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Bioplastics and biodegradation Environment impact reduction Performance and usage Recycling Modified bioplastics Market Applications Plastics types Biopolymers and bioplastics Fermentation Current research Bioplastics Second life for bioplastics Abstract

However many degrade at such slow rates as to be considered non-biodegradable. such as vegetable oil. it is designed only for the aggressive conditions of commercial composting units. polymer stability. There is no standard applicable to home composting conditions. defines how quickly and to what extent a plastic must be degraded under commercial composting conditions for it to be called biodegradable. EN13432. and may be used as an additive to improve the performance of many commercial bioplastics. including all of Europe. The term "biodegradable plastic" is often also used by producers of specially modified petrochemical-based plastics which appear to biodegrade. However with the addition of a degradation initiator to the plastic. To prevent this process manufacturers add stabilising chemicals. However. While some degradable plastics manufacturers argue that degraded plastic residue will be attacked by . it is possible to achieve a controlled UV/oxidation disintegration process. Japan and the US. Consequently. All (bio. meaning they can be degraded by microbes under suitable conditions. This type of plastic may be referred to as degradable plastic or oxy-degradable plastic or photodegradable plastic because the process is not initiated by microbial action. corn starch. An internationally agreed standard.and petroleum-based) plastics are technically biodegradable.Non-biodegradable bioplastics are referred to as durable. Bioplastics and biodegradation The terminology used in the bioplastics sector is sometimes misleading. most bioplastics will only degrade in the tightly controlled conditions of commercial composting units. rather than fossil fuel plastics which are derived from petroleum.Traditional plastics such as polyethylene are degraded by ultraviolet (UV) light and oxygen.Bioplastics (also called organic plastics) are a form of plastics derived from renewable biomass sources. cellulose film. Most in the industry use the term bioplastic to mean a plastic produced from a biological source. Somepetrochemical-based plastics are considered biodegradable. This is published by the International Organization for Standardization ISO and is recognised in many countries. The degree of biodegradation varies with temperature. One of the oldest plastics. pea starch or microbiota . is made from wood cellulose. and available oxygen content.

While production of most bioplastics results in reduced carbon dioxide emissions compared to traditional alternatives. because it relies less on fossil fuel as a carbon source and also introduces less. these degradable materials do not meet the requirements of the EN13432 commercial composting standard. They significantly reduce hazardous waste caused by oil-derived plastics.microbes. manufacturing of bioplastic materials is often still reliant upon petroleum as an energy and materials source. Although renewable energy can be used to obtain petroleum independence. in part due to its purchasing of renewable energy certificates for its manufacturing plant. to transport crops and crop products to processing plants. Italian bioplastic manufacturer Novamont states in its own environmental audit that producing one kilogram of its starch-based product uses 500g of petroleum and consumes almost 80% of the energy required to produce a traditional polyethylene polymer. A detailed study examining the process of manufacturing a number of common packaging items in several traditional plastics and polylactic acid carried out by US-group and published by the Athena Institute shows the bioplastic to be less environmentally damaging for some products. and open a new era in packing technology and industry . Environmental impact reduction The production and use of bioplastics is generally regarded as a more sustainable activity when compared with plastic production from petroleum (petroplastic). to process raw materials. net-new greenhouse emissions if it biodegrades. but more environmentally damaging for others. Environmental data from NatureWorks the only commercial manufacturer of PLA (polylactic acid) bioplastic. However. to produce fertilisers and pesticides. there are some real concerns that the creation of a global bioeconomy could contribute to an accelerated . says that making its plastic material delivers a fossil fuel saving of between 25 and 68 per cent compared with polyethylene. This comes in the form of energy required to power farm machinery and irrigate growing crops. and ultimately to produce the bioplastic. which remain solid for hundreds of years.

