How do regulations support the development of biobased materials?

June 24, 2024

The BioImpulse project, starting in 2019, aims to replace formaldehyde-based resins/adhesives with a new resin free of substances of concern (SVHC). Thanks to the development of a biosourced molecule of interest, this project opens up new applications for biotechnologies in markets such as automotive and construction. FCBA, one of the project's partners, is the technical center for the forestry, wood and furniture industries. As such, developments and tests are carried out for wood components such as plywood.

The definition of biobased products in EN 16575 identifies them as products derived wholly or partly from biomass, excluding geological and fossilized materials. This concept focuses primarily on plant biomass. There is no specific quantitative requirement to qualify a product as "biobased", but communication on biomass or biobased carbon content can be a way of distinguishing itself. This "carbon" dimension is particularly interesting as it is linked to the impact on climate change.

Advantages of biobased products

The advantages of biobased products lie mainly in their ability to sequester biogenic carbon, derived from plant photosynthesis, and keep it out of the atmosphere for the life of the product. In addition, these products offer advantages in terms of energy and material substitution, replacing respectively fossil energy sources and materials requiring more resources and energy to manufacture. These substitutions are crucial in the fight against climate change, by reducing the environmental footprint of products.

Biobased materials in construction

In the construction industry, the integration of biobased products could already be promoted, thanks in particular to Karibati's "Produit biosourcé" label (applicable to construction products) or the French government's "Bâtiment biosourcé" label (applicable to new buildings). However, these labels were only obtained through voluntary initiatives.

In terms of regulations, the RE2020 now replaces the Réglementation thermique 2012 (RT2012). RE2020 does not directly require the use of biobased materials in construction. However, it does introduce new indicators, notably "IC construction", which represents the building's impact on climate change. To be compliant, this indicator must be below a threshold value, which varies according to building type. These thresholds are set to decrease over time, reflecting increasingly demanding environmental regulations.

The IC construction indicator is calculated according to the impact on climate change of all construction products and equipment, as well as their use in the building. This calculation is largely based on the environmental data contained in the FDES (French environmental product declaration) of construction products. The EHDSs present their impacts, in particular on climate change, and are produced using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, making the most of the advantages of bio-sourced products mentioned above. Meeting the thresholds imposed by the RE2020 could be achieved above all by introducing biobased construction materials into buildings.

The inclusion of biobased materials in products outside the construction sector could also become a regulatory requirement with the rise of environmental labelling. The latter should gradually be extended to various sectors, encouraging companies to reduce the environmental impact of their products in order to stand out in the marketplace.

In conclusion, integrating biobased materials into products offers environmental benefits and meets growing consumer demand, while aligning with the sustainability objectives of public policies.