The definition of the word bioplastics has not crystallized yet. In this blog, Bioplastics will refer to the definition of the Oxford Dictionary:” a type of biodegradable plastic derived from biological substances rather than petroleum.”
That is to say a plastic derived from renewable biomass sources ( bio-sourced) such as cellulose , hemicelluloses and lignin derived from agricultural and forestry by-products, vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, pea starch and sugars AND capable of decomposing back into natural elements, under the action of bacteria or enzymes (bio-degradable).
Applications of bioplastics cover a wide area ranging from rigid and flexible packaging materials, including food and drinks containers, dining utensils, electronic devices, to automotive and airplane parts, cable sheaths and casings, noise and thermal insulation panels etc.
The use of plastics is more and more universal and getting rid of such a material combining so many useful functionalities would make no economical or even practical sense. What matters is actually to transform the vicious circle of plastics manufacturing and use into a virtuous circle. What matters is to gradually substitute fossil carbon petrochemicals based plastics, most of which are not biodegradable and are at best incinerated at the end of their lifecycle, into renewable plant carbon based plastics capable of decomposing quickly at the end of their lifecycle.
In terms of GES emission, this substitution is beneficial as the cradle to grave cycle would result into a decrease of CO2 emission in excess of 50%. In fact, for Bioplastics, the CO2 captured by the plant during its growth is turned into a polymeric hydrocarbon chain, the backbone of any plastic, and this trapped CO2 is returned to the atmosphere when the plastic decomposes or is transformed into compost via a methanization process. For fossil carbon plastics, the carbon trapped in fossil fuels like petroleum or natural gas is finally released into the atmosphere via combustion or slow degradation in landfills.
Bioplastics are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, pea starch or microbiota. Common plastics, such as fossil-fuel plastics, are derived from petroleum- these plastics rely more on fossil fuels and produce more greenhouse gas. Some, but not all, bioplastics are designed to biodegrade. Biodegradable bioplastics can break down in either anaerobic or aerobic environments, depending on how they are manufactured. There is a variety of materials that bioplastics can be composed of, including: starches, cellulose, or other biopolymers. Some common applications of bioplastics are packaging materials, dining utensils, food packaging, and insulation.
TYPES OF BIOPLASTICS
We can classify bioplastics according to their applications:
- raw material source
- biodegradable functionality
- Renewable ressources
The environmental impact of Bioplastics should be measured on following points:
- Climate change and carbon footprint
- Landscape littering
- use of farmland for Bioplastics instead of food production
- reduce dependence on petroleum