There are associated concerns over the impact on water supply and soil erosion. Recycling There are also fears that bioplastics will damage existing recycling projects. . incorporating them into electronics and automobiles. Packaging such as HDPE milk bottles and PET water and soft drinks bottles is easily identified and hence setting up a recycling infrastructure has been quite successful in many parts of the world. They do not reach the fossil fuel parity. Performance and usage Many bioplastics lack the performance and ease of processing of traditional materials. However. bioplastics are seeing some use in Europe. most bioplastic technology is relatively new and is currently not cost competitive with petroleum-based plastics (petroplastics). Polylactic acid plastic is being used by a handful of small companies for water bottles made from polylactic acid cannot be distinguished from PET bottles by the consumer there is a risk that recycled PET could be rendered unusable. reducing the cost advantage over petroleum-based plastic. where they account for 60% of the biodegradable materials market. But shelf life is limited because the plastic is permeable to water . bioplastic can be made from agricultural byproducts and also from used plastic bottles and other containers using microorganisms. Japan has also been a pioneer in bioplastics.rate of deforestation if not managed effectively. the first route is unreliable and the second costly. On the other hand. Polylactic acid and PET do not mix . This could be overcome by ensuring distinctive bottle types or by investing in suitable sorting technology. Many bioplastics are reliant on fossil fuel-derived energy for their manufacturing. Other studies showed that bioplastics represent a 42% reduction in carbon footprint. Cost With the exception of cellulose. The most common end use market is for packaging materials.the bottles lose their contents and slowly deform However.

some UK retailers such as Sainsbury's will not use bioplastic manufactured in the US.000 tonnes per year Organic waste bags: 100. using genetically modified crops or genetically modified bacteria to optimise efficiency. such as Natureworks polylactic acid.000 tonnes per year Foil packaging: 400. There is also concern that the route from corn to bioplastics is not the most efficient. a change in consumer perception of GM technology in Europe will be required for these to be widely accepted.3 million tonnes. As a result.000 tonnes per year . Looking further ahead. some of the second generation bioplastics manufacturing technologies under development employ the "plant factory" model. However. European consumers are hostile to any products that are linked to the GM industry. it is not possible to ensure corn used to make bioplastic in North America is GMfree.000 tonnes In contrast.000 tonnes per year Biodegradable foils for diapers 80.Genetically modified bioplastics Genetic modification (GM) is also a challenge for the bioplastics industry.which can be considered first generation products .000 tonnes per year Tyre components: 200.000 tonnes per year Vegetable packaging: 400. None of the currently available bioplastics . 100% biodegradable: 240. global consumption of all flexible packaging is estimated at around 12.require the use of GM crops. Market Because of the fragmentation in the market it is difficult to estimate the total market size for bioplastics.000 tonnes per year Diapers. COPA (Committee of Agricultural Organisation in the European Union) and COGEGA (General Committee for the Agricultural Cooperation in the European Union) have made an assessment of the potential of bioplastics in different sectors of the European economy: Catering products: 450. However.000 tonnes per year Biodegradable mulch foils: 130. but estimates put global consumption in 2006 at around 85.

thermoplastic starch. eggs and meat. Applications Because of their biological biodegradability.000. pots. such as packaging and catering items (crockery. and car interiors. the use of bioplastics is especially popular for disposable items. By varying the amounts of these additives. Pure starch possesses the characteristic of being able to absorb humidity and is thus being used for the production of drug capsules in the pharmaceutical sector. cutlery. After their initial use they can be reused as bags for organic waste and then be composted. . bowls. Even so.000 tonnes per year The European Bioplastics trade group predicted annual capacity would more than triple to 1. carpet fibres. Non-disposable applications include mobile phone casings. the characteristic of the material can be tailored to specific needs (also called "thermo-plastical starch"). and new electroactive bioplastics are being developed that can be used to carry electrical current. straws).Total 2.5 million tons by 2011. such as Plastarch Material. vegetables. In these areas. bioplastics will encompass a small niche of the overall plastic market. BCC Research forecasts the global market for biodegradable polymers to grow at a compound average growth rate of more than 17 percent through 2012. currently represents the most important and widely used bioplastic. Flexibiliser and plasticiser such as sorbitol and glycerine are added so that starch can also be processed thermo-plastically. Trays and containers for fruit. The use of bioplastics for shopping bags is already very common. which is forecast to reach 500 billion pounds globally by 2010. bottles for soft drinks and dairy products and blister foils for fruit and vegetables are also already widely manufactured from bioplastics. but to create items from sustainable resources. fuel line and plastic pipe applications. the goal is not biodegradability. Plastic types Starch based plastics Constituting about 50 percent of the bioplastics market.

