How plants and not petroleum will drive the future economy

A typical household is packed with products made from oil. Novozymes emptied a household of all oil-based products to draw attention to this fact as well as present an alternative: a biobased economy relying on plants and waste.

11. December 2012


Even though you might not be aware of it, oil and fossil resources are all around us. Just about anything that is not iron, steel or metal contains a petrochemical component: the chemicals in shampoo, surfactants in detergents, plastic in shoelaces, wall paints, and diapers.

Novozymes decided to conduct a little experiment. We persuaded the Errecarts, a California-based family, to have their house emptied of all products containing petrochemical components.  The number of items that piled up in the front yard was quite amazing, adding up to more than 300 items.

Why this experiment?
“Most people don’t know that much of what we surround ourselves with is actually derived from oil. By moving these items out of a house, it becomes quite visual, and perhaps makes it easier to relate to the fact that we actually use 2.6 billion gallons of oil every day in the world – all included,” says Rasmus von Gottberg, Vice President of Business Development and Acquisitions. “Oil is a finite resource, and in order to be able to produce and consume the same amount of products that we do today, we need to think about an alternative to crude oil.”

A world of plants and waste
That alternative is plants, plant residues – and even household waste. These renewables can provide us with almost everything we need, including fuel and final products such as chemicals and materials. At a time when resources are becoming scarce, population and consumption are growing, and climate change and food security are growing concerns on the political agenda, the need for more sustainable solutions and green growth is obvious. Plants and waste are powerful resources, however their potential is often overlooked. “By applying biotechnology to the separate components of plants and waste we can help produce the products that we need from infinite resources - potentially fulfilling local needs for food, feed and energy at the same time,” says Rasmus von Gottberg.

The biobased economy
The biobased economy is not science fiction. It is here today.  “If we pursue it in the right way we can significantly reduce our dependency on fossil resources, create jobs, strengthen the safety of food and certainty of energy supplies and ensure green growth in one sweep,” says Rasmus.  Novozymes believes in changing the world through biotechnology, and that partnerships are key elements of delivering tomorrow’s biosolutions. “Within the area of biochemicals, today we are already working closely together with innovative companies such as BASF, Dacheng, Braskem and Cargill, and we are always exploring new areas of interest,” says Rasmus von Gottberg.

Check out the experiment
Watch the video where the Errecart’s house is emptied of products derived from fossil fuel and Alan Berry from Novozymes explains how renewables provide an alternative to crude oil.

Check out this infographic
This infographic shows how plants can be used to help provide the everyday products that we need.