Why Haven’t Bioplastics Taken over the World?

As a global call from many public figures, such as David Attenborough, to reduce plastic waste. It begs the question, why isn’t there a commercially viable biobased plastic?

Why do we need biobased polymers?

In recent years, the effect that using fossil fuels has had on the environment has worsened. Such effects have lead to a public call for the reduction of plastic use as well as a reduction in the burning fossil fuels.

One remedy to this is a bio-based feedstock a source of monosaccharides such of glucose. The monosaccharides can be transformed into plastics using a combination of synthetic biology and chemistry. Said plastics are entirely biodegradable which reduces the strain on recycling centres.

Are bioplastics commercially viable?

A myriad of companies are trying to develop multiple products manufactured by genetically engineered micro-organisms could either replace or offer a beneficial addition to existing plastics.

NatureWorks and Corbion have developed polylactide (PLA), a compostable polyester, such material can be applied for a range of uses from 3D printing to packaging alternatives.

Although the potential to reduce emissions and reduce recycling requirements, the market share for biobased plastics is virtually miniscule in comparison to its petrochemical counterpart.

The absence of funding for non-petrochemical plastics is widely blamed on the expense of producing bioplastics.

Although the transition to bioplastic manufacture appears to be increasingly more difficult, there are signs that governments are introducing policy to overcome these challenges.

The EU have updated its Bioeconomy Strategy. The updates have made available through Horizon 2020 for funding for such projects.



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