Bioderived polyethylene is chemically and physically identical to traditional . moulds. tins. sports shoes.Polylactide acid (PLA) plastics Polylactide acid (PLA) is a transparent plastic produced from cane sugar or corn starch. It produces transparent film at a melting point higher than 130 degrees Celsius. has decided to expand PHB production to an industrial scale. but it can also be processed easily on standard equipment that already exists for the production of conventional plastics. This is just one small chemical step from ethanol. Its characteristics are similar to those of the petroplastic polypropylene.Inc)gnerally come in the form of granulates with various properties and are used in the plastic processing industry for the production of foil. electrical anti-termite cable sheathing. It is also known under the tradename Rilsan B commercialized by Arkema. PLA and PLA-Blends (such as the CompostablesTM by Cereplast. PA 11 belongs to the technical polymers family and is not biodegradable. PHB is distinguished primarily by its physical characteristics. Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) The biopolymer poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) is a polyester produced by certain bacteria processing glucose or starch. It not only resembles conventional petrochemical mass plastics (like PE or PP) in its characteristics. which can be produced by fermentation of agricultural feedstocks such as sugar cane or corn. Its properties are similar than PA 12 although emissions of greenhouse gases and consumption of nonrenewable resources are reduced during its production. Bio-derived polyethylene The basic building block (monomer) of polyethylene is ethylene. pneumatic airbrake tubing. The South American sugar industry. It is used in high performance applications as automotive fuel lines. oil & gas flexible pipes & control fluid umbilicals. Its thermal resistance is also superior than PA 12. etc. catheters. electronic device components. Polyamide 11 (PA 11) PA 11 is a biopolymer derived from natural oil. and is biodegradable without residue. for example. bottles and other packaging. cups.

required to make the linear low density polethylene types used in film production.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide while the traditional petrochemical route results in emissions of close to 3. in 2010 and has developed a technology to produce bio-derived butene. used in a packaging such as bottles and tubs.5 tonnes. It can also considerably reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Brazilian chemicals group Braskem claims that using its route from sugar cane ethanol to produce one tonne of polyethylene captures (removes from the environment) 2. Braskem plans to introduce commercial quantities of its first bio-derived high density polyethylene. conforms to US Food & Drug Administration guidelines . ©BIOplastics 2006 Bioplastics PLA Quick Facts • • • Freezer safe Handles hot items up to 120F (except 200F utensils) Sterilized and does not biodegrade but can be recycled.polyethylene .

plastic-like texture Est. cellulose. not hazardous in production and decompose back into carbon dioxide. They are derived from renewable raw materials like starch (e. and PolyActide (PLA) (made from corn-starch as well) are currently the 2 main resins (raw materials). drinking straws): 120 degrees F Corn Starch Biodegradable Cutlery: 220 degrees F Biodegradability & Compostability Bioplastics can take different length of times to totally compost. though some are for biodegradability. potato. cellulose etc.. other resins are coming into the market made from potato starch. corn. Corn starch is currently the main raw material being used in the manufacture of bioplastic resins. based on the material and are meant to be composted in a commercial composting facility. tapioca etc). soy protein. MaterBi (main component corn-starch). Est. Most existing international standards require biodegradation of 60% within 180 days along with certain other criteria for the resin or product to be called compostable. water.g. soybean protein. lactic acid etc. Most of these are currently not certified for compostability.• • • • Fully compostable. where higher composting temperatures can be reached and is between 90-180 days. Heat Resistance • • Corn-starch based products (bags. However. Home Composting Time: Varies. biomass etc. The field of bioplastics is constantly evolving with new materials and technologies being worked on and being brought to market. cold cups. Commercial Composting Time: Varies Bioplastics: PLA derived from corn-starch Bioplastics are a new generation of biodegradable and compostable plastics. These terms are often (incorrectly) used interchangeably. . when discarded. sturdy and strong Clear. being used today in the production of compostable & biodegradable plastics and are certified for compostability under standards set by international organizations. biodegradable and compostable. cutlery. It is important to make the distinction between degradable.

