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V4 BeyondPlastic – [INFOS] What is Bioplastic?

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Jannis dasjannis

V4 BeyondPlastic – [INFOS] What is Bioplastic?

11/02/2019 at 19:50

The word Bioplastic is generally used for two types of materials: Biobased and biodegradable plastics.

Biobased plastics are made from growing resources like corn, potatoes or sugarcane and use no or only a small amount of fossil fuel. In a process of fermentation microorganisms turn these natural resources into long chain polymers that then can be used to produce all kinds of plastics, such as PP, PE or PS or PLA.
Which leads us to biodegradable plastics. Even though biodegradable plastics have been around since the 15th century (where they were mostly made from milk and gelatin) modern industrial biodegradable plastics can be made from biomass or fossil fuels and are treated with additives that are supposed to help to break down the material faster.

The most common modern bioplastics are TPS (Thermoplastic Starch) or PLA (Polylactic Acid) and are often labled as biodegradable or compostable, although they are only degradable in industrial composting facilities that provide a very specific environment. Since this environment is rarely or never found in nature, scientists argue that the phrase “biodegradable” or “compostable” are misleading and bioplastics like PLA should rather be called “degradable”. Moreover it is argued wheter composting PLA even makes sense, since it’s outcome is the same as burning the material and nature doesn’t gain any nutrients from it.

So to sum up: The word bioplastic can mean many different things and is most of the time used to give a more sustainable ring to the word plastic.

The graph below from european-bioplastics.org provides a good overview of the different kinds and properties of bioplastics.

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