Lignin US

Pine Trees Can be Used to Produce Bioplastics

Researchers have found a way to reverse-engineer how the loblolly produces resin, a discovery that could help manufacturers produce greener alternatives for a range of goods now made with oil and gas, including surface coatings, adhesives, printing inks, flavours, fragrances, vitamins, household cleaning products, paint, varnish, shoe polish and linoleum.

Such trees can still be harvested sustainably for the timber and pulp and paper industries, but the resins might provide added value as a source for green chemicals.

Mark Lange, professor, Washington State University’s Institute of Biological Chemistry

“The chemical composition of resins is not very different from that of certain fractions currently obtained from crude oil. These are fossil resources that were formed over millions of years. They also are non-renewable, which means that once we run out, there is no way to replenish them within a reasonable amount of time. Before the advent of crude oil as a cheap raw material, pine resins were harvested and converted into many common household goods by the naval stores industry. Our immediate goal was to begin to understand how pines produce copious amounts of resin. Our longer term vision is to use this knowledge to develop trees that produce larger amounts of resin. Such trees can still be harvested sustainably for the timber and pulp and paper industries, but the resins might provide added value as a source for green chemicals. In other words, we are not thinking of resins as being the primary product but rather a high-value byproduct. Much of the commercial infrastructure, including scale-up, is already in place.”

CLOSING REMARKS

  • Trees are a good source of biomass for the production of bioplastics. The two most common substances are lignin and cellulose.

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