Biodegradable Plastic is plastic which will degrade from the action of naturally occurring microorganism.Compostable Plastic is plastic which is "capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost site as part of an available program. such as bacteria. Note. at a rate consistent with known compostable materials (e.break down into carbon dioxide. In order for a plastic to be called compostable.g. A plastic therefore may be degradable but not biodegradable or it may be biodegradable but not compostable (that is. 2. that there is no requirement for leaving "no toxic residue". Degradable Plastic is plastic which will undergo a significant change in its chemical structure under specific environmental conditions resulting in a loss of some properties. water. Biodegrade . biomass at the same rate as cellulose (paper). such that the plastic is not visually distinguishable and breaks down to carbon dioxide. Estimated Composting Times The rate of biodegration for different biocompostables is dependent . and biomass. that it is not visible and needs to be screened out 3. cellulose)." American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM). Please note that there is no requirement that the plastic has to be degrade from the action of "naturally occurring microorganism" or any of the other criteria required for compostable plastics. inorganic compounds. and leaves no toxic residue. water. over a period of time. three criteria need to be met: 1. Disintegrate . fungi etc. Eco-toxicity .the biodegradation does not produce any toxic material and the compost can support plant growth.the material is indistinguishable in the compost. it breaks down too slowly to be called compostable or leaves toxic residue). and as well as no requirement for the time it needs to take to biodegrade.

depending on how frequently the pile is turned over. thus reducing the amount of time it takes to compost and. is thus. About 200. • • • Biodegradability is determined by measuring the amount of CO2 produced over a certain time period by the biodegrading plastic. The EN13432 standard requires 90% biodegradation within 90 days. Disintegration is measured by sieving the material to determine the biodegraded size and less than 10% should remain on a 2mm screen for most standards. the recommended method for composting these products. Eco toxicity is measured by having concentrations of heavy metals below the limits set by the standards and by testing plant growth by mixing the compost with soil in different concentrations and comparing it with controlled compost. ISO and DIN standards require 60% biodegradation within 180 days. Commercial composting facilities grind the materials. requiring 250.000-350.upon the composition and thickness of the material as well as composting conditions. Home composting rates are slower and can vary.000 . ASTM. turn over the piles and reach high temperatures.000 tonnes of bioplastics were produced last year. the moisture and material content and the temperature. 'Sustainable' bio-plastic can damage the environment Bioplastics compete for land with biofuels and food crops.

The main source of the chemicals needed to manufacture plastics are fossil fuels. and their impact on the environment has resulted in a search for alternatives to petrochemical plastics. Henry Ford developed a method of manufacturing plastic car parts from soybeans in the mid-1900s. billed as sustainable. food packaging. Biopolymers and bioplastics are not new products. computers. The companies promoting it claim it reduces litter and causes no methane or harmful residues. Pens. They are used by Wal-Mart. Pizza Hut and KFC in the US. cars. and clothing are all examples of products which contain plastic. Plastic is a material made up of one or more polymers. They are defined below: Biopolymers are polymers which are present in. They are made of conventional oil-based plastic. or as biodegradable plastics or polymers. World War II side-tracked the production of bioplastic cars. What are Biopolymers and Bioplastics? Biopolymers and bioplastics go by many different names. living organisms. but take a long time to biodegrade when disposed. and are biodegradable. or created by. However. The industry is forecast to need several million acres of farmland within four years. and Tesco and the Co-op in the UK for "degradable" plastic carrier bags.tonnes of crops. Biopolymers and Bioplastics Many everyday products used by Canadians are made of plastic. These include polymers from renewable resources that can be polymerized to create bioplastics. Rising concern about the cost of fossil fuels. They are often referred to as bio-based plastics and polymers. with an additive that enables the plastic to break down. . namely biopolymers and bioplastics. These petrochemical plastics are very durable. There is also concern over the growing use by supermarkets of "oxydegradable" plastic bags. Bioplastics are plastics manufactured using biopolymers.

Examples are listed in the table below. These include carbohydrates and proteins. These polyesters are created through naturally occurring chemical reactions that are carried out by certain types of bacteria. These can be used in the production of plastic for commercial purposes. Biopolymers From Living Organisms These biopolymers are present in.Today. those which need to be polymerized but come from renewable resources. and others What is it? This polymer is made up of glucose. Both types are used in the production of bioplastics. It is a polymer made up of glucose. and others Soybeans Corn. cotton. potatoes. living organisms. and can be polymerized to be used in the manufacture of biodegradable plastics. or created by. bioplastics are gaining popularity once again as new manufacturing techniques developed through biotechnology are being applied to their production. wheat. Biopolymer Cellulose Natural Source Wood. corn. wheat. It is not found in animal tissues. It is the main component of plant cell walls. and. tapioca. Protein which naturally occurs in the soy plant. This polymer is one way carbohydrates are stored in plant tissue. Types of Biopolymers There are two main types of biopolymers: those that come from living organisms. . Soy protein Starch Polyesters Bacteria Polymerizable Molecules These molecules come from renewable natural resources.

