The USDA is proposing a new agency rule that will support sustainable packaging made of plant-based plastic, rubber and fiber. Under the new rule, a current program designed to promote ethanol and biodiesel fuels will be expanded to companies using plant-based materials in manufacturing products such as bottles and packaging.
The new rule will add plant-based products manufacturers to a loan guarantee program that would allow companies building new plants to borrow money at lower interest rates. Thus far, the program has provided more than $844 million for 10 biofuel projects since 2008. According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, loans of up to $250 million will be offered to projects involving development of plant-based materials for manufacturing.
According to a USDA-commissioned report mandated in the 2014 farm bill, the plant-based materials industry created four million jobs and contributed $369 billion to the economy in 2013.
Examples of recently created plant-based goods include the Coca Cola Company’s sugarcane-based bottle and soybean oil-derived Ford Mustang seat cushions. According to Coca Cola, its PlantBottle packages have saved more than 30 million gallons of gas and eliminated 270,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent to the amount emitted from burning more than 630,000 barrels of oil.