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Biobased Economy GROWS in 2018

I am proud to announce the release of a joint study completed by me and my colleagues Jay Golden, PhD of East Carolina University and Jesse Daystar, PhD of Duke University.  The study was published by the USDA’s Biopreferred program, and provides an Economic Impact of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry.

There are some great highlights of the report, that suggest that the Biobased Products are gaining a foothold and growing significantly since the last time we published this report.

  • The Number of People Employed grew to 4.65 Million in the U.S. Biobased Products Industry in 2016
  • Value added Contribution to the U.S. Economy was $459 Billion from the U.S. Biobased Products Industry in 2016
  • The Jobs Multiplier was 2.78, meaning that for every 1 Biobased Products industry jobs, 1.78 more jobs are supported in the United States

In addition, the export of biobased products is growing:

  • The Number of People Employed as a result of exports of biobased products was 555 thousand in the U.S. Biobased Products Industry in 2016
  • Value added Contribution to the U.S. Economy ofwas $57 Billion from the U.S. Biobased Products Industry Exports in 2016

Most importantly, the growth of the sector has increased, since we began working on these studies in 2013.  As shown in the chart below, employment has grown by more than 63M jobs, and value added by more then $120B since 2013.




In addition, just about every state is impacted by these numbers, not just the MidWest states like many people think. In fact, North Carolina, Texas and Georgia are three of the most impacted states in terms of direct employment affiliated with the biobased products sector!


While there is no database that tracks the “quantity of biobased products sold,” the USDA BioPreferred Program has identified about 20,000 biobased products. This list contains very few forest products or traditional textile fiber products because these products only recently were included in the program. Therefore, we estimate that the actual number of biobased products is dramatically higher than the number in the BioPreferred Program’s database. In terms of jobs created and value added, the forest products segment alone more than doubles the estimates for the remainder of the biobased products sector. Thus, 40,000 would be a conservative estimate of the total number of existing biobased products. Sufficient data are not available to estimate the total number of individual “units” of biobased products sold. However, the total value added from direct sales of biobased products was estimated to be in $127 billion 2014 and $148 billion in 2016, suggesting that both the sales of and number of biobased products is increasing.

The use of biobased products reduces the consumption of petroleum equivalents by two primary mechanisms. First, chemical feedstocks from biorefineries have replaced a significant portion of the chemical feedstocks that traditionally originate from crude oil refineries. Biorefineries currently produce an estimated 150 million gallons of raw materials per year that are used to manufacture biobased products. Second, biobased materials are increasingly being used as substitutes for petroleum-based materials, which have been used extensively for many years. An example of this petroleum displacement by a biobased material is the use of natural fibers in packing and insulating materials as an alternative to synthetic foams, such as Styrofoam. In this report we updated the oil displacement values from the 2016 report to reflect economic growth. In 2016 the estimated oil displacement is estimated to be as much as 9.4 million barrels of oil equivalents.

We also published a number of fascinating case studies of companies who have begun using biobased products in a variety of applications that you would never have thought of in a million years!  Here is an example of the case studies you can find in the report:

  • Asean
  • Carolina Nonwovens
  • Cotton Incorporated
  • Eco-Products
  • Foodservice Packaging Institute
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
  • National Wooden Pallet & Container Association
  • NatureWorks
  • Proctor & Gamble
  • Reebok
  • SelfEco

A lot of these cases illustrate how innovators are finding ways to use biobased feedstock derivatives for alternative, biodegradable materials, in products such as automobiles, tires, running shoes, laundry detergent, and even disposable containers that you might find at a Wolfpack concession stand!

This is a great study that you should read if you’re at all interested in sustainable supply chains.