Bacteria called Ralstonia eutropha are used to do this. is even more powerful when coupled with new biotechnology techniques. There are two ways fermentation can be used to create biopolymers and bioplastics: microorganisms that can be used in the fermentation process. is the process by which bacteria can be used to create polyesters. specially designed for the conditions under which fermentation takes place. These two methods are outlined below. in fact. potatoes. and the second relies on the plant to become the factory for plastic production. or other starch sources. to fuel their cellular processes. such as corn. corn. Fermentation is the use of microorganisms to break down organic substances in the absence of oxygen. and others What is it? Produced through fermentation of sugar feedstocks. used for hundreds of years by humans. Today. and by converting starch in corn. The first uses fermentation. Triglycerides Vegetable oils The Science – How are Biopolymers and Bioplastics Made? There are two methods being researched and used to produce plastics from plants. These form a large part of the storage lipids found in plant and animal cells. The bacteria use the sugar of harvested plants. The . Fermentation. and for the specific substance that is being broken down by the microorganism.Biopolymer Lactic Acid Natural Source Beets. fermentation can be carried out with genetically engineered microorganisms. Using Fermentation to Produce Plastics Fermentation. such as beets. potatoes.a polymer that is used to produce plastic. Vegetable oils are one possible source of triglycerides that can be polymerized into plastics. It is polymerized to produce polylactic acid -.

Also. Therefore. in this fermentation process. it is converted to polylactic acid using traditional polymerization processes. Only a few processes have emerged that actually use less energy in the production process. The researchers have transferred the gene that codes for this enzyme into the plant. After the lactic acid is produced. such as soybean. The polymers are then separated from the bacterial cells. much like the process used to directly manufacture polymers by bacteria. the final product of fermentation is lactic acid. Biotechnology techniques used to produce bioplastics include fermentation. This has raised questions by some regarding how much fossil fuel is actually saved by manufacturing bioplastics. For example. Current Research Areas in Biopolymers and Bioplastics Improving efficiency is a major concern for the production of plastics and bioplastics. and genetic engineering. Biotechnology and Biopolymers and Bioplastics Biotechnology is driving the production of new bioplastics. fossil fuel is still used as an energy source during the production process. researchers are still working on refining the processes . The liquid resulting from this process is distilled to separate the solvent from the plastic. rather than a polymer. Currently. fermentation is used to release the cellulose from plants. The plant is harvested and the plastic is extracted from it using a solvent. However. The plant contains the enzymes used by bacteria to create plastics. specifically designed to be used as a raw material for the production of bioplastics. Bacteria create the plastic through the conversion of sunlight into energy. Lactic Acid Fermentation – Lactic acid is fermented from of these cellular processes is the polymer. genetic engineering can be used to create plants. Researchers created a Arabidopis thaliana plant through genetic engineering. as a result the plant produces plastic through its cellular processes. Growing Plastics in Plants Plants are becoming factories for the production of plastics. so the cellulose can be used to create plastics.

even as fossil fuel reserves diminish. One group is attempting to genetically engineer corn to contain the bacterial enzyme responsible for plastic production. These products reduce the dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels. characteristics such as being biodegradable make plastics more acceptable for long term use by society. or as livestock feed. and are easily biodegradable. fields of wheat and rows of potatoes were seldom destined for anything more than a rumbling tummy. The plastic would be removed from the remaining part of the corn plant. But bio-products have come a long way since people first branched out into weaving hemp into clothes and pulping papyrus into scrolls. Bio-plastics: Turning Wheat And Potatoes into Plastics The science of how "taters" can become Tupperware In the past. and the need to grow plants for use as raw materials. Sustainable Development and Biopolymers and Bioplastics Biopolymers and bioplastics are the main components in creating a sustainable plastics industry. Agricultural space needs to be shared. There are also concerns about how to balance the need to grow plants for food. It is likely that in the long term. and leaves of the plant.used in order to make bioplastics viable alternatives to petrochemical plastics. these products will mean plastics will remain affordable. Today the line between Mother Nature and man made has never been more blurred. The edible part of the corn would be used as food. Also. Researchers are looking into creating a plant that can be used for food. but also as feedstock for plastic production. they are hoping to create the plant in a way which would restrict the plastic production to the stem. This would leave the edible part of the corn plastic free. Animals are re-engineered into living drug factories. Energy use is not the only concern when it comes to biopolymers and bioplastics. Together. crops fuel our cars and now plants are increasingly being . Eventually. this greatly limits the environmental impacts of plastic use and manufacture.

