A bioeconomy uses renewable resources and helps society meet current environmental challenges so consumers need to be aware of the benefits of bio-based products.
Converting resources from agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture into food, bio-based products and bio-energy is a promising strategy for minimising our dependency on fossil-based inputs. The bioeconomy has the potential to transform manufacturing processes and industry and reduce their environmental impact. To achieve this, consumers need to be informed about the benefits of bio-based products and its applications.
The EU-funded BIOWAYS conducted an EU-wide online survey alongside analysis of relevant studies which helped them to collect qualitative and quantitate data regarding the public perception on bio-based products. "Our long-term goal is to increase public confidence in the bio-based industry in order to reinforce its market uptake, which in turn will positively impact on society, economy and environment,″ explains project coordinator Iakovos Delioglanis.
The online questionnaire was translated in seven languages and evaluated public perception and engagement with bio-based products, the benefits of utilising them and reasons that prevent their greater use. Results from over 450 respondents from various EU countries showed that although the majority could identify bio-based products, less than 40 % of the people had sufficient knowledge about them.
Nearly half of the respondents indicated a lack of information regarding the benefits of bio-based products while the majority agreed that better labelling and incentives should be offered to consumers. This clearly showed that public awareness needs to be increased through well-targeted and innovative training tools and materials.
BIOWAYS organised a variety of tailor-made national and international events including thematic workshops to engage all stakeholders in an open discussion concerning the future of bio-based products and their environmental, social and economic benefits to European society. During these events project partners displayed samples of bio-based products and demonstrated how they can be used to create a positive impact on the environment and society. In addition, participants addressed how to overcome bottlenecks to adopting bio-based processes and switching to bio-based products.
The project implemented alternative communication techniques and public engagement activities alongside the development of games, educational tools and fun facts. The communication programme was based on science facts and figures, with well-formulated, understandable and accessible key messages, which outline the capabilities and benefits of bio-based products. Factsheets were prepared on various bio-based products including packaging, fuels, food ingredients and feed. All material can be found online.
A step further
The BIOWAYS initiative goes beyond the promotion of bioeconomy. As Delioglanis emphasises: "We set up the Biowatch platform to engage stakeholders, researchers, industry and the general public into an ongoing discussion and sharing of ideas.″ Biowatch also serves as an electronic library for bio-based research and projects or for anyone interested in the latest developments in bio-based industry and research.
"This online community has the capacity to fuel new research collaborations and increase the opportunities for further funding, leading to scientific discoveries and visibility of the bioeconomy sector,″ concludes Delioglanis. The BIOWAYS descendant projects BIOBRIDGES and BIOVOICES promise to further increase public awareness and make bio-based products part of everyday life.
Explore further: Investing in the 'bioeconomy' could create jobs and reduce carbon emissions