Bioeconomy Basics: How Humans Have Been Producing Bioproducts For Thousands Of Years

Feb. 5, 2018

Stone Age Humans began processing plants for medicine around 3300 BC. Ancient Egyptians created some of the earliest paper with materials harvested from the papyrus plant. George Washington planted hemp to be manufactured into ship sails and rope. These are examples that show that humans have been producing and trading bioproducts for thousands of years. However, it wasn’t until recent decades that we realized the value of utilizing plant material for modern industry.

Petroleum has been the driving force behind world manufacturing since the turn of the last century; According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in the United States, we use around 20 million barrels of oil every day. In the early ‘70s, people began to realize the environmental and economic impact of burning fossil fuels. This gave rise to the birth of the world’s largest bioproduct: corn ethanol. As scientists worked to develop an economical unleaded fuel, they found that they could create a number of other chemicals from a range of feedstocks. Today there are thousands of chemicals, materials, and other products made from plants rather than petroleum.

This monthly series, Bioeconomy Basics, will explore the global impact of the bioeconomy and highlight the manufacturers responsible for pioneering this growing industry. We will address sustainability, and find out what it looks like from the perspective of producers, manufacturers, and consumers. Each month, Bioeconomy Basics will discuss the current state of the bioeconomy and keep you up-to-date on products, career opportunities, and advancements in industry technology.

Sustainable Choices --> Sustainable Lifestyles --> Sustainable World

Bioeconomy Basics is a series centered around providing education about the emerging bioeconomy. This article was written by Bradley Collins, OBIC Student Assistant and Senior at The Ohio State University.