Round-up of non-food crop activity in the UK: cosmetics and pharmaceuticals

Posted in: feedstocks

This article aims to summarise which non-food crops are currently being grown in the UK to serve the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, with a particular focus on oilseed crops and herbs.

Crop biomass will play an instrumental role in the world’s transition towards industrial decarbonisation and the phasing out of fossil-resources. Bioenergy, and its associated technologies, has become a popular investment for governments and industrial stakeholders, and political agendas are aligning themselves with the development of biomass-derived innovative methods for the production of transport fuels and the generation of heat and power. In December 2020, the UK Government published its Energy White Paper outlining the country’s pathway to reaching its 2050 Net-Zero target. In this report, bioenergy is part of the overall Net-Zero innovation portfolio, showing that biomass feedstocks are likely to benefit from a lot of support in the future.

In the UK, the area dedicated to growing crops for bioenergy reached a peak of around 130,000 hectares in 2016 and 2017. The latest available statistics, dating back to 2019, show that this area has since decreased to below 100,000 hectares (equivalent to just under 1.6% of all available arable land in the country). Further statistics show that 20% of this land area was dedicated to biofuel (bioethanol and biodiesel) production, the rest being directed towards power and heat generation.

Beyond bioenergy, there are many other applications for crop feedstocks, beyond food and feed production. Non-food crops, when grown in a considerate manner, can offer a wide variety of services and products, ranging from restoring soil health to serving as raw materials for textile manufacturing, cosmetics and medicines. Compared to fossil resources, which are often used as raw materials for such similar products, non-food crops provide alternative solutions which cut down on overall greenhouse gas emissions. Non-food crops can also provide socio-economic benefits through the establishment of local industries and the development of new markets.

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This article was written by Thea Allary, Research Analyst at NNFCC.

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