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EAI presents Cleantech Snapshots: a quick summary of some of the most interesting and innovative areas in clean technology that will drive the sustainability movement in future.


This snapshot focuses on Bioplastics. Within this page you will find


Overview

  • Bioplastics are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as starch, cellulose and vegetable oils. As a result, they are less harmful to our health and environment than conventional plastics derived from petroleum
  • Many bioplastics are designed to biodegrade. While it could take hundreds or even thousands of years for conventional plastics to degrade, biodegradable plastics can break down into CO2, water and biomass within 6 months
  • Some common uses of bioplastics are in packaging materials, food utensils, food packaging, and in insulation
  • Bioplastics are a green and sustainable alternative to traditional plastics, and are created using renewable resources like corn, tapioca, potatoes, sugar and algae

BioplasticsBiochar Production(Image source)

 

Types of bioplastics

  • Starch – based plastics
  • Cellulose – based plastics
  • Polylactic acid (PLA) plastics
  • Genetically modified bioplastics

Composition

  • Bioplastics are made from renewable resources (plants like corn, tapioca, potatoes, sugar and algae), and they will break down faster than traditional plastics, which are made from petroleum and other fossil resources such as natural gas
  • They have the same cycle time as traditional plastics but the process requires significantly lower processing temperatures
  • These products can save up to 35% energy. In addition, bioplastics have two thirds less harmful greenhouse gas emissions during the production process
  • Bioplastics support the earth by offering a reduced carbon footprint, a reduced use of fossil resources, and improved end-of-life options. Bioplasticsare a non-toxic alternative to traditional plastic
  • Many, but not all, bioplastics are 100% biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable
  • The cost of bioplastics is not dependent on the volatile and rising prices of crude oil

EAI’s Consulting Division provides special assistance for entrepreneurs/businesses interested in exploring opportunities in the bioplastics and biopolymers domain.See here for more.

Drawbacks

  • Bioplastics could have a damaging effect on soil, water usage and quality, and result in higher food prices
  • Bioplastics are designed to be primarily composted, not recycled. This plant-based material will actually contaminate the recycling process if not separated from conventional plastics such as soda bottles and milk jugs
  • Some bioplastics cannot be broken down by bacteria. Polyethylene (PE) made from cane sugar is one example of this
  • Bioplastics are often produced from genetically modified food crops such as corn, potatoes, and soybeans, a practice that carries a high risk of contaminating our food supply

Bioplastics Case studies

  • Evaluating Markets for Bioplastics. Link
  • Bioplastics: An Italian case study of Bioeconomy in Italy. Link
  • Market development for Bioplastics.Link
  • Study of Bio-plastics As Green & Sustainable Alternative to Plastics.Link