One company called Biobased Maine is looking to maximise this potential by working to create and support Maine's emerging biobased industry. It is an innovative, non-profit trade association dedicated to improving the sustainable economy. Bio-Based World News caught up with Charlotte Mace ahead of this year’s Bio-Based Live Europe conference to develop a deeper understanding of the bio-based industry in the future and some of the most significant changes.
Emily O’Dowd (EOD): What has led you to this role?
Charlotte Mace (CM): For years, I worked as a sustainability consultant. Now, I am helping the world become more sustainable by displacing fossil carbon and transforming our petroleum-based economy into a bio-based economy. My education in biochemistry and business means I can help Maine companies respond to the rising global demand for more sustainable, bio-based products.
EOD: What do you enjoy most about your role?
CM: I love engaging with different stakeholders along the entire value chain – from Maine’s private landowners who control an abundance of sustainable; second-generation feedstock; the loggers who harvest it, to the industries that process wood; the technology companies who know how to convert the wood to sugars and other platform chemicals; and finally, to the finished goods manufacturers who demand bio-based products.
EOD: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in the industry?
CM: Maine has roughly 25 million green tons of second-generation feedstock available each year and impressive logging infrastructure for harvesting, thanks to a once robust pulp and paper industry. Our trees represent an immense opportunity because we all know there isn’t enough first-generation feedstock in the world to replace petroleum. The challenge is that the bio-based industry is still anchored in first-generation crops. Bio-based is the future, we all know that – and within the industry, forest residuals and agricultural waste are the future.
Biobased Maine will be exhibiting at this year's Bio-Based Live Europe conference held in Amsterdam 31st May - 1st June. There's still time to reserve your place and network with the industry's most credible innovators and scientists.
EOD: What advice would you give for someone starting work in the sustainable/bio-based industry?
CM: Sustainability is a path, not a destination. We need more patient capital, a longer-term vision, and stronger coalitions to maximise the value of our renewable resources within a circular economy.
EOD: What single change would help develop the bio-based/sustainable industry further?
CM: My primary goal is the growth of Maine’s emerging bio-based manufacturing industry, which can help revitalise our rural communities and make products that are safer and more sustainable for everyone. What needs to happen to achieve this is already starting to happen – Maine is engaging with the global bio-based industry and opening itself up to outside investment. Maine has never been more “open for business” than now!
EOD: Where would you like to see your company in five years’ time?
CM: I’d like to see our trade association Biobased Maine supporting a variety of bio manufacturing projects in Maine. We’re currently helping Sappi North America in exploring the possibility of biobased technology deployment at their Westbrook paper mill. Its projects like these that are the most exciting!
EOD: What is your favourite bio-based/sustainable product aside from your own product range?
CM: Biobased Maine is an industry-led trade association comprised of companies that make many different products. Sappi North America is a world leader in release papers, some of which are antimicrobial because they mimic the pattern of shark skin. Grow-Tech makes growth media for agriculture using polylactic acid. Revolution Research is making eco-friendly insulation board with nanocellulose. Biofine is expanding their levulinic acid operation at the former Old Town Fuel & Fiber mill. There is so much exciting bio-based work happening in Maine right now.
What’s the most significant change that you’ve noticed in the bio-based space?
For Maine, it’s been the loss of several pulp and paper mills within the past few years. This has led to a heavy blow for many communities, but it also represents an opportunity. We have impressive industrial assets – pulping lines, recovery boilers, digesters, under-utilised wastewater treatment capacity. These assets are now idle and waiting for a new use. Why not decrease CAPEX and construction time by re-purposing sites that are already permitted and have infrastructure in place? The pulp and paper industry decline is a huge shift for our forest economy, but Maine is re-grouping, rising to the challenge, and pursuing new opportunities to leverage our assets and create a new manufacturing industry to make the next generation of products.
Our last 5 minutes with... Dr Markus Rarbach, Head of Business Project Biofuels & Derivatives at Clariant.
Bio-Based World News will bring this 5 minute feature to our readers every week. This will able to put a face to the brand and provide established businesses and new start-ups the crucial advise they need in this industry. If you would like to be interviewed about your own bio-based/sustainable business then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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