maize. such as slightly modified forms of the chains of sugars in starch or cellulose. .repackaged as the epitome of the synthetic world – plastic. sugar beet and even the trusty spud are finding new life as water bottles. are making vast investments in new technologies and processing plants with the hope of cornering a multi-billion pound industry. Wheat. car fuel lines and laptops. as consumers and governments demand cleaner alternatives to petroleum based technologies and their reckless production of the greenhouse gas CO2. Global business is now turning to bio-plastics for an increasing number of applications. vegetable oils. that share the ability to be easily reshaped that has made conventional oil based plastics so useful. Worldwide players. such as DuPont and Toyota Motor Corp. car fuel lines and laptops. Wheat. sugar beet and even the trusty spud are finding new life as water bottles. Bio-materials scientists are also constantly tweaking these natural structures to try and better replicate the durability and flexibility of conventional plastics. maize. Bio-plastics harness the natural structures found in crops or trees. vegetable oils.

200 people worldwide and producing more than 120. You are talking about a whole range of everyday products . be it as packaging or a shopping bag. from the leading role in bioplastic production played by Toyota to its recent passing of a triumvirate of laws pushing forward environmental initiatives.The "BC" at Bangor University in North Wales has 18-years experience of working with large companies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to find sustainable and viable bio-based alternatives to man-made materials. employing 1. and then you are also getting some energy back at the end of it. “In the first instance you have a valuable resource can use. “My view is that we should burn them at the end of their life to recover energy. The UK is a producer of wheat starch and biotimber but the only major bioplastic producer is Innovia Films in Cumbria.” He also suggests that burning bio-plastics would also avoid the problems caused by them breaking down and producing methane. everything you can think of is out there. Most of the manufacture is happening in the US and continental Europe. which produces cellulose films. BC director Paul Fowler points out that “practically anything that you can find as polyethene you can find as a bio-plastic.” Innovia Films has an annual turnover of £400m. which is 25-times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2.000 tonnes of film – used in packaging to protect food. In South Korea too there is a rapid drive to replace conventional plastic packaging with polylactic acid bio-plastics. combs and wrappers. The biggest advantage of such bio-materials is the reduction of CO2 emissions in their production over petrochemical-based plastics. Fowler says bio-plastics also offer an opportunity to get a double return for the energy used in their manufacture – first as a useful item and secondly as a fuel source.on the one hand there is research into trying to get biological alternatives to replicate the properties of conventional plastics and on the other hand people are looking at the natural properties of these plants and trying to find an application for them. There are inroads being made all the time .” he said.cups. which could be then used to produce new materials. Japan is also forging ahead. .

most commonly corn starch or sugarcane in the US. poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB). PHB is very similar to poylpropylene. It is a transparent film. It follows concerns that phthalates are metabolised in the body into substances that can mimic the body's own hormones. starch. including those concerned with fertility. Pure starch’s ability to absorb humidity has led to it being widely used for the production of drug capsules in the pharmaceutical sector. There are estimates that this could lead to a price reduction below five euros per kilogram but this would still be four times the market price of polyethylene in February 2007. bank notes and car parts. which is also biodegradable. Thermoplastic starch is the most important and widely used bioplastic. Cellulosebased plastics are usually produced from wood pulp and used to make filmbased products such as wrappers and to seal in freshness in ready-made meals. moulds. into lactic acid that is then polymerised. bottles and other packaging. natural alternatives to synthetic resins such as phenol and formaldehyde. such as sorbitol and glycerine are added to make it more flexible and produce a range of different characteristics. Its blends are used in a wide range of applications including computer and mobile phone casings. Plasticisers. What types of bioplastics are there? The common types of bio-plastics are based on cellulose. PLA is produced from the fermentation of starch from crops. which are plasticisers added to PVCs to make them more flexible in products such as electrical cable flex. accounting for about 50pc of the bio-plastics market. It is commmonly derived from crops such as potatoes or maize. The South American sugar industry has . cups. which is used in a wide variety of fields including packaging. The centre is also developing bio-resins. polylactic acid (PLA). foil. and polyamide 11 (PA11). PLA is a transparent plastic whose characteristics resemble common petrochemical-based plastics such as polyethylene and polpropylene. ropes. biodegradable medical implants.The BC is currently looking at developing naturally-derived alternatives to phthalates. Interest in PHB is currently very high with companies worldwide aiming to expand their current production capacity. tins. It can be processed on equipment that already exists for the production of conventional plastics.

