Bioplastics

04-Aug-2012

Although unknown to a large proportion of the public, major developments have been taking place in chemical companies and research organisations over recent years to address the sustainability and environmental impact of plastics materials. Unfortunately, some of this is also being clouded by many ignorant or even deliberately misleading claims about the “greenness” of various plastics materials (and other materials) currently on the market.

However, there can be no doubt that the development of more environmentally acceptable plastics is starting to happen at a greater rate. These materials are increasingly referred to as “bioplastics” and they can be categorized as follows:

  • Plastics materials based on renewable resources (biobased) and also biodegradable
  • Plastics materials based on fossil resources and biodegradable
  • Plastics materials based or partly based on renewable resources and are durable (i.e. not biodegradable)

The leading types of compostable bioplastics based on renewable resources are materials based on starches, materials based on cellulosics, and some polyester materials (in particular PLA – polylactic acid).

The use of the term “biodegradable” has been used somewhat loosely in relation to plastics materials, but increasingly a more accepted definition of biodegradable is that the material is compostable in an industrial composting facility.

Currently bioplastics account for approximately 1% of the market but are expected to grow so they could account for up to 30% of the market by 2020.


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