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What is the bioeconomy?

Dr Joe Ross, Director the Biorenewables Development Centre talks about what we mean by the 'bioeconomy' and why we need it.
A bioeconomy is one in which the products we need to maintain and further develop human civilization are produced in a sustainable way – using plants, animals and microbes to produce ‘stuff’. If we stop and think about where all this stuff in our everyday lives comes from – the clothes, furniture, cars, houses, TV screens etc – there are only a small number of types of raw
materials: Metals and other minerals we dig out of the ground and things that grow represent one source of raw materials and the only other one, until very recently, was plants, animals and microbes. The one other type of raw material we found to make things from is ‘fossil resources’ - coal, oil and gas that represent what is left of living things that were around millions of years ago and now exist buried in the ground.
Over the last 150 years in particular we have learned to use these fossil resources as a readily available source of energy but also, particularly in the case of oil, as a source of raw materials to make so much of what we have around us now in the form of plastics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and many other ‘oil economy products’. As we become more aware of how unsustainable it is to rely so heavily on fossil resources, and the damage it is doing to our environment, the world is switching to begin to establish a ‘bio-based products economy’ – the bioeconomy.
As with the development of oil-based products, this will not happen overnight, but we now have better scientific knowledge, better communications and much better technological tools to develop a sustainable bioeconomy civilization. This will allow us to tackle the environmental problems we have created while at the same time weaning ourselves off fossil resources and replacing them with sustainable bio-based raw materials. Taking a long-term perspective, we can see that 1000 years ago we had virtually no reliance on fossil resources and 1000 years from now that will be the same again.
The use of these fossil-resources, particularly crude oil mined from the ground, therefore represents a brief moment in history – probably a few 100 years – after which we MUST have found a way to exist on the earth without it. The Sun provides us with sufficient sunlight for all our energy needs but only a well thought through and managed bioeconomy can provide – through living things - the chemicals we need as the building blocks for the products we have all begun to take for granted through the oil economy era. Every developed country in the world now has a bioeconomy strategy and the 21st century will see this form of ‘biomanufacturing’ become the main way we make things.
This offers us major environmental benefits, new economic opportunities and new types of products as we continue to unlock the secrets of living things.

The bioeconomy offers an opportunity to move away from using fossil fuels.

In this video, Dr Joe Ross from the Biorenewables Development Centre explores the raw materials we use to make our ‘stuff’.

He explains what is meant by the term the ‘bioeconomy’ and why it is important in helping us find a way to exist on Earth without using unsustainable fossil resources.

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Bioeconomy: How Renewable Resources Can Help the Future of Our Planet

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