Bioplastic Fantastic? Boothbay conference set for Wednesday

 OK , with all due respect to Mrs. Robinson, here’s one word for the future: Bioplastics.

Some folks in Maine believe that concept – using green materials from plants, trees, etc. to make plastic fibers – can hold promise for not only the future of the state, but for its present.

As noted in a Monday release from the Sustainable Bioplastics Council of Maine:

In the town of Boothbay, Maine, a cutting edge manufacturing facility is turning plastic fibers made from plants into medical supplies. In Old Town, a struggling pulp mill has new life thanks to a “biorefinery” that converts wood chips into sugars, which are nature’s chemical building blocks. And in Waterville, a company produces plastic mulch that is 100 percent compostable in the farm field.

Green chemistry and bio-based manufacturing aren’t just buzzwords in Maine anymore. They’re a very real part of the economy, with plenty of room to grow. Firms such as Biovation, Old Town Fuel and Fiber, and Cerealus employ hundreds of Mainers, and are leading the way to a future that is less dependent on oil, and more sustainable for the generations to come.

Company leaders, researchers, policy makers and others will meet in Boothbay on Wednesday for a morning conference, “From Plants to Products: Seizing Maine’s Market Share in the Bio-Based Economy,” held at Biovation’s plant. According to the release, those at the conference will discuss success stories and lessons learned from the production and sales of bio-based products, as well as market opportunities and the tremendous potential for Maine companies to advance in this field.

“The shift away from oil, toward bio-based chemicals and materials, represents the future of our global economy,” said Michael Belliveau, vice president of the Council. “Maine is really well positioned to make the most of these driving forces. We have the natural resources, the forests and farmland. We have the labor force and the manufacturing infrastructure, too much of which is idle. And we also have the ‘Made in Maine’ brand, which tells consumers that these are products they can trust.”

Among the speakers:

U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, will discuss federal funding opportunities for bio-based products. Pingree is a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, which oversees the USDA programs that promote use and production of bio-based products.

 Andrew Soare, an analyst with Lux Research in New York City, will give the keynote address. It will be the first time that an expert on the bio-based materials market has visited Maine to meet with entrepreneurs and to provide a comprehensive overview of market opportunities.

For a full agenda, list of speakers, and to register for the conference, go to www.mainebioplastics.org.

Oh, one more thing — Koo-koo-catchoo, Mrs. Robinson.