The US’s second largest biopolymer producer Metabolix. of Cambridge. Massachusetts. wetlands and the oceans. claims that its plastics are biodegradable in composting bins. pneumatic air brake tubing. These are often reinforced with fibres from the kenaf plant. . a member of the hibiscus family traditionally used to make paper.2 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide than one metric ton of petroleum-based plastics. to increase heat resistance and durability. On the flip side not all bio-plastics are biodegradable and there are . At the cutting edge of bioplastic technology lie polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) materials. including one of its new walkmans.Reduced CO2 emissions.Rising oil prices Despite currently costing more to produce than conventional plastics bioplastics are becoming more viable with increasing and instability in oil prices. but in future hopes to use PLA-based polymers to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 20pc and non-renewable resource input by 55pc compared to oil-based ABS. These are derived from the conversion of natural sugars and oils using microbes. Dwindling oil supplies means that man will eventually be forced to turn to a sustainable basis for plastics.commited to producing PHB on an industrial scale. electrical anti-termite cable sheathing and oil and gas flexible pipes and control fluid umbilicals. fibre and film and are biodegradable and have even been used as water resistant coatings. They can be processed into a number of materials including moulded goods. One metric ton of bio-plastics generates between 0.8 and 3. It is prized for its thermal reistance that makes it valued for use in car fuel lines. which are in turn triggering spikes in conventional plastic costs.Waste Bio-plastics reduce the amount of toxic run-off generated by the oil-based alternatives but also are more commonly biodegradable. illustrated in a sharp upturn two years ago. What are the benefits of bio-plastics? . Electronic giant Sony uses PLA in several of its smaller components. . PA 11 is derived from vegetable oil and is known under the tradename Rislan.

Multinational materials giant Arkema has produced a form of Rislan PA11 that is being used in Europe and Brazil in fuel lines to carry biofuels as it is better able to withstand the corrosive effects of biofuels than oil-based alternatives such as polyamide 12.Enhanced properties In some fields engineered bio-plastics are now beating oil-based alternatives at their own game. have risen sharply in the wake of global interest in the production of biofuels and bio-plastics. . The downside of their biodegradability is the methane that can be released as the bio-plastics decompose is a powerful greenhouse gas.the cutting edge of sustainable living. Rislan is widely used in oilfield applications as well as automotive brake lines. enjoying a second life. Petroleum-based plastics then steadily replaced natural raw materials for an extraordinary number of new products. such as wood. as countries across the world look for alternatives to oil to safeguard the environment and provide energy security. even. US car giant General Motors has replaced its non-conductive fuel-pump modules for new North American car models as it felt it was the best material for the job. Elsewhere innovations in PA11 production are helping increase car passenger safety and reduce the risk of accidents by inhibiting spark ignition in the fuel lines.a growing number of conventional plastics that can naturally break down. made of 90pc PLA. . . rubber. and earthenware.Benefit to rural economy Prices of crops. But today natural feedstock is back in vogue. Global electronics corporation NEC has produced a kenaf-reinforced laptop casing. In the US chemical multinational DuPont says it has developed a bioplastic derived from corn sugar that has superior stiffness and strength to its naturally based competitors. which helps reduce overheating by conducting heat better than stainless steel coupled with high temperature resistance and increased strength. and most manufactured objects were thus made synthetically. A Second Life for Bioplastics Natural plastic sounds like a very modern invention . Yet. before World War II most objects in use had a natural origin. such as maize.

others are made from natural and renewable materials since the beginning." Nevertheless. "Bioplastics fall into a whole host of different technical fields. It also appears that. Other mass market applications could in the future include bulk plastics in automobiles. "Firstly. says that bioplastics are not just hype." Packaging with compostable bioplastics is currently the largest sector. the biggest segment for bioplastics. despite setbacks. says Michael Niaounakis. there is the whole issue of costs. bioplastics are also growing in importance in the automotive industry. has been indeed recording dynamic growth. and the end-of-life ." says Mr Niaounakis. Could oil be displaced by biomass as the major feedstock for synthesis? Or is it just a fad? Harald Kaeb. and many experts anticipate that they will enter mass markets in the next few years. whilst continuing to be polymer of choice for medical applications. From the perspective of patenting The analysis of patenting activities in bioplastics is not straightforward.With global warming and sustainability so firmly on the agenda. and it is difficult to get an idea of the big picture. not to mention ever rising oil prices. "Companies must develop efficient processes to reduce production expenses. the extraction and purification of monomers. mobile phones and DVDs. Chairman of European Bioplastics. including the production of raw materials. or parts in electronic devices such as computers. Now their introduction into the first niche markets has been successfully managed. The number of European patent applications related to bioplastics in the technical fields of packaging and laminates has doubled since the end of the 1990s. followed by biodegradable films that can be simply ploughed into the fields. Niaounakis confirms what a quick look on the supermarket shelves would suggest: packaging. many new types of plastics are attracting interest from both consumers and industry. and for innovation. "Twenty years of material development have now passed since the initial days of invention and research. Some are oil-based but biodegradable. The field remains ripe for patentable inventions. This could be at any stage in the polymer's life cycle. where they soon break down into carbon dioxide and water.

from the compounding of bioplastics with different additives. macromolecular structure and physical properties. Applications Packaging Because of their biological biodegradability. Depending on their microbial origin. Most of them are biodegradable and biocompatible. and biocomposites. with physico-chemical properties resembling petrochemical plastics." One particularly intriguing area appears to be the genetic modification of micro-organisms to convert and process renewable feedstock efficiently.and plantbased monomers." Niaounakis continues. These polymers are usually built from hydroxy-acyl–CoA derivatives via different metabolic pathways. These are polyesters that are widely distributed in nature and accumulate intracellularly in microorganisms in the form of storage granules. from the copolymerisation of crude oil.processing. The use of bioplastics for shopping bags is already very common. "Secondly." Abstract The term ‘biomaterials’ includes chemically unrelated products that are synthesised by microorganisms (or part of them) under different environmental conditions. One important family of biomaterials is bioplastics. the use of bioplastics is especially popular in the packaging sector. innovation is about combining of different technologies without compromising the biodegradability properties. bioplastics differ in their monomer composition. "such as hybrid bioplastics. After their initial use they can be reused as . which makes them extremely interesting from the biotechnological point of view. Such "microbial factories" could become the standard production method for bioplastic production in the not-too-distant future.

pack foils for hamburgers and straws are being dumped after a single use. after which they are ploughed in to the soil. Trays and containers for fruit. particularly at big events. The potential applications of biodegradable or reabsorbing bioplastics are manifold. This helps reduce work and time (and thus cost) as these products can simply be left to decompose.000 Euro per kilo. vegetables. but at the same time they are waterproof. Plant pots used for flowering and vegetable plants can be composted along with gardening and kitchen litter. Medical Products In comparison to packaging. forming huge amounts of waste. Sanitary Products Due to their specific characteristics. The use of bioplastics offers significant advantages not only in an ecological sense but also in an economical sense.bags for organic waste and then be composted. Foils . Catering products Catering products belong to the group of perishable plastics. Gardening Within the agricultural economy and the gardening sector mulch foils made of biodegradable material and flower pots made of decomposable bioplastics are predominantly used due to their adjustable lifespan and the fact that these materials do not leave residues in the soil. Disposable crockery and cutlery. The highest possible qualitative standards have to be met and guaranteed. bottles for soft drinks and dairy products and blister foils for fruit and vegetables are also already widely manufactured from bioplastics. the medical sector sets out completely different requirements with regards to products made of renewable and reabsorbing plastics. catering or gardening sectors. These materials are breathable and allow water vapor to permeate. resulting in an extremely high costs. eggs and meat. which sometimes exceed 1. as well as pots and bowls. bioplastics are used as a basis for the production of sanitary products. together with foodleftovers.

com . for incontinence Bibliography All the material has been taken from following books n internet sites • • www.made of soft bioplastic are already used as diaper ladies sanitary products and as disposable gloves. bed